Sunday, 8 March 2009

Harrogate Conference

I'm just back from Harrogate where the Lib Dems have held a very successful Spring Conference.

Nick Clegg's closing speech did sum up the mood of the event; namely that Labour has lost it's way and the leadership of progressives in politics was ours if we were bold enough to step up. His speech can be read in full here. Anybody who was anybody in the party was there keen to display their support at this critical moment.

Interestingly Clegg displayed a clear vision of how he wanted to achieve that objective. Firstly he identified a fair tax system. Vince Cable and he have clearly costed and identified the tax loop holes that are exploited by the super rich so that they pay a smaller proportion of their income in tax than those on the minimum wage. He renewed his commitment to cutting taxes for those on middle and low incomes. (It is interesting how those who mocked this policy believing that it was undesirable/unachievable in a recession have now gone very quiet) Secondly he exposed the farce of the VAT cut that cost billions but did very little and called for this to be reversed and the money spent on creating green collar jobs as Obama has advocated in the US.

Next he turned to banking reform and called for the nationalisation of those banks bailed out by the government and to stop the fiddling and messing around that Labour have gone in for. He was clear that he expected large scale reform and the split up of the banking industry into utility banking and high risk investment banking. He made it clear that the bonus culture had no place in the utility sector and in the high risk banking he asserted that there would be do government bail out in the future if they failed they would be left to sink. In the medium term he spelt out that the state should not seek to maintain the banks in the state sector.

He got a particularly extended period of applause when he called for the disqualification from board room posts of those banker involved in this crisis. I had not realised that 10 directors had been disqualified after the collapse of Barings Bank but to date none have been disqualified as a result of the banking collapse.