How the MPs are lining up

by Stephen Tall on October 24, 2007

This is, as I understand it, the current state of who’s backing whom:

For Chris:

Tom Brake
Lynne Featherstone
Sandra Gidley
Paul Holmes
Martin Horwood
David Howarth
Susan Kramer
Mark Williams

For Nick:

Danny Alexander
Colin Breed
Jeremy Browne
Malcolm Bruce
Alistair Carmichael
Ed Davey
Tim Farron
Don Foster
Julia Goldsworthy
Nick Harvey
Mike Hancock
Mark Hunter
Paul Keetch
Norman Lamb
David Laws
Michael Moore
Greg Mulholland
Mark Oaten
John Pugh
Willie Rennie
Paul Rowen
Sir Robert Smith
Sarah Teather
Steve Webb
Stephen Williams
Phil Willis

(Do let me know of any errors or omissions, and I’ll update – do provide corroboration, though, please!)

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I’m not sure it’s possible to call house prices a market failure. 300,000 new houses are needed every year, only 100,000 are built because the state won’t allow any more. Year on year house prices go up. Surely we don’t believe that’s a coincidence?

“Right-wing” is obviously an insult to someone who defines themselves as being against anything to do with individual versus collective choice, but I think that it’s very difficult to be a thinking liberal unless you accept that sometimes “left wing” thoughts are useful (in strengthening state structures where necessary) and sometimes “right-wing” thoughts are necessary (in cutting back union bargaining power or in reforming public services, for example).

If you look at Clegg’s proposals in particular one of the most “right wing” was the proposal for school vouchers, when all he’s proposing is we spend a lot more money on children from the lowest educational background. If that’s right-wing, then maybe I’m right-wing too!

We should talk instead about what level of determination we have to deal with social ills and what changes we’re willing to tolerate in order to make society a better place. Whether it’s “right-wing” or “left-wing” is surely not the point.

by Peter Bancroft on October 24, 2007 at 10:49 pm. Reply #

Matthew Huntbach, I found an appropriate quote for food for thought from my quote file:

Those fighting for free enterprise and free competition do not defend the interests of those rich today. They want a free hand left to unknown men who will be the entrepreneurs of tomorrow… – Ludwig von Mises

Maybe many limitations to the free market don’t actually hurt that much those, who already are rich, but those, who are ready to work hard to become rich.

by Anonymous on October 24, 2007 at 11:04 pm. Reply #

Is Mark Oaten an MP?

by Yasmin Zalzala on October 24, 2007 at 11:22 pm. Reply #

As Matthew says, housing is a mess, and is increasingly seen as so. But as Peter says, the problem is not the market, but the failure of the planning system. He suggests 300k houses would be sufficient, but Reading econometric model suggests at least 500k. If we don’t allow them to be built, affordability will worsen for those who are not in social housing or lucky enough to inherit. We have a choice, and I hope that one of the ways in which Nick is prepared to step outside the comfort zone is to support more housebuilding, particularly in areas of high demand.

As MatGB says, “is whether we favour a high safety net and hand up or whether we let people whither on the vine if they make bad choices”. I am economically liberal, but I certainly support such a safety net.

I don’t care whether that leads people to call me left-wing or right-wing, I only care if people call me liberal.

by tim leunig on October 25, 2007 at 1:06 am. Reply #

I wonder if you people who are advocating building hundreds of thousands of new houses have ever sat on a Planning Committee when even some modest housebuilding proposal on some little scrap of green land is proposed – and heard the angered shouting that is aimed at the members by the public present if they give it the go-ahead? Let alone faced up to the howls of opposition that come when large scale building on a substantial piece of green countryside is proposed.

The problem is that the demand for housing will NEVER be fulfilled. There will always be people who demand a second or third home, a big mansion in the countryside, a central city flat. We just don’t have enough land to give everyone what they ideally want. To suggest we can just build more and people will be satisifed and there will be no more demand is economic illiteracy, typical of what I’d expect from the free-market maniacs.

The big question is if we build more how do we ensure it goes to those who are in real need, rather than to those who just want extra space they don’t have a real need for? And how do we ensure it isn’t just snapped up as an investment by those who have no need for it all, but know that holding onto it is a better way of keeping their money safe and rising than anything else?

