Yesterday saw the launch of a book project that I’ve been working on with colleagues over the last year. Between us, we persuaded 27 authors to put pen to paper and say what should be in a programme for government, one that’s fit for the world we live in today. Some 70 people from business, NGOs, academia, think-tanks and political parties joined us in Westminster for the launch.
Our choice of the title “Green Book” is a very conscious nod towards the Orange Book of a decade ago and indeed Lloyd George’s Yellow Book – really authored by John Maynard Keynes – 85 years ago. Last week I wrote how times have changed since then.
Each author has a specific point of view but all were united in saying we can’t go on as we are, both as a country and as a party. As editors, we were clear that the LibDems are now a party of national government; we need a programme to put before the voters that’s frank about the challenges Britain faces: the first industrialised nation that has largely exhausted its natural resources and now has to compete for energy, food and raw materials with the burgeoning economies of India, Brazil and China.
As a party of government, now and after the next election, we have to change the narrative too if we are to succeed. More and more austerity, explained as paying off Labour’s debts, is neither an economic strategy nor a persuasive political proposition. At stake is not just a ‘lost decade’, bad though that is, but any chance of a prosperous economy and fair society into the foreseeable future. Oil at $100 a barrel and commodity prices more than doubling over the last decade represent fundamental changes we’re not yet facing up to.
This means we need to be the party of long term investment – in houses that are so well insulated they stay warm in winter and cool in summer, in transport that doesn’t rely on burning expensive fossil fuels, in ‘knowledge’ jobs that can’t be off-shored, in a ‘local economy’ with shorter food miles and greater resilience to global shocks, and above all in an energy infrastructure that doesn’t rely on the Russians for gas to keep the lights on.
We need to be the party of responsible big business, and challenge them through fiscal and regulatory incentives to be partners in investing for a sustainable economy – everything from fair wages and training new staff to spending their growing cash piles on R&D for hyper-efficient new products and services that literally don’t cost the earth.
We need to be the party that gives hope to ordinary citizens that the future can be better than the current reality – a future they help create, one where we grow in our well-being as humans, rather than accumulate yet more ‘stuff’ as consumers.
We call this programme ‘green liberalism’. In the book we’ve grouped our authors’ ideas under five themes:
- modernising the economy and building long term resilience
- rebuilding infrastructure and regenerating communities
- putting citizens and consumers at the heart of green liberalism
- combating market failure and taxing pollution
- reforming national government and making best use of international alliances
Read more about it here www.green-book.org.uk and come to our fringe meeting with Nick Clegg and Ed Davey at Brighton on Saturday lunchtime, 9th March.
The Green Book: New Directions for Liberals in Government, edited by Duncan Brack, Paul Burall, Neil Stockley and Mike Tuffrey, published by Biteback price £12.99, was launched at the House of Commons on Monday 4th March.
This article first appeared in LibDemVoice