2020s >> 2020 >> no-1385-january-2020

Cooking the Books II: The Lib Dem vision for capitalism

During the election the Lib Dems tried to position themselves as ‘the party of business’, to replace the Tories as the main party of the dominant section of the British capitalist class. This would be a return to their heyday in the nineteenth century when this is what they were.

Their delusional leader (she thought she would be the next prime minister), Jo Swinson, told the annual conference of the bosses’ union, the CBI, in November that the Lib Dems were the ‘natural party of business’ (Liberal Democratic Voice, 18 November) because they supported business’s continued frictionless access to the EU single market. A few days earlier, the party’s deputy leader, Sir Ed Davey, had said that ‘a Lib Dem administration would be a “government of business”’ (www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2019-50428044).

The Party’s former leader, Sir Vince Cable, had already, while still leader, nailed the Lib Dems’ yellow colours to the capitalist mast:

‘Capitalism is being questioned in Britain more intensely than for decades. Some want to destroy it. Others believe that it is the only economic system which works, but want to reform it. I am in the latter camp’ (City AM, 14 May).

Davey, who was introducing the party’s policy on climate change, said that the Lib Dems’ policy on this was to ‘decarbonise capitalism’; in other words, to keep capitalism and to try to solve the climate crisis within it and its investment in production for profit.

This was an idea he had announced earlier in the year in an article in Liberal Democrat Voice (28 May). It was a plan to persuade City of London speculators that investment in green measures could and would be profitable:

‘Yet the great news is clean, high returning investments exist. (…) [B]y decarbonising capitalism, we won’t be just solving the climate emergency, we will be helping pensioners switch out of increasingly risky carbon assets into much safer climate-friendly investments. Regrettably, the political leadership for this historic reform of capitalism is absent. Bogged down in climate unfriendly Brexit, the Conservatives are just making things worse. And Corbyn’s Labour just wants to destroy capitalism. (…) With a Coalition of the Willing in Parliament and the City – people who get the urgency, the risks of inaction and the sheer scale of the challenge – we could supercharge the switch into green capitalism and wind down the fossil fuel threat.’

In passing, he’s being a bit unfair here in accusing Labour of wanting to destroy capitalism. They too, just want to reform it, only in a different way.

Davey went on to describe the Lib Dems’ vision of a ‘brighter future’:

‘There will of course be a maze of overly complex regulations to cut through – but it must not detract from this vision to rebuild the City as a global centre for sustainable capitalism, where the needs of the planet and people have to come first.’

Not just a ‘green capitalism’ but a green City of London! It makes you wonder what planet he’s living on. But then, all reformists suffer from the delusion that capitalism can be reformed to have some other priority than profit, though not all of them think that the stock exchange could be.