Well, I can say this for sure – if Nick Clegg really were to advocate building over the Green Belt, we can say bye-bye to a heck of lot of votes in the sort of Tory marginal we’re told we have to adopt the right image to win. On the other hand, the sort of solution I’d like to look at to this – involving such things as LVT – are also going to be very hard to sell.

by Matthew Huntbach on October 25, 2007 at 9:46 am. Reply #

Nearly all of the MEPs are currently barred from coming out for their favoured leadership candidate because the Euro selection rules have been interpreted by the SRO to mean that endorsing a leadership candidate breaks the no-endorsement rule (the rule that is in our selection rules for everything bar the leadership election!)
So we wont find out until after 10 Nov who the current flock of MEPs are backing.

by Dave Radcliffe on October 25, 2007 at 9:50 am. Reply #


“Those fighting for free enterprise and free competition do not defend the interests of those rich today. They want a free hand left to unknown men who will be the entrepreneurs of tomorrow… – Ludwig von Mises”

Crap, complete and utter crap. Just look at the Tory attack on inheritance tax to see how utter crap this is and what utter hypocrites most of those who claim to be “for free enterprise” are when it comes to defending the wealth they already have.

by Matthew Huntbach on October 25, 2007 at 9:51 am. Reply #

Surprised no one has commented on Mike Hancock and Phil Willis backing Nick – they are both what you might call ‘old school’ and neither could be accused of doing it for the sake of their careers.

No indications yet from the King of Colchester?

by Ed on October 25, 2007 at 9:57 am. Reply #

Matthew: The whole point of LD planning proposals is to turn NIMBYs into IMBYs by capturing the rise in land values for the community. You can read them in full on the centreforum website, or google Leunig and housing to find various summaries. In essence it is a way of capitalising LVT up front. Community land auctions would mean lower housing costs (which helps the poor) and lower taxes locally (which also helps the poor).

People have accused me of many things over the years, but economic illiteracy is not the easiest one to make stick.

by tim leunig on October 25, 2007 at 10:03 am. Reply #

Matthew Huntbach, intresting. You first blame free markets for the housing shortage. Then, when some people point out, that the problem is that the markets aren’t allowed to build enough new houses, you say the demand for housing will never be fulfilled, and shouldn’t, because it would mean building on green areas. Finally you begin to name-calling people with whom you disagree with “free-market maniacs”, and what they are saying as “crap, complete and utter crap”.

You don’t seem to be able to discuss in a civilised manner, so I can’t be really sorry if you say “bye-bye Liberal Democrats” like you threated in 36.

by Anonymous on October 25, 2007 at 10:08 am. Reply #

Maybe it is true what they say after all, that Lib Dems are like granola. When you take away all the fruits and all the nuts, all you have left are flakes.

by Anonymous on October 25, 2007 at 10:10 am. Reply #

For those who call for the relaxation of planning controls (a handful of free market zealots and their puppeteers in the construction industry), I ask the following question: where are all these new houses to be built? On the top of Box Hill? In the Mole Gap? On Brockham Green? Or in a field or back garden near you?

There is in fact plenty of available land suitable for development, most of it in places few people want to live, and much of it developers don’t want to touch, because developers generally only want to build either up-market homes for the well-off or gerry-built flats for the buy-to-let market. The last thing they care about is housing the poor, something they will never do willingly (and they will cry persecution if forced to). The truth is, Nicholas Van Hoogstraten is more of a philanthropist when it comes to housing the poor than any leading housebuilder.

Free market economics is about the rich getting richer and the poor knowing their place. Any attempt to dress it up in pseudo-intellectual clothing, or as some kind of old-fashioned liberalism, is fraudulent. It is the means by which elites exploit and abuse the rest of us.

Full marks to Matthew Huntbach for his inervention. Just in time, in fact. As the party is about to be railroaded by the media into electing a leader with a marked enthusiasm for right-wing economics (and a blank record on most other subjects).

by Angus Huck on October 25, 2007 at 10:17 am. Reply #

Tim – your solution fails to grasp my point that demand will never be satisfied and what are we going to do about the imbalance in wealth which means new build on the green belt is likely to be snapped up for second homes, or kept empty for investment rather than go to those who actually need it.

Plus, I really think you do not underatand the antipathy that exists to new building on green land, even on scrappy suburban sites. As I said, have you ever been a councillor on a Planning Committee trying to grant planning permission in the face of angry residents?

Angus – thanks. I’m not totally anti free market, just a bit concerned that the leading candidate for leader is a bit too gung-ho about it, and does not say enough to suggest he recognises where it falls down.

