Social Responsibility and a Green Liberal society post Covid-19 with Prof Jo Crotty and Michael Meadowcroft
Social Responsibility and a Green Liberal society post Covid-19 with Prof Jo Crotty and Michael Meadowcroft
TESTING Social Responsibility and a Green Liberal society post Covid-19 with Prof Jo Crotty and Michael Meadowcroft
Jane Brophy: So I've known Jo for a long time, Jo Crotty, I think I might have possibly known you just before you became a professor goes back a long way.
I know we've shared the same political views over. I'm similar views and you initially connected with me through the issues of climate change, and I'm very respectful for your record there, and we most recently met at Edge Hill University where you're now professor and you invited me whilst I was an MEP for the north west of England to come and launch the Institute for Social Responsibility.
So hence the topic we've got tonight is all about Jo's work and her academic work around social responsibility. So feel free to embellish or say more about yourself Jo before we come to speak but for you (thanks for that) give you a chance to think.
Michael Meadowcroft is a former liberal MP for the Leeds West in west Yorkshire again I've known Michael since my student days in the 1980s when he was one of my liberal MPs, and we've had a long history together most recently we met at the Lloyd George society didn't we Michael? And we travelled back and if climate change couldn't be more real we travelled back from mid-Wales in February and we travelled through floods. It was flooding through mid-Wales like you've never been seen flooding before. All the trains were cancelled, so we car shared with Michael on our electric vehicle just to make sure he got to station and got back for an evening.
I think all the other guests had to stay overnight because of the flooding. So if climate change wasn't more real it was it will it certainly was. Okay so I think we're starting with Jo
Is it 10 minutes for the speakers Keith or so? if Jo if you want to (no less 10 or more) as the speakers feel fit yeah we we're very liberal in the way we're going to run this. So 10 minutes ish if you want to say more about your background Jo, the things that are relevant the things that you've done more recently since we were politically collected and we'll do the same for Michael when he does his 10 minutes as well.
Jo Crotty: Okay well good evening everybody and maybe a bit like me you might be a little bit zoomed out now. Particularly if you're having to work remotely. So I will keep it brief so we can get into the chit chat. But as Jane pointed out, we have known each other for a very long time and we were both parliamentary candidates, and euro candidates, and council candidates, and everything else together. And one day one of us was bound to get elected to something, and that turned out to be Jane so I'm still absolutely thrilled that Jane got to go to the European Parliament. It's a shame neither of us got to go to Westminster but you can't change that now.
When I stopped being a target candidate, I then went back to my career which was an academic career. And I had started that prior actually to becoming an academic by travelling to the former Soviet Union.
And it was actually when I was doing my PhD that I started looking at pollution control, and the impact of economic transition on the environment. And while the Soviet Union had a lot of very strict environmental laws, they had a terrible environmental record.
But when their industry collapsed at the end of the Soviet Union, actually a lot of their environmental indicators, at least on the surface, appeared to significantly improve. And at that time everyone was thinking well you know, economic transition maybe that'll be good, we'll move to cleaner industry etcetera.
But actually my initial research through my PhD indicated that although the total amount of pollution was reducing in manufacturing enterprises, the amount of pollution per unit of output was actually going up.
So I'm a little cautious at the moment at looking at headline numbers in terms of reduction in terms of emissions figure that really counts is how much we're actually producing per individual or per unit of output.
And we all have become I think during this period, less efficient for sure we have become less efficient at doing whatever we do. So it'd be interesting to see if total amounts actually result in the end when we have further analysis down to individual amounts.
But as I moved on from that PhD research, I then started to look at corporate social responsibility both in terms of firms in the Russian Federation, in China and some in the UK, and more recently I've been looking more at the concept of civil society. And civil society development in the Russian Federation, done a lot of work with the Russian environmental movement.
And I'm now starting a project looking at women's rights both in Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Some of you will know that Putin decided in 2017 to decriminalize domestic violence, and this has resulted in a huge almost an epidemic if you like of domestic violence in the country.
