Tim Farron gave a major speech on economics at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London on Thursday.
He set out three principles which he said will govern Liberal Democrat economic policy for the next five years:
- Invest now in infrastructure
- Back enterprise
- Take the long view
The fact is that the Tories aren’t really pro-free market capitalism at all. They are pro-corporate capitalism.
They are there to fight not for entrepreneurs, not for innovators who oil the wheels of the market, but for the status quo.
Don’t believe me? Look, not at what they say, but what they do.
An opportunity to cut taxes on business? Go for corporation tax to benefit the very largest of companies, not help small start-ups to grow.
An opportunity to diversify the energy sector? Withdraw the subsidies for renewables that would give small start-ups the opportunity to challenge the big six energy companies.
An opportunity to change banking as the major shareholder in RBS?
Rather than use the chance to create a real, diverse, regional banking sector, sell the stake at a loss and keep the bank intact as yet another too-big-to-fail institution, ill-equipped to finance small businesses.This manages to sound anti-Conservative without sounding soggy or socialist or corporatist.
At the same time, it poses a challenge to economic liberals in our party.
For economic liberalism should be a radical creed. It should involve the breaking up of monopolies and the introduction of competition of markets that are dominated by a few big players.
Too often, however, they make it sound like a slightly exasperated defence of the status quo. They give the impression that they resent any questioning existing concentrations of power in the economy.
Tim's speech points a way forward for all Liberal Democrats. I hope the party will unite around it.