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I am so bored by the politic of absence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/07/2022 - 6:58pm in

I am so bored by the politic of absence.

What I mean is I have really had enough of politics where the best we dream of is a prime minister who is not a liar, a cheat, a criminal, an international law breaker, a philanderer, and so much more.

What I wish for is a news cycle is not about what mess the government has created now, and about how it is trying to make excuses for it.

And I am bored by Conservative leadership debate when everyone knows there is not a single person in the Tory partly able to be prime minister: they are entirely absent of talent.

But I am also bored by Opposition, at least in England and Wales, where ideas are absent - most especially from Labour.

Yesterday's non-event from Labour was embarrassing for the scale of the cowardice on display. The parallel announcement in Scotland was almost irrelevant: Labour has very little influence on debate there now.

Of course I know why Labour makes this supine announcements. It is living in fear of the swing voter in the marginal constituency who might cost them power, in their imaginations. People, like me, in other words, who could very easily be alienated by their timidity, if only they realised it.

So let's face some facts. First, the Tories are dead in the water. A dire administration may stagger on, but its chances of winning again are low.

Second, the LibDems are a genuine anti-Brexit party. Labour really does need to take note. Amongst Remainers this issue remains very important, and key to many voting decisions. To assume that people will vote Labour because they do not like the Tories is, for Labour, a very big mistake right now.

Third, the Greens are not in the parliamentary running in any serious way.

Fourth, Labour should be listening to its own membership and a growing number of unions and be promising PR to tackle that. The current leadership stand against this from Labour is unforgivable. It is anti-democratic.

But, fifth, most of all Labour needs to come out fighting rather than be apologising for its very existence. It should be saying Brexit has failed, because it has. It should be saying that this was because the decision was made to leave the single market and it will seek to reverse that. It should say that leaving he single market was never discussed as an option in 2016 and so this option was never endorsed by the electorate. It should say it was Tory hardliners who created this crisis. It should say that it is confident that the EU would have us back in that market. It should commit to rejoining that market now.

All of this is possible. It is correct. And it all makes sense. And it does not say we will rejoin the EU - for reasons which I understand are not possible as yet.

However, it does create a plan to deal with a crisis. It resolves the problems many businesses face. It supports employment. And it is is positive, and people are desperate for positivity.

Why it cannot say all this I do not know.

But instead all we get is an absence of initiative. And I really am very bored by it.

A new economic narrative for the left

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/07/2022 - 3:18pm in

Byline Times published this yesterday:

They noted:

My article follows.

Left-of-centre thinking has only dominated the economy for one period in history. The post-war consensus was built on the ideas of social democracy. That consensus collapsed in the 1970s.

The rigidity of the post-war international economic architecture that initially underpinned the prosperity of that era could not withstand the pressures of an increasingly global world where imperialism was ceasing to play a role. In addition, the command and control approach to macroeconomic management within governments, learned by so many politicians of the era from the wartime economy, fell into conflict with people seeking greater economic freedom.

The failure of the left to adapt opened the door to neo-liberalism. That led parties of both left and right to the era of non-government, where light-touch regulation was the creed and the 2008 financial crisis the consequence. It is only the absence of an alternative vision that lets this vision stagger on. That vision is that:

“Neo-liberalism offers economic growth through a faith in market solutions.”

It is my suggestion that the left should replace this with a new ethos:

“The left wants to create a sustainable economy by putting all the resources available within society to best use, including those that the market fails to use to best effect.”

In doing so I draw on some serious changes in economic understanding over the last decade or so.

A Revolution in Economic Thinking

Neo-liberal dogma might have survived the 2008 financial crisis, but the practice of government and its financing since then has suggested that much has changed. The idea that governments cannot create money to fund their own activities without dependence on either taxpayers or borrowing has been shattered by quantitative easing.

That governments can increase inequality by use of this new funding mechanism has also become clear, although nothing is being done to tackle it, resulting in growing tensions within society. And throughout this era, the disconnect between people’s savings, stock markets, bond markets and the financing of the needs of society has become apparent as corporations fail to respond to the crisis of climate change and ask for government support to do so despite ever-increasing apparent financial wealth within the economy as a whole.