And during lockdown I have been monitoring the impact of what it's like to be inside your house with your abuser and the impact that that's had in the Russian Federation.
But I'm sure some of you know two women a week have been murdered by their domestic partner during lockdown. Lockdown is an incredibly blunt tool.
It may have saved many lives in one respect but I wonder in the end what the total outcome will be. So I'm happy to talk about all kinds of things to do with downtown within terms of sustainability. But I think sustainability and social responsibility extends beyond our concept just of the environment.
It goes way bigger than that and lockdown has raised many issues, and I've explored those as well through a blog (which I ran for two months. Through the university (blogs.edgehill.ac.uk), where we looked at all kinds of issues. The impact on children in disadvantaged backgrounds you can't access online learning, children who are in abusive homes. Children are being abused through their sport, so of course now they're detached from that.
The legal ramifications it goes on and on, but it is lockdown was a very blunt and very invasive tool. And if you look at the Coronavirus Act 2020 there are some things in it you could not believe. You can now be sectioned under that by just the say-so of one doctor rather than two and it goes on and on. So hopefully we'll have a great discussion this evening.
Anyway I'll hand over to Michael now.
Michael Meadowcroft: Right I share some of the interests of Jo, not least with Russia, having been there for elections and so on. And I happen to think that the Putin is a product of western incompetence towards the former Soviet Union actually. I and George Soros I think of the two people who believed that the west should have saved the rouble and the avoided the collapse which led to Putin that's another issue entirely.
Let me say this, that I'm not a scientist, I'm not an expert in climate change or anything like. I'm a politician, always have been, and my great background is in finding solutions to problems and finding a way through the morass of some of the bureaucracy, and I think that's important in this subject. Now, for instance this is I to me it's very hard to imagine the political structures that have been created through the past dozens of years, certainly since the banking crisis, surviving after the COVID-19 crisis.
I cannot imagine we can go back to what we had then as if nothing had happened, and there's going to be a very different politics after this crisis than there was before it. Now both main parties I believe are far too ossified to adapt to the change And it's very much the liberal moment with the kind of flexibility and the kind of interest in plural solutions that liberalism has, but frankly I doubt that the Liberal Democrats can or will grasp it.
It's never had the confidence to espouse Liberalism. But it's always seemed to be a very curious thing, that the best and the most attractive philosophy of all, it fails because of the lack of Liberals with the confidence to espouse it.
Now the credentials of liberals are astonishing really on green issues, absolutely phenomenal, the liberals have always espoused the green issues. You can go back to Macaulay. The great Thomas Babington Macaulay who curiously was a Liberal MP for Leeds and in 1839 Macaulay wrote economic growth is not worth the cost of imposing economic misery on the population at large.
Of course then, after that you had John Stuart Mill writing the principles of political economy in 1849 about the values of the stationary state which he said would enable people to get on with real things in life rather than seeking economic prosperity.
You go way back with these things, and of course you have the Liberal yellow books in 1928, which were great economic statements, but the beginning of the great yellow book contains this marvellous paragraph:
"The measures we advocate in relation to all these things spring from one clear purpose. We believe that the passionate faith that the end of all political and economic action is not the perfecting or perpetuation of this or that piece of mechanism or organization, but that individual men and women may have life, and that they have may have it more abundantly."
That's 1928, and I recollect being very much involved in Liberal party in the 70s, and in 1974 we produced this report on the environment which have this classic statement that in fact, we said then I find the right quote and make sure I get it right:
"once the basic needs of food and shelter are met the individual's greatest satisfactions are found in love trust and friendship in beauty art and music and in learning - none of which are served by the mythology of growth for its own sake."
And these are the great statements which we have had and which we need to be building on. So that when we approach a different society after the COVID-19 crisis, we were able to say to people look it may not be possible to go back to the economic growth of the past, and indeed it may not be worthwhile doing it in any case, and so we have to look at it very differently than we had done in the past.
