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Countdown to Conference #2

The role and size of the state

31st AUGUST 2010

As the Liberal Democrats prepare for their first conference since entering coalition, The Liberal magazine argues that the government’s wide-ranging and ambitious public sector reforms will erode the liberal architecture of the welfare state. The infrastructure planned by Lloyd George, Keynes and Beveridge is under sustained attack from a philosophy that masquerades as liberalism, employing the language of ‘choice’ and ‘freedom’, but which is, in fact, neo-liberalism, the political economy of the New Right.

- Commenting on the major structural reforms planned for the NHS, the magazine’s editor, Benjamin Ramm, remarked: “The proposals outlined in the White Paper amount to handing £80 billion of taxpayers’ money to private providers, some of whom are responsible for the most inequitable and poorly run systems with the worst outcomes in the developed world. Will the party that conceived of the NHS be responsible for this lethal prescription?”.

- Until recently, the LibDems stood for ‘a good local school for every child in every community’, advocating a penny on income tax for education – a popular, clearly costed policy that acknowledged the price of universal comprehensive education. Not any longer, argues Simon Kovar, a teacher and Contributing Editor of The Liberal: “After twenty years of failed marketisation, it is difficult to believe that anyone could support an even greater role for the market with even less local democracy. If schools are forced to go it alone – competing with their neighbours for pupils and scarce funds – the poorest children will suffer most. The Academies programme is socially divisive, likely to depress overall standards, and an inefficient use of resources in an age of austerity”.

- More broadly, in relation to the role and size of the state, Ramm remarked: “A state that aids the weak and vulnerable, or that assists citizens with the provision of good quality local services, is not a demonic Leviathan to be stripped and slashed. The contempt that characterises the coalition’s rhetoric is alien to the liberal tradition”.

For further comment, or to speak with the editor, call (020) 8444 1944 or 07812 650 399.

The Liberal is an independent publication dedicated to the revival of liberalism. It has no affiliation with the Liberal Democrats, although previous contributors include Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, Simon Hughes, Menzies Campbell, Shirley Williams and Paddy Ashdown.


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