Government claims as to its own inability to act due to the retention of the neoliberal demand that it balances its books are creating a tension that needs resolution. The opportunity to resolve this crisis comes from new economic thinking that has developed over the past decade:

Money is Made by Lending, not Saving

We now know that all bank-made money is created by lending. As a result, we know that no bank lends savers’ funds. They are not the intermediaries that they were once supposed to be. The reality is that cash savings in banks are macro-economically inconsequential because they almost never create new employment or jobs in the way they are saved at present;

Government Doesn’t Borrow: It Provides Opportunities for Savers

We know that the government creates new money via the Bank of England literally every time it spends. As such tax does not fund government spending, nor does borrowing. Instead, both are funded by government money creation. Tax exists primarily to control inflation as a consequence, by cancelling the money the government creates through its spending (in the same way as loan repayment cancels bank-created money). What has been called government borrowing is nothing of the sort but is instead an incredibly secure savings facility offered by the government largely as a favour to the banking sector who need it to underpin their operations;

Company Shares Do Not Finance Investment

Based on research colleagues and I have been doing at Sheffield University and elsewhere, we know that FTSE companies do not rely on or need new share issues to finance their investment activity. In fact, they are repurchasing shares faster in most cases than they ever issue them. What that means is that saving in shares also rarely if ever creates new investment or jobs now. This is as true of property companies as any other quoted company;

Financial Services Do Not Provide Capital

The conclusion is that as things stand, the whole edifice of the financial services industry has ceased to be an intermediary between savers and investors, which was once its raison d’etre. Instead, it merely provides cheap capital for banks in the case of cash savings or money to be used in endless, but unproductive, speculation in the case of stock exchange-related savings activity, including most of that in property;

Not to put too fine a point on it, financial capitalism has become so focussed on engineering financial returns from smart accounting, takeovers and mergers, and capturing public revenues for private gain that it has forgotten that its role was once to supply capital for useful purposes. Neoliberal capitalism has now developed to the point where capitalism itself has in any meaningful way ceased to exist;

Government Subsidies to the Failing Financial System

Despite this, there is about £8.4 trillion of financial wealth in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics, and of that sum, more than 80% attracts tax subsidies on an annual basis at a total cost in terms of tax foregone on pensions and ISA reliefs of very nearly £60 billion a year;

Of this sum at least £28 billion goes to the top 10% of wealth owners in the UK: this system shovels government support upwards through the wealth hierarchy of the UK, and all to no overall economic effect, except to increase inequality;

So not only has neo-liberalism failed but so too has the government by not noticing or responding to this. It’s subsidising a financial system run by an elite for the benefit of an elite in a way that has ceased to add any value to the rest of society;

Breaking the Pension Contract Across the Generations

Worse, that system has failed the fundamental pension contract: this is the tacit agreement that one generation, the older one, will through its own efforts create capital assets and infrastructure in both the state and private sectors which the following younger generation can use in the course of their work. In exchange for their subsequent use of these assets for their own benefit, the succeeding younger generation will, in effect, meet the income needs of the older generation when they are in retirement. Unless this fundamental compact that underpins all pensions is honoured any pension system will fail. Ours is now tottering on the brink of doing so.

So, what can be done about this?

A Renewed Social Contract: the Uses of Capital

Government has to take on a new role in society. It has, in effect, to become the intermediary between savers and investors to make sure that the nation’s capital is once more used for social purposes.

The significance of this cannot be overstated. Whenever there has been a major shift in economic thinking it has always been about how capital is used by society, for what purpose, and to benefit whom.

The change always happens when the structure in place has been corrupted and then abused. So feudalism gave way to monarchical government, which in turn was replaced by early forms of parliamentary government, albeit on a very limited franchise, which did in turn by the end of the 18th century gave rise to the industrial revolution and the growth of the joint-stock company. That era was then replaced by the welfare state in 1945, only to then pass on again in the 1980s to neoliberalism, with its focus on returns to financial capital above all else.

As those changes took place the use of capital always changed. So too did the beneficiaries change. It is never the routine of day-to-day spend and tax that changes society. It is the way capital is allocated, and rewards are distributed that does that.

The proposal made here is to change how capital is used. Using the very obvious power that tax reliefs have to direct the use of savings it is suggested that the tax reliefs attached to ISA and pension savings accounts should be changed to mandate their being saved in new Green New Deal bonds to be issued by National Investment Banks in the case of ISAs and to encourage that same use in the case of pensions.

