Thursday 19 November 2015

A Liberal economic breakthrough. It’s about time.

There may not be any obvious traction that the Lib Dems are bringing to themselves at the moment, no obvious attention from the media or speaking for the nation. But there are shoots emerging.

One of these was the speech on economics that Tim Farron made today at IPPR in London. The most important element of this story is the mere fact that Farron chose economics for his first keynote speech.

But it was also important the way he framed it – the idea of Liberals as the party of challenge, of enterprise and entrepreneurs, as the "party of Small Business, the party of wealth creators, the insurgents, the entrepreneurs".

“The Liberal spirit is the entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurs are natural Liberals,” he said. Quite so.

It is important because it is both positive and forward-looking, and rooted in traditional Liberalism – and, because the party has been timid about economics in recent decades, this is for me something of a breakthrough.

He also understood the implications of this stance for the banks. It is indeed extraordinary that the government is not breaking up the failed brontosaur RBS to turn it into an effective regional lending infrastructure – that the enterprise economy so badly needs.

By coincidence, the Welsh Lib Dems have launched an excellent paper on how to rebuild diverse high streets – and Wales has been more wedded to the failed out of town retailing regeneration ‘solution’ than almost anywhere else in the UK.

So this is rather a good day, as far as I’m concerned. It is a long-awaited glimpse of a different approach to economics, understanding for the first time in half a century that the main economic purpose of Liberals is to promote diversity and fight monopoly.

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