Everyone – I’m shocked that my concerns about the free market, which used to be shared by the bulk of the Liberal Party, and were there as serious concerns at least from the time of Lloyd George, now appear to be viewed by many who associate themselves with this party as some sort of unacceptable left-wing lunacy. If this is really what the party has become, I’d rather not be associated with it. Sad, after 30 years of active membership.

by Matthew Huntbach on October 25, 2007 at 11:32 am. Reply #

Lloyd George? Well, personally I prefer Gladstone and Campbell-Bannerman, anyway.

by Anonymous on October 25, 2007 at 12:22 pm. Reply #

48. A fair point – I am backing Nick but if I was running his campaign I would actually keep quiet about the support from the parliamentary party… I am supporting him despite some of these endorsements, not on account of them !

55. I understand that the ‘no endorsements by MEPs’ rule may be about to be ditched.

by Peter Dunphy on October 25, 2007 at 1:35 pm. Reply #

Matthew, can you not see the starling irony that you are at once accusing the market of always defending priviledge, whilst at the same time saying that the housing market cannot be liberalised because those with houses will complain too much?

The nature of politics is that those with something will always defend it more actively than those without are able to lobby for something. Politically, those with artificially inflated house values are always going to be stronger than the 200,000 homeless.

The thing is, in 10 years unless something is done, the homeless number could easily rise past the 1 million mark, with the lowest 5% of society by education, background and income of course going to suffer the most. Traditionally it’s been a role of liberal parties to fight for those unable to fight for themselves, and I’d hope that we’d again do it here.

Tim Leunig’s auction proposal is quite a clever way of getting around some of the planning problems, you should really give it a read. As I can see, it only has two flaws for us:
– The first is that it’s really a practical proposal. It’s something for a governing party to do, but isn’t so useful for an opposition party like ourselves (although maybe Labour will take it up one day?)
– The second isn’t Tim’s fault. Whoever in Cowley St wrote the PR when it became party policy either didn’t understand it or thought that it would appeal to voters to suggest that we were proposing some kind of Chavez-like illegal land-grab by the state.

Look, liberal parties around the world are and have always found creative ways to break up established priviledge and to give access to much broader groups of society to things like education and of course wealth.

Look at our Progressive Democrat friends in Ireland. Half of the cab drivers hate them, as they took on and broke the taxi cartel which allowed licenced drivers to charge obscene fees to customers. The other half are new drivers who were allowed access to the market after the liberalisation by the PDs and they’re extremely greatful for being given the chance to build their own businesses by hard work and offering an attractive service to the population.

Whether a solution is market-based or not doesn’t really matter. We should be a lot more interested in whether a reform challenges established interests and whether it increases people’s freedom and choice.

Anyways, I’d suggest another look at Clegg’s policy proposals – they’re not especially free-market orientated in the first place, so I’m not sure why there’s this need to charge in threatening that you’ll stop being a Lib Dem and attacking one of the candidates.

by Peter Bancroft on October 25, 2007 at 2:01 pm. Reply #

Peter @ 64,

I keep hearing about the lifting of the draconian rule regarding supposed reverse endorsement, and all I get are e-mails confirming that it is still in place. And why should I, after all I am only one of the Regional Returning Officers?

by Mark Valladares on October 25, 2007 at 2:29 pm. Reply #

62 – Matthew

Don’t let Anonymous wind you up. There are many more members in the party and supporters outside who share concerns over the free market than support its excesses.

I also think that our consistent argument that the level of debt (and particularly relating to housing) is starting to resonate with a wider spectrum of society who had previously bought into the idea that it was smart economics to finance your whole future on borrowing.

The increasing number of people in later working life who got their first step on the housing ladder in their 20s and 30s but can see no prospect of their own children doing the same will be a more significant voting block who will be prepared to support constraints on the free market and on developers to provide “affordable” housing.

In any event, over 45 years’ active membership I have only had one party leader whom I didn’t consider suspect under right-wing influence (and that was probably because I was too young and naive), but all actually turned out to be pretty reliable at challenging the cosy consensus of the establishment.

So don’t give up

by Ian Roebuck on October 25, 2007 at 2:30 pm. Reply #

65 – Peter Bancroft: “The first is that it’s really a practical proposal. It’s something for a governing party to do, but isn’t so useful for an opposition party like ourselves (although maybe Labour will take it up one day?)”

– Don’ worry, if it seems to be a popular policy, the Tories will quickly copy it from the Lib Dems, and Labour from Tories. I just hope they won’t make too much copying errors, as they probably won’t understand what it is all about, anyway.

by Blah on October 25, 2007 at 2:31 pm. Reply #

65 – Peter. Seconded.

Matthew. Yes, some of the press is talking up Nick Clegg as a Tory, on the grounds that he is better looking than David Cameron or something. But this is utterly spurious. He wrote a chapter in the Orange Book. So did Chris Huhne. So did Steve Webb.