The types of bond will vary to suit the different markets, but the goals will remain the same. The focus will be on cash savings bonds in the case of ISAs, with simple to understand structures. Bonds more akin to hypothecated gilts might be available for pension use.

In both cases, the National Investment Banks of each of the countries of the UK would be directed to use the funds that they can generate from these Green New Deal bonds to fund the transition that is required to a sustainable economy faster than might be possible by relying on any existing decision making or funding process. As a consequence additional investment will be made in:

  • New social housing
  • New sustainable energy generation systems
  • New energy efficiency systems, including in public and private housing
  • Sustainable transport systems
  • The renovation of many existing public buildings to make them energy-efficient and sustainable
  • R & D into:
    • New food production systems
    • Reduction in food waste
    • Alternative energy systems
  • The support mechanisms for society, most especially in health and publicly provided social care, whether at home or in residential provision
  • Education and related facilities to support all these programmes

Doing so will also release funds for significant new spending on the regular programmes of government since there will be reduced demand on these for investment purposes.

That is because it is assumed that ISAs will, if the interest rates offered are as good as those available from commercial banks, generate funds of maybe £60 to £70 billion a year for this purpose, which is the amount regularly saved in these accounts a year at present, whilst if just one-quarter of all new pension contributions is diverted for social investment as a result of the changed conditions of pension relief then more than £25 billion of additional funds for this purpose might also be available from that source each year.

Because the proposed changes redirect tax reliefs no new taxes are likely to be required to achieve this goal. It might, however, be appropriate to restrict some of the reliefs for saving available to the very wealthiest.

A New Economic Vision for the Left

The aims of this proposal are quite straightforward. One is to make capital a mechanism capable of delivering change for social advantage again. Another is to turn currently wasted tax reliefs into focussed subsidies that deliver benefits on a host of fronts, meaning that they are used productively once more. Third, the aim is to restore the social purpose of saving. That then leads to the goal of creating a restored pension contract within society as a whole, as a part of which the aim is to rebuild inter-generational solidarity.

But perhaps most of all, the purpose is to recreate the link between the saver and the investment that they fund that has been entirely destroyed in modern financial capitalism when the saver in a pension, ISA of any sort, or any structured fund has no real idea what their money might be used for. That it so happens that the investments with which the saver might associate themselves resulting from this proposal could also be of their choosing, either by offering dedicated (e.g. climate, health or transport funds) or regional funds so that the saver might associate their money with new projects in their own region or devolved country, enhance this goal.

What is the downside? There can be no doubt that this will be felt in the City of London and the financial services industry, which have come to see the financial wealth of the UK as their plaything for gain, with tax reliefs thrown in to comfort the blow for savers if markets do not work out as the financial forecasters suggest they might. I suspect that if funds flow towards savings of the sort I describe in the scale that I suspect likely then the demand for other financial services products will fall. But I would welcome that.

Any change to the allocation of capital in society must have the goal of putting resources wasted by the existing allocation to better and more productive use. Many of those now engaged in generating little or no return for society at all in the financial services sector might very well be much better employed elsewhere in society.

Could the parties of the left in the UK sell this idea as the basis for the revolution that we need to deliver the transformation that the country requires? That would require imagination. But, while the theoretical implications of what is proposed are not easy to communicate, the practical dimensions – including the fact that existing tax reliefs are being very unfairly distributed for no social gain – should be easy to explain, as should be the idea of creating new funds to direct investment for social purposes.

Richard Murphy is an economic justice campaigner and political economist. He is Professor of Accounting Practice at Sheffield University and co-founder of the Green New Deal

Labour can win by-elections but it’s a long way from being ready for government

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/06/2022 - 5:30pm in

I do not wish to rain on any one’s parade this morning, but I think it’s only right to note a big chunk of an article in the Guardian yesterday. They reported:

Labour has broken its long silence on Brexit, laying out detailed plans to improve, not scrap, the deal Boris Johnson struck with the EU, in a move it concedes will enrage remain supporters.

On the sixth anniversary of the Brexit referendum, the shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, confirmed the party would seek only limited changes and would not seek to rejoin the single market which would bring the return of free trade and free movement of people

“We are not going into the next election saying that we will enter the single market or the EU.

