I hope you had a good Christmas and New Year. Like many of you I spent my time at two family get-togethers – although I hope you didn’t have to travel quite the distance I did between England and Spain!
Of course politics and government never really stop and over Christmas you start to get ready for the next year. As part of that I wrote a piece for the Times setting out our position on the economy and asking some questions of the Labour Party. You can read it HERE (paywall) or Lib Dem Voice has a summary HERE.
We also got a bit of attention after the party’s central message for spokespeople was featured on the BBC. There’s nothing unusual about political parties wanting to ensure they get their message across, and our key argument – that the Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling every person to get on in life – is one that I hope some of you are already starting to recognise. I know there are people who are uneasy about this kind of message discipline, but we all know from successful campaigns in council wards and by-elections that you must be clear, simple and consistent in what you say to voters, and we have to do that at a national level.
The idea of combining a strong economy with a fair and transparent society is something that will also be seen in an international context this year when we host the G8 in Northern Ireland. Events like the G8 are always a mixture of dealing with the urgent issues of the day as well as looking at some longer-term themes – like food security – that the host country can help to set. It is in those central themes of the summit that I believe there is a lot that Liberal Democrats will be happy to see.
What does that mean in practice? Well, it means dealing with multinational companies who play fast and loose with global tax rules to avoid paying their fair share, in their ‘home’ countries as well as wherever they expand. And it also means an ambitious approach to so-called ‘extractives transparency’, so that countries rich in natural resources get their fair share from the oil, gas and mining firms that make huge profits from them. For too long being rich in natural resources has been at best a mixed blessing for developing countries, and getting companies to be more transparent will help to change that.
We have a chance this year to show that events like the G8 can be about more than just the important work of increasing trade, they can also be about making the global economy a better and fairer place. It may not quite be the Olympics, but I hope it will still be an event that will make us feel proud.