Liberal Democrat Newswire #21 takes a look at Nick Clegg’s decision to prioritise social mobility. You can now read it in full below.
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Social mobility, new campainging book and more
Tuesday 29 May 2012
Welcome to the latest edition of my monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.
Thanks for reading,
In this newsletter:
Nick Clegg goes heavy on social mobility
Nick Clegg is personally deeply committed to the cause of social mobility. For him, improving social mobility comes ahead of reducing social inequality – though it is important to remember that in part that is because he sees increased mobility as the best long-term route to reducing inequality. Moreover, he doesn’t think that targeting reducing inequality would necessarily result in improved social mobility; only by directly aiming for more social mobility can you both increase it and reduce inequalities, Clegg believes.
Since May’s elections, social mobility has featured heavily in the Deputy Prime Minister’s public pitch, taking a central role in his vision of the sort of liberal country that the Liberal Democrat presence in government is helping to bring about. This includes publishing a new set of 17 trackers to measure social mobility, which is lower in Britain than in most of the developed world and has not improved since the 1970s:
In a speech, Clegg went on to say:
The new 17 indicators are backed up by a range of policy measures, including the Pupil Premium, extra support for children from the poorest families, name-blank employment to cut out discrimination and the successful moves to get more interns paid, opening up posts to a wider range of people, in industries such as banking, fashion and PR.
However, social mobility has its problems. As I wrote last year, “I’m really proud of my daughter’s social mobility” isn’t a phrase that graces many coffee gossip sessions or Christmas round-robin letters. What’s worse, what research there is (from MORI a few years back) into how people think of the phrase is that not only is it largely not understood in the wider world, but when it is people frequently view “social mobility” as a bad thing because they associate it with situations such as an under-talented celebrity earns huge sums and moving into a posh mansion.
Mind you, as Matthew D’Ancona also wrote last year:
Lords reform will put Labour/Lib Dem relations to the test
There has been a mini-flurry of different quiet talks between Labour and Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians, especially at the unelected end of Parliament. Partly this has been the natural outcome of the series of legislative controversies where Lib Dem peers, with varying degrees of support from the party’s leadership, have been trying to get amendments through and been looking for Labour votes in support. Partly too it flows from some in the party been keen to keep options open for the future, especially those who would be more instinctively comfortable if any future hung Parliament saw a deal with Labour rather than the Conservatives.
House of Lords reform will soon put these cautious moves to the test. From a Liberal Democrat perspective, the situation is clear: in government and in its manifestos, Labour talked a lot about electoral reform for the Commons and elections for the Lords, failed to deliver and then when the Liberal Democrats and Tories started implementing the policies Labour had previously called for, Labour suddenly found all sorts of reasons to only offer lukewarm support at best. Even on measures such as fixed term Parliament and individual electoral registration, Labour MPs have frequently sounded as if they’ve forgotten their party’s previous support for them. The on, off, on, off prevarication from Ed Miliband’s office over whether he was willing to appear next to Nick Clegg during the AV referendum went down particularly badly.
Which is where Lords reform comes in. Significant Labour support for the measure would massively ease its passage through Parliament, especially on the key timetabling vote in the Commons and during the procedurally more open-ended stages in the Lords. However, there have been some signs already of Labour looking for a reason to oppose, with talk of only a 100% elected Lords being acceptable – and the implication therefore that the party would vote against an 80% elected Lords, even if that left the Lords unelected for another generation.
However, if Labour comes out strongly backing the Bill whilst Tory rebels try to derail it, the general mood music between the three parties could change significantly over this Parliamentary session.
A surprise at the Leveson Inquiry
Giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, Andrew Marr recanted on his previous hostility to blogging:
I think I can forgive him this time for getting the party/website name wrong…
Sink or swim together? What the polls say about coalition partners
The idea that Liberal Democrat and Conservative political fortunes are tied together comes in two forms. The basic – that with both being in government, the public’s overall view of the government (and in particular its economic record) will heavily determine its view of both parties come the next election. Sink or swim together then. Then there is version which adds an asymmetric twist. Namely that if the public views the coalition as a failure both parties will sink together, but if the public rates the coalition as a success, being the smaller of the two parties means the Liberal Democrats won’t necessarily get their share of the credit.
What does the polling data show?
Broadly speaking, it shows the the Liberal Democrat and Conservative poll ratings tend to move in the same direction (they both go up and down together), but the Liberal Democrat and Labour poll rating move in opposite directions (when one goes up, the other goes down). There is plenty of variation around this overall pattern, but it tends to confirm that for the Liberal Democrats to prosper, the public needs to see the government overall as a success.
Tory policies stopped by the Lib Dems
Three main policy areas have been in the news in the last month for Liberal Democrats stopping Conservative plans:
Queen’s Speech: how it measured up for Liberal Democrats
Major changes to the banking sector, pensions reform, elections for the House of Lords, ending sexism in the rules for Royal Succession, changes to the libel laws, the next steps for the Green Investment Bank – the Queen’s Speech contained many measures that Liberal Democrats have long been calling for. Likely sources of coalition strain include online monitoring.
The real action, however, was not in the Queen’s Speech itself but happening elsewhere. That is because the economy continues to be the dominant political issue, and on issues such as tax levels, how much Quantitative Easing to have or the rate at which the deficit should be reduced, the Queen’s Speech was always going to be a sideshow because either they require no legislation or they are require no more legislation that the usual annual Budget round.
In fact, it was notable that despite critics calling for more on economic growth to be in the Queen’s Speech, the list of Bills they think should have been included was at best scanty and frequently completely absent. (One such critic who I asked on Twitter to name the missing legislation they would like to have seen in the speech, for example, simply came back with wanting one of the Bills to have had more radical content and didn’t name any extra Bill they wanted.)
On economic growth, there are signs of a continuing change of emphasis, with yet more talk about the need to boost investment. The latest GDP figures showing the construction sector’s problems holding back the economy have given an extra edge to this and were swiftly followed a Nick Clegg speech which the Financial Times heralded as a “new economic tone”:
Two major Lib Dem policies come into force
You could easily have missed the news, but in the last month the nascent Green Investment Bank handed out its first funds and the Protection of Freedoms Bill got Royal Assent. Despite the importance of both environmental and civil liberties policies to the Liberal Democrats, this double dose of good news ahead of the May elections got a curiously muted response from the party’s official communications channels, which mostly passed up on mentioning events.
Tom Brake did however pen a piece for Liberal Democrat Voice which sets out some of the achievements in the Protection of Freedoms Bill:
Elsewhere from me…
Local Liberal Heroes: Peter Truesdale
Lambeth councillor Peter Truesdale is the latest person to feature in my Local Liberal Heroes series:
101 Ways To Win An Election
Ever wanted to get a better deal for your community? Ever watched politicians and thought ‘I could do a better job’? This book reveals the secrets and skills you need to take the first step to power – getting elected.
Written by two experienced political insiders, it is a grass-roots guide to running an election campaign. It draws on successful tactics from around the world and presents the lessons in a digestible format.
Be amongst the very first to benefit from the book by pre-ordering it now from Amazon.
Campaign Corner: 5 of the most common mistakes campaigners make
I have put together a list of five of the Golden Oldies mistakes – common mistakes political campaigners have made for many years and keep on making. They include:
And in other news…
Who does a nuclear deterrent deter?
Once again Yes, Prime Minster entertains whilst making a serious point:
What did you make of this newsletter?