“You might not like it but Labour is determined to govern the entire country,” he said adding “there cannot be a rehash of arguments” made in remainer constituencies like his in London.

“The British people have made a decision and we have to honour it,” he told the UK in a Changing Europe’s annual conference.

To not put too fine a point on it, that is full scale electoral cowardice of the first degree.

Labour can win by-elections against a corrupt government.

It could even win a general election.

But when it wants to duck Brexit and won’t either talk about how it will tackle inflation or stand up for working people, let alone offer a vision of how it wants to transform the UK, then it’s a long way from being near delivering what the country needs.

And that is the downside of this morning.

The fight against fascism is on

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/06/2022 - 4:05pm in

The Tiverton and Wakefield by-election results fall into different categories.

Tiverton is at the stunning end of the scale. The largest ever by-election majority overturned.

The Wakefield result is not quite on that scale, but still very reassuring.

But what is electorally significant is the tacit agreement by the electorate in both seats to back the unstated pact between the parties to give the LibDems a free run in Tiverton and Labour the same in Wakefield. They actually both lost their deposits in the other seat, so clear was the tactical voting.

I have discussed the need for progressive alliances on this blog for as long as it has been going, I suspect, but the need has become very much more apparent as the Tory party has swing towards fascism in recent years. The reality that such an alliance might happen at voter choice is very welcome.

For the record, neither the LibDems or Labour are offering policies I can get excited about at present. But, if they can deliver constitutional reform to prevent fascism in this country they might pave the way to the politics that we really need.

I can live in hope. At the very least we know now that the fight against fascism is on.

The RMT strike goes to the very heart of political economy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/06/2022 - 5:54pm in

When it comes down to it this blog is all about political economy.

Political economy is related to economics, of course, but it is a much more useful field of study for two fundamental reasons. One is that it adds money into the normal field of study when most theoretical macroeconomics and quite a lot of microeconomics simply ignores it. Second, it does that because it realises that money is a symbol of power, and political economy is all about how power influences the allocation of resources in society, which is a subject that a great deal of economics (and almost all that which undergraduates will remember) ignores that vital issue.

Why mention this today? Because the RMT is leading strike action this week and sometime soon I suspect many more in the state sector, from teachers, to junior doctors, will join them in doing so.

The case of those RMT members who are striking is a relatively simple one. Their claim is that for over a decade they have systematically had their pay and conditions of employment eroded and they have had enough.

Market economists and Tory politicians would say they should just go and get another job in that case. But that’s just naive because what it assumes is that there is no cost to transitioning between jobs for either employees or employers when that is very obviously not the case. As a result, what they also do is massively undervalue human capital. Much of Grant Shapps' rhetoric around this issue certainly suggests that he has no awareness at all of the importance of people within the railway industry.

However, for me there is a bigger issue at play here. Those on strike have effectively been public sector employees for a long time, despite privatisation. The fact that they are under-valued is not by chance. It is by design. And the design used was austerity, which among other things drive down rail subsidies from the government, which is what in turn forced down rail worker wages.

The bigger issue in that case is whether or not society in the UK now wishes to change the balance of reward within our economy. We already know that we face the most fundamental economic changes because of climate change. This will challenge the allocation of many rewards within society, but that will also be happening within the context of a society that for decades has been moved from productive added value work to unproductive speculation, and from meeting need (housing, education, health and social care, transport, etc.) into the pointless and economically reckless production of artificial wants that only advertising can stimulate demand for (excess consumption, ever more complicated mobile phones and cars, most of whom features we never use but which we own to project our own perception of our status in society, etc) that in turn trash the environment.

The challenge from public sector workers is not to be condemned, as Grant Shapps says Labour should do. Instead, it should be treated as a sign that society has its values wrong and that we need to reappraise what is important.

We are a long way from having that debate. I could add it to the list of things Labour should be talking about.

An agenda for Labour

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/06/2022 - 5:22pm in

I wrote this comment in a tweet yesterday:

Then, because I was playing with new video production software I recorded a video of the arguments implicit in that tweet. This is not the highest quality production, by a long way, but seems worth sharing, even if rushed at the end:

Have I got what Labour needs to do right? On Twitter I saw reaction suggesting other issues, such as housing, ending tuition fees and waiving student debt, restoring free movement (which I think will take a long time), and inequality raised as well.

