Comment: Redistribute wealth and power

Podium: An extract from a speech made by the Liberal Democrat MP for Newbury to his party conference at Brighton

A SENIOR official of the AEEU recently made clear his views on Mark Seddon, one or the candidates for Labour's National Executive. "We don't want Mark Seddon on the NEC because he represents trouble for the Labour Party." And what was the official's reason for this? "Because Mr Seddon believes in the redistribution of power and wealth." If that's the case, I am also going to cause trouble for the Labour Party, because I also believe in the redistribution of power and wealth.

What, after all, was the introduction of pensions by Lloyd George, or the Liberal Democrat policy of a 50p tax rate on earnings of over pounds 100,000, if not a redistribution of wealth? What is our policy of strengthening local government or of introducing a fair voting system, if not the redistribution of power?

Others also believe that Labour has now abandoned support for the redistribution of power and wealth. A Labour minister, asked recently if this was the case, hummed and hawed for some while, thinking perhaps that he was being led into a trap. Eventually the best he could come up with was: "We believe in the redistribution of opportunity." But giving opportunities to school leavers with no GCSE passes to apply for the fast-stream of the Civil Service frankly doesn't get them very far.

So what is the evidence that we need a redistribution of wealth in our country? A recent UN report pointed out that we are one of the most illiterate and poverty-stricken of all the industrial nations. More than one-sixth of British citizens lives in poverty, the third highest proportion of the 17 industrial nations listed.

The gap between the rich and the poor is too large and it is growing. This is not an efficient way to run an economy. Concentrating so large a proportion of spending power in the hands of so few people distorts rather than smoothes our economy, and is totally unnecessary.

Surprisingly, perhaps, this view is becoming more widely accepted. Recognition that the financial chasm between the richest and poorest in our country distorts the demand side of the economy has now spread to commentators of all persuasions.

The Liberal Democrats are realistic enough to understand that the redistribution of power and wealth will never come about without turning to good effect people's natural instincts for self-improvement.

One of the defining moments of my political education was to hear a lecture while still a school boy about the damage done to our country by its industrial structure - with the shareholder side of industry benefiting from holding down wages and maximising profits, and the employee side benefiting from the opposite. If the ownership of industry could gradually be transferred to the employees through worker share ownership schemes, the waste involved in industrial conflict would be avoided.

But there will always be some who, for whatever reason, cannot work. We must, therefore, retain an efficient and effective social security system. Unlike the Government, the Liberal Democrats recognise that increasing spending on social security is not necessarily wrong. There will, for example, inevitably be increased spending on the elderly as the number of pensioners increases.

So welfare reform to us is not simply a question of short-term benefit cuts, instead it should concentrate on long-term solutions.

This week, we have decided on a policy of doubling Child Benefit for one child in every family with pre-school children. Many parents believe it is best to look after their own families in their own home. We do not want to see such parents forced out to work.

We also intend to introduce a compulsory second-tier pension, so that the elderly in future have a reasonable standard of living, even though the State Retirement Pension is becoming less and less adequate every year.

The Liberal Democrats have ideals and political principles which have served us well for many decades. We have no need to change them.

The aim of politics is to put your ideals and principles into practice. One way in which we may be able to do that is in coalition. One way is to do it in opposition, and the sudden decision of Gordon Brown to give the Bank of England its independence shows how effective the Liberal Democrats can be in that way.

But the best way to en-sure that your ideals and principles become those of the society you live in is by being in government yourself. That remains our aim.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices