I've been trying to keep a track of some interesting and exciting new ideas that we might discuss round our table. I thought it might be useful to gather them here. You don't need to read them but you might find them interesting, sustaining, inspiring, or productively aggravating.
There's a good piece by Zoe Williams about the need to renew liberal and progressive thinking. You can read it here:
On the eve of the Clacton by-election, which UKIP won of course, John Harris went to speak to local people and produced a very thoughtful article which struck me as very telling about the nature of the current political disengagement. Well worth a read
A related piece by Adam Lent for the Royal Society of Arts blog asks whether our current party system is capable of responding to the current disaffection with politics:
The big inspiration for me has been the Scottish Referendum debate. There's a very good piece by Adam Ramsay and Peter McColl, looking at the lessons and the legacy of the Referendum:
During the referendum, a very interesting project was launched under the title Common Weal. This took the form of 50 imaginative and progressive policy ideas, all of which have been tried and tested in another country, and were being offered as policies in an independent Scotland. They cover issues from energy policy to lobbying, from ways of renewing democracy to economic ideas. You might find these ideas interesting or inspiring or irritating:
One of the prime movers in that campaign is Robin McAlpine. You can see a video of him discussing Scotland's post-No future here:
Something they've discussed a lot in Scotland is the idea of a 'Citizen's Income'. It's an alternative to the complexity of Welfare, is extremely simple, preserves the redistributive and the safety-net aspects of the Welfare System, but would be, presumably, much simpler and less costly to operate. It has support on all sides of the political debate (and critics too). There's a good introduction to the idea in the New Statesman here:
One of the key questions that I'd like to discuss (but only if you want to) is what kind of devolution we might want - in Britain and in England. One key issue that powered through the Scottish debate is the extraordinary concentration of wealth, population and resources (financial, cultural, etc.) in London. The referendums on regional assemblies in 2004 rejected plans for devolution overwhelmingly. Plans for more directly-elected Mayors have been patchily accepted. But there is some new thinking around and this new Radio 4 programme, The DevolutionariesL Powering Up England's Cities, looks like a good place to catch up on what that is:
One of the most urgent issues appears to have been paying down the deficit. There's a very helpful piece by Ha-Joon Chang that punctures the dominant story that it was caused by welfare spending and will be solved by austerity:
And here's another piece making the same sort of points, but from within the Conservatives:
A big rumbling subject at the moment is immigration. I think progressives shouldn't ignore concerns that people have - UKIP gains traction precisely by picking up issues that the main parties don't want to face. But equally, we don't have to engage in a headlong charge into racist and xenophobic rhetoric. I was very struck by this piece, the text for a speech that Ed Miliband should have given:
There's a helpful article in The Guardian trying to set out the facts about recent EU immigration:
Jonathan Portes has written a clear argument against restricting immigration (from the liberal/utilitarian perspective) here:
How to use your vote? Labour continues to be frustrating. The Liberal Democrats are deeply tainted by their role in the Coalition. The Greens seem doomed by a first-past-the-post system to having minimal influence. The SNP are not available if you're not in Scotland. So what to do. Here's a couple of articles on this: the first by journalist Gary Bainbridge argues strongly for voting Labour; the second, by writer Ian Martin says we need to join Labour and change it:
How to build a popular progressive movement? The left academic Jeremy Gilbert has written an interesting piece on left-wing populism here:
I've been reading John Lanchester's new book, How to Speak Money. It is - if you can believe such a thing - a very entertaining dictionary of economics. Yes, I really did write those words. The introduction is an overview of the value of understanding more about economics and a smart and savage overview of the odd assumptions that dominate economic policy right now. The rest of the book is a dictionary of terms, witty, fascinating and useful. The book came out in September this year and I recommend it. (You may know his previous - and also miraculously accessible - book about the global financial meltdown: Whoops! .)
UKIP are one of the more striking political phenomena of the last ten years. It's easy for metropolitan liberals like me to dismiss them as middle-England racists, the BNP in pinstripe, but we should try to understand better why they are appealing to so many, even if we abhor their 'solutions' to the narrow band of perceived 'problems'. Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin's book Revolt on the Right (2014) is an academic, but accessible, study of their rise and appeal.
Colin Leys's The Plot Against the NHS (2011) is a powerful and shocking read about the stealthy dismantling of the NHS. Published within the first year of the Coalition, there's not much in it that's been disproved or turned out to be scaremongering.
As is clear, I hope, from my blogs, I'm somewhere on the Left of politics and for me the Table project is a small contribution to helping revive the progressive strand in British politics. But I'm not going to claim that the Left has a monopoly on progressive ideas (or, indeed, that the Left is consistently progressive). I think it's important to make connections across the political divide and, while I don't agree with many of its claims, I've just been reading Roger Scruton's How To Be A Conservative (2014) a thoughtful and valuable argument that seeks to reassert some core social values that emphasises compassion, community, and tradition in a way that doesn't seem to me entirely alien to some things I believe. (Roger, if you're free on 6 November, you'd be welcome.) And anyone on that wing of conservative politics too. We can all sit round this table.