However, housing is in the Green New Deal. Education is, I think, covered in restoring public services. Free movement is not going to happen now, although airport queues seem to annoy people more than the ones in A&E do, which is staggering, and I do admit I missed out student debt and I think it really important.

We can’t have a successful transition between generations in this country and meet the baby boomers' desire for a comfortable retirement when the upcoming generation has debts and tax rates that make it almost impossible for that younger generation to buy the assets the older generations have to sell to fund those retirements, whether they be shares, bonds or houses. That’s just not possible and threatens the whole underpinning of the inter-generational contract, as well as financial markets. So I definitely missed that one off the list. The rest I stand by.

A note to the Tories: the tax cuts you want will not save the economy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/06/2022 - 5:27pm in

Reports in the Guardian this morning suggest that ministers and other Tories are demanding tax cuts as the price of their support for Johnson, and as their remedy for the cost of living crisis. They echo the Adam Smith Institute in making the demand, apparently.

It so happens that I too want tax cuts right now. But thereafter the common ground disappears.

My desire is for tax cuts on fuel and energy duty and on related VAT charges to bring down the actual cost of these items at present. The aim should be that the Treasury take no more in tax  from these sources than it did in 2020. That protects the green agenda but by cutting absolute prices to business and consumers now three goals are achieved.

First, all business gets immediate support, and so far most small and medium sized entities are getting none right now, so this would be of direct help to them in their struggle to survive.

Second, the inflation rate is reduced at source by this move, reducing the pressure for wage rises and inflationary price increases in other sectors. The spillover effect of increasing fuel prices is reduced as a result, making recovery much easier.

Third, those in fuel poverty are helped most, meaning this is targeted.

Vitally, given that this would be delivered as a cap with duties bearing the bill of the cuts, this can be delivered quickly. As everyone knows, fuel duties can change within hours of a budget. But essentially, a sunset clause for this arrangement would also be automatically built in. When prices fall, as they will, the arrangement will cease. The arrangement would work in that case when nothing else can.

I have only one other immediate tax reform that is needed, which is increased tax on those well off as they still have the means to drive inflation and are doing so, as second hand car prices indicate.

The Tories meanwhile demand reduced income taxes and reduced corporation taxes. Neither can happen now. Neither help those in most need. Neither tackles the cause of inflation. Both most benefit the best off.

Corporation tax cuts have so far not stimulated the economy: in fact the Sunak super deduction for business investment has so far resulted in a decline in business investment.

And, most bizarrely, there is also a demand for a cut in inheritance tax, as if that helps the 93% or so if the estates of dead people that will never suffer the charge.

The Tory demand is then the usual suggestion that if only the richer were made richer all would be well in the world. Mine tackles the issue.

And where is Labour? Who knows? After the Tories stole the windfall tax, which has already been forgotten by voters, it appears to have nothing to say.

The Tories continue to act only for the rich. Labour continues saying nothing of consequence (and I do know about their VAT cut proposal, but it is inadequately thought through).

Meanwhile, the cost of living rises, nothing is stopping the threat to the viability of many employers, and the risk of ever deepening recession grows by the day.

This is a very long way from over

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/06/2022 - 4:02pm in

There are issues arising from last night’s confidence vote in Boris Johnson worth considering this morning. A number stand out.

One is to anticipate the immediate aftermath. What we know is that Johnson does not take criticism well. The withdrawal of the Tory whip from key opponents would now seem likely. Hunt, Baker, Norman, May, Harper, Penrose, Davis and Gale might all find themselves outside the party soon, with Johnson relying on the fact that they do not share political philosophies to prevent them forming a new grouping.

The second is to presume that there will also be a cull of ministers seen less than sufficiently supportive. It will be a good day for the sycophants but government will fall into even greater discredit as a result.

Third, the excuses for the imminent by-election losses will be lined up. They will all be the fault of those dropped from office and the party. They will be now be described as those stopping Johnson ‘getting things done’ and with them gone it will be claimed that all will now be well.

Fourth, there will be a lurch to the right, because they are the true believers. The Northern Ireland protocol is in trouble in that case. I give it weeks for the death penalty to be back on the agenda. Watch out for abortion too. Where the Republicans go, so too do these Tories. But free access to guns may, even for them, be a step too far.

