Whether you love or hate the Centre Forum/Stephen Williams plan to give the banks back to the taxpayer, everyone agrees that if nothing else, it’s a great example of creative thinking.
And it’s the sort of thinking that I believe attracts many voters to the Liberal Democrats in the first place. We have a great ability to take left field solutions to real problems and turn them into coherent policies – which are often derided by Labour and the Conservatives as ‘naïve’ or ‘unworkable’, before magically becoming part of their own policy or legislative plan a little later. It’s interesting to take a gander at the 2005 manifesto for example and see how many of the policies have been endorsed by one or other of the other main parties since then.
And I wish we were making more of that thinking-out-of-the-box attitude right now.
Now I know the federal policy groups will be hard at it devising policy initiatives that do that even as I type, as will the various think tanks in and around the party and I’m sure lots of this will emerge from Sheffield in the next few days, and over coming months.
But in the meantime, I think we should be engaging in a bit more public debate about some of the more interesting ideas out there right now.
For example, there’s the Robin Hood tax. We’ve debated this in and around the party for some time, but now we are in government, we seem to have stopped as we pursue our agreed legislative programme. Now I’m not suggesting that our ministers should be actively engaged in that debate – but I wish a few more high profile Lib Dems were involved in putting views forward about the campaign rather than leaving it to others (very good though they are at it). I want us to be actively involved in debates like these (pro or against), not studiously ignoring them from the sidelines. So what if we didn't start the debate - lets get involved please.
Or take this article from George Monbiot. There’s a hatful of great ideas here (and some real stinkers, but I digress). George willingly admits he’s nicked them from all sorts of sources – and although he doesn’t say so, one of those sources appears to be the Lib Dem 2010 manifesto. George is advocating the progressive left (he means Labour) use them as a basis for a policy development programme. I say lets nick our ideas back and some of the others to boot, if they fit both our own policy goals and political philosophy. If David Cameron can describe the Conservative Party as ‘progressive’ and Ed Miliband can claim his political heroes are Beveridge, Keynes and Lloyd George, then we can certainly adopt a policy that advocates reducing tax avoidance to the tune of £25billion a year.
After all, apparently the new banks-back-to-the-people idea wasn’t produced out of thin air. It was inspired by a comment made by Maurice Saatchi…..although we’ve done rather more with it than he probably intended.