Well, it’s hardly surprising, is it?  The zig-zag story of the Conservatives’ attempt to embrace liberalism under Cameron has its images, sayings and catchphrases: the well-hugged hoodie, the huskie, the green tree, We Believe in Society, Cameron’s embrace of the NHS, and so on.   But the other movement that led to the coalition partners coming together has instead a book, one that produces its own clunky derivatives (‘Orange Bookers’ being a term of abuse in some corners of Liberal Democracy).

For a really excellent account of this journey, read Jane Merrick in the Independent.

The book is out of print, but at CentreForum we are trying to meet demand.  Email info (at) centreforum (dot) org if you want to buy one and we’ll try to get back in touch with how it works (we’re still working it out).

Written in 2004, it may have an out of date feel in places: the Fiscal sections and Real World events are sadly apart.   I have no time to reread let alone review it now, but could not help diving into Vince Cable’s chapter to see what it might turn out for the new Business Secretary.

On the downside, on p168 he calls for the abolition of the department he now heads.

But on P170 he calls for those on low incomes to be pulled out of tax altogether, and those on higher pay to pay more or at least lose various reliefs and benefits.  P171 has the (now shortlived) idea of national property taxation – the mansion tax, in other words.

If you read anything, read Laws’ chapter on “Reclaiming Liberalism”, which has some biting observations on the nannying instincts of the Liberal Democrats as they then were.  But the whole thing is bound to be useful in the years ahead.   What is certainly missing is the overriding emphasis on reducing inequality that James called for in his speech yesterday.  James writes:

Delivering the Hugo Young lecture last November, David Cameron astounded many in the audience by asserting that the real problem is not the rich-poor divide but the gap between the poor and those on middle incomes.

Whereas I am sure many ‘Orange Bookers’ think that is precisely the issue – people being well off enough to be out of poverty, not how far they are behind Beckham.   I don’t have the time to search the book to confirm this.


5 thoughts on “Orange Book in hot demand

  1. Most of the chapters are very good, Laws’ on “reclaiming liberalism” and Ed Davey’s on the virtue of local democracy especially. Though the one on families was a bit of an odd one out.

    It’s interesting that Chris Huhne gets labelled as an “Orange Booker” even though his piece was on global governance and nothing to do with free-market economics. Likewise Nick Clegg’s chapter was on the EU.

    I hope you can get the book back out, perhaps using print-on-demand.

  2. Both are the issue. No-one should be enslaved by want, and so poverty must be attacked. But the rise in inequality in at least recent years is mainly down to those at the top galloping away from the pack. That’s very nice for the masters of the universe, but corrosive to social cohesion, damaging to mobility, and encourages political corruption. And I seem to remember some economist, can’t think who, arguing that too much inequality harms economic growth. Potential oligarchies and poverty, both are bad, and both should be attacked.

    Didn’t Laws advocate privatizing the NHS in that book?

  3. Didn’t Laws advocate privatizing the NHS in that book?

    He wrote a (separate) chapter on health services, proposing a scheme that is probably most closely related to the Dutch and German systems, where people choose a regulated insurer paid for mainly or entirely through their social security contributions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_the_Netherlands

    I think his proposal was a bit clunky but the basic idea is worth considering – and it’s not exactly hard right stuff, coming from the Dutch and the Germans!

    1. Geoffrey, many thanks for that.

      I would be interested to know of those variables how much they are affected by the incomes of those in poverty itself, as opposed to how those in poverty relate to the incomes of the top decile, say. I can’t help thinking that 90% of the work still needs to focus on the former. This doesn’t mean leaving that top decile alone, of course

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