Fifth, there will be no discussion at all on what needs to actually be done for the country. As Jesse Norman MP has noted, all Johnson’s government is about is the day to day, hour by hour survival of Johnson. Nothing else matters. In that case anything that might require real attention, or provoke real change, or which has a planning horizon beyond a fortnight, or is not capable of being described in a three word slogan, will be ignored. Government neglect of duty will just grow.

And in all this none of the reasonable disquiet of people will dissipate, because the economy will shrink, people will face poverty, jobs will be lost, queues for everything will get longer as cuts are made, and as a result anger will rise.

Johnson’s acolytes claim the country can now move on. He himself did much the same during an interview in which he had a curious and persistent sniff last night, leading to speculation as to its cause. But the reality is that this moving on will not happen. Political, economic, social and environmental paralysis will happen instead.

I would like to say the country can survive this stress until democracy can take its required path. But if that is the case the cost may be very high due to what might happen, and not happen, in the meantime. Last night’s result proved Johnson’s day needs to be over and most non-payroll Tories realise it. But achieving that goal will be hard, and the cost high. This story is far from over.

And the real question remains, which is will Labour work with others to prevent this ever happening again, or will it just work in its own self-interest? The signs from Starmer last night were not good. Add that to the list of concerns.

My long weekend homework

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/06/2022 - 6:16pm in

Tags 

Economics, Labour

This Twitter exchange took place yesterday:

Peter is the executive editor of Byline Times, of which I am a fan.

We are now in discussion about my offer.

A vision for the left in 1,000 or so words that can be readily understood? There’s a challenge. That, and work on my behind schedule book are my weekend homework.

Lord Geidt has highlighted the absence of ethics in No.10. The absence of ideas in politics will, however, be harder to solve

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/06/2022 - 4:58pm in

I am not sure that the No.10 ethics adviser, Lord Geidt, intended to yesterday set himself up as the person to bring Johnson down, but it seems he might be just have done that. His challenge to Johnson, in which he asked how Johnson’s fixed penalty notice could be considered compliant with the Ministerial Code of Conduct was appropriate.

Johnson, of course, ducked and weaved in response. Effectively he said this was none of Geidt’s business. In his own mind, no doubt, Johnson thinks his recent gutting of the Code is in any case retrospective.

It is thought possible Geidt will resign as a result of the difference of view. Whether he does, or not, matters little. What Geidt has already successfully signalled is that even in No.10 there are people questioning Johnson’s fitness for Office. More MPs are likely to send letters calling for a change of Tory leader as a result. Johnson might face a confidence vote as early as next week.

The widespread feeling is that Johnson will win that vote. It is presumed that the 140 MPs holding some position in government will vote for him. He only needs 180 to win. But he will be seriously damaged by the vote. If he goes to the next election having suffered such a blow his chances of winning are very low. No leader can win the country when their own party has expressed serious doubts about him.

But, what then? Lord Geidt, as ethics adviser, offered no clue. Nor will anyone else. We would be in limbo, facing multiple challenges, with a prime minister intent on wreaking havoc and no mechanism, barring an unlikely Opposition win in a no confidence vote in the Commons, to stop him.

If evidence was needed that we need constitutional reform, this is it.

If evidence was also needed that it is the time for the Opposition to say what that reform might be then this is also it.

But Labour considers to dither, its one big idea in the form of the windfall tax now stripped from it.

Even when discussion on this issue of constitutional reform is the one big thing that it can contribute to the growing debate on the Union in Scotland, it still can’t say what it thinks.

Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy and Wes Streeting are all, apparently, writing books right now. It’s hard to imagine what they might be saying. I hope there is more substance to their arguments than current political debate suggests.

As we enter a long weekend of rather uncomfortable wallowing in nostalgia, which would appear to be what we are now best at as a result of too much time under Tory governments, it would be good to think that someone in Westminster other than Caroline Lucas and the SNP knew what they wanted. But in the other, largely English and Welsh parties that thinking is hard to discern.

Lord Geidt correctly spotted an absence of ethics yesterday. Tory MPs could, if they wish, address that issue. The absence of ideas looks as if it will be harder to solve.

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