Monday, October 13, 2008

Nick Clegg on Security and the Economic Situation

I am just back from listening to Nick Clegg deliver a keynote speech for the IPPR at Clifford Chance, conveniently situated a couple of minutes walk from my office. It was one of those occasions when I came away with a warm glow - YES this is why I am a Liberal Democrat and not a watered down Socialist or Tory. I couldn't fault a word he said, even on tax - the emphasis having changed, even with this morning's audience - to raising taxes for the richest and cutting them for the poorest. Progressive taxation was one of his strongest messages.

I uncharacteristically arrived a few minutes late, after Nick had made his allusion to this being the economic version of 9/11. But came into here is exhortation that we must stabilise the market.

He talked about extremism being largely as a result of poverty and reminded us that in the eyes of the electorate economic failure is twinned with political failure. The credit crunch was an indication that western liberal democracy had failed and cautioned us that what was happening could well have an impact on human rights and conflict around the world.

Our forces are already overstretched, only last week we had been told that military victory in Afghanistan was impossible. Recession made continuing our commitment in these conflicts potentially impossible. He complained that the G8 didn't reflect global powers in a climate where the US had lost moral credibility but now risks the loss of economic credibility.

He predicted that we would see a less assertive approach from the US and the resurgence of isolation. There was no clear strategy to deal with Iran and the danger of a developing Asian arms race.

He emphatically called for Europe to step up to plate. To have a more collegiate approach to tackling these problems and resist unilateral action, to further cut interest rates and remove the toxic liabilities in the banks. The Eurosceptics had to accept that this crisis proved the need for a collective response. We must act together - history shows, nations driven by nationalism and protectionism fuel instability. Despite the challenges and flaws the EU represents a level of coordination unrivaled in the world.

Nick outlined 5 steps he believed Europe should now take/push for to begin to stabilise the situation.
  • Member states must reduce inequality in their own countries, the logic being not just fairness but security and a means of reducing the alienation that can result in terrorism.
  • Agree quickly on new financial regulatory framework across Europe. National action is unsustainable and the priority must be to restore trust. The scope of government intervention was far greater and the full nationalisation of some banks is a heartbeat. this must be in tandem with the development of a global approach.
  • The radical reform of the IMF and World Bank what was right in the past was not fit for the 21st century. China India and Brasil should be given a place at the top table.
    the current crisis could serve as catalyst for this and Europe must lead the way.
  • EU must make clear that protectionism is wrong and push for proper open markets. He reminded us that the spiral of the Depression of the 1930s was driven by protectionism.
  • In Europe we must work together to build a truly green economy, this was vital to ensure we were safe from the vagaries of the oil market. We would also then be better equipped to deal with climate change but it was incumbent on all European countries to do what was needed.

We were faced with enormous challenges - we were in the eye of storm and potential economic meltdown with all the unthinkable consequences. A multilateral response was imperative, we must push for greater fairness and stand together in this time of economic upheaval.

There were some interesting questions...........will return to later on.


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