If anything Chris’s chapter was more “right wing” in your terms because it expressed qualified approval for globalisation. (Quite right too.)

by Joe Otten on October 25, 2007 at 3:03 pm. Reply #

Matthew: you’re right that the completely free market solution (under current rules) is untenable, but the problem with planning committee approval isn’t economic, it’s political—the “pure” market solution is to let anything be built on, but even those of us that broadly favour market solutions aren’t too keen on that.

That’s one of the reasons I like LVT (and I really must get around to reading Tim’s stuff on this issue, it’s been on the to-do list for ages)—it encourages re use of currently dormant brownfield land, and would encourage more usage of existing property stock. A lot of the homes needed today aren’t semi detached houses, it’s 2-3 bed flats in urban or suburban settings, something that we don’t really have enough of to go around.

Very few argue for a “pure” market within the party, but I think many that object to ‘markets’ are really objecting to the Thatcherite “markets” that were really corporate sell-offs with a veneer if competition layered on.

Our policy must be to assist smaller businesses breaking into sectors dominated by corporations by ensuring a truly level playing field, the current “cosy consensus” is the corporatist approach favoured by Labour and Tories alike, neither is real competition nor is it a truly competetive market.

Beyond that, I’ll reassert that I’m on the left, but very much in favour of markets where appropriate and ask that you make a distinction between the sort of markets I (and indeed JS Mill) favour and the “markets” favoured by the corporate-centrists that have been in power for the last three decades.

by MatGB on October 25, 2007 at 3:33 pm. Reply #

“Very few argue for a “pure” market within the party, but I think many that object to ‘markets’…”

“Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” – Milton Friedman

by Anonymous on October 25, 2007 at 4:33 pm. Reply #


“can you not see the starling irony that you are at once accusing the market of always defending priviledge, whilst at the same time saying that the housing market cannot be liberalised because those with houses will complain too much?”

No, I am not accusing the market of always defending privilege. What I am saying is that it gives a lot more choice and hence liberty to those who have money. If today’s Liberal Democrats are largely happy with that and don’t see it ever as a problem, well, that’s that.

The market in housing is efficient in ranking houses according to their desirability. It works well in this, it means the sort of houses that get built are the sort of houses people like. Council housing failed badly because it didn’t have this market discipline, and badly designed housing that people didn’t like got built to satisfy the egoes of architects and councillors.

Where the market in housing fails is in satifying needs. Now, it seems to me that some right-wing champions of what they call “liberty” don’t see this as a problem, to them “liberty” is freedom to spend money and not be subject to state laws, if your liberty is severely restricted because you have nowhere secure to live, well, tough luck poor scum, that’s not the sort of liberty that interests us. I would hope no Liberal Democrat would think like that, but seeing the lack of appreciation of my point here, now I’m not so sure.

Tim Leunig has had chance to answer my points but has not done so. As I said, I’m sceptical about the suggestion that we can just build our way our of the housing problem, because demand will never be satisfied, and how can we make sure new build goes to those who need it rather than to those who don’t but are wealthy and are demanding more? It’s a bit like the road-building argument that building more roads doesn’t solve traffic problems, it just causes more people to drive more.

In any case, Tim’s solution is just a sophisticated way of saying “let’s build over the green belt”. I appreciate there isn’t an easy answer to the housing problem, if building on the green belt is politically difficult, so would be any measure to make more equitable distribution of the housing we have.

I also have looked carefully at Clegg’s speeches and policy proposals, but sorry, I remain deeply unimpressed. I still don’t see what it is about him that people are so enthusiastic about. So much of what he says is just vacuous feel-good waffle. Well, maybe it’s presented well and sounds and looks good when heard live. Since it is so vacuous, one has to look carefully to see what he really means, and he’s dropped enough little hints to mean it’s just boring and well-worn “more free market” stuff. Also, I have to judge him by the sort of people that are backing him – the massive enthusiasm for him in the right-wing press for instance. Why’s this? Don’t tell me it’s not to their own good because they don’t want a successful LibDem leader stealing Tory votes – they never endorsed left-wing Labour contedners for leadership under those lines, they endorsed Tory Plan B.

I’ve already said that I don’t see a massive difference between Huhne and Clegg, but from what I’ve seen from Huhne, he has said more than Clegg to reassure me that he has some understanding of the concerns I have over gung-ho free marketeering, and also his writings seem to be deeper and more well thought out. But I don’t want to come out and say “I’m for Huhne” because any support I give him is more because I haven’t been impressed by Clegg than anything else.

by Matthew Huntbach on October 26, 2007 at 10:46 am. Reply #

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