Now all these things are crucially important if we are to apply liberalism to the current situation. That we would not force individuals into a rigid structure but I would treat the electorate as in effect as a giant jury. This is something I picked up from the great judge Lord Devlin who wrote in 1965:
"that the population the electorate doesn't just vote for its prejudices the electorate butcher."
What he thinks is right thinking ideas and he quoted all sorts of examples that the population for instance wants to return the death penalty he wants to retain capital punishment, but it would never vote for it, and it was abolished, and it's gone. And he quoted other examples and he said it's just like a jury:
"Jurors are wonderful they come to the proper decision on the basis of the facts presented. To them they work together as 12 individuals, and what they decide happens."
And he argued that if we do the same with the electorate of election time you'll get the right-thinking decision from the electorate. And we don't do that, we pander to the prejudices, and we keep coming up with solutions which are short-term and terribly pragmatic rather than based on any kind of philosophy and any kind of proper need of people.
So that's the first thing to do, to treat the electorate as intelligent beings who can take into the argument. And this I think, actually the social media has a great role to play. Because despite all the problems of social media, it opens up the opportunity to present arguments to a whole set of people who would never have had them and listen to them in the past.
The next thing I want to comment on is that the dangers of a Green Party. I'm passionately in favour of a green movement, of green pressure and so on, but the Green Party is highly dangerous. For start start-up greenism isn't a philosophy. It's an analysis, and unless the green imperative, unless the crucial need for a sustainability of all things comes through all the parties.
In all the things we do then, there are great dangers in trying to just compress it into a single party. And in a curious way the more successful a Green Party, they're worse for the environment, because it takes out green sympathizers from the other parties.
So we have to make sure that we understand that only by having that green imperative as part and parcel of all our political work and philosophy, have we got a solution that awful things that are facing us. Now when we come to the changes that are going to take place in our society after the COVID crisis, there are some immediate things which are in a way old fashioned but will take place.
For a start off there will be a need for some start-up finance for small and medium-sized economic units to prosper and to get back into the swing of things. The British entrepreneurs and British individuals are highly resourceful in coming back into things, but they all need some pump priming.
One of the things we should have not seen mentioned elsewhere which is a rather something but I think will be necessary. And that is to make sure that the law and the regulations about bankruptcy are eased somewhat, so that people can in fact revive their own businesses.
That was something that happened straight away. But while that is happening what we need to do as liberals, is to help people for instance to find their own employment. Again people are resourceful, and there's an informal economy which in the sense we've made illegal in the past, but I believe we ought to be looking towards making it more formal, and to embracing it.
Now I had a simple idea years ago that you to deal with things which were worthwhile, but you had a committee of the chamber of commerce, and the trades council locally, and if they both agreed that something was worthwhile, then it was supported.
The second thing is of course with that is the whole area of job creation. Many of us remember the urban programme of years ago when there was the possibility of having, We had in Bradford for instance a 300-place construction project with unemployed construction workers. Where if a local organization within the Bradford area was able to supply the materials, we supplied the labour.
It was a great project and for instance we built the station on the Keith Worth Valley line. We built village halls and so on, it's great project. But Mrs Thatcher, scrubbed it cancelled it because she didn't like what she called subsidized jobs. So 300 people went back on the dole and were more expensive in the economy. Crazy Stuff. And the same thing could be repeated now, if you had the job creation programs as in the past.
The third thing is co-ownership. Now co-ownership has been a Liberal policy since 1948, and the only reason liberals don't carry on supporting in espousing it now is because it's popular. They both don't like things that are popular. If there's an issue which is unpopular Liberals will support it if it's very unpopular we support it enthusiastically.
But co-ownership works I you may have seen around other cities including London. Buses made by Opt. Now that's a Leeds business that was formerly owned by British Leyland, years ago, and it went bust, and 440 men were made redundant at the works in Leeds. A number of them went and they made up they, put their own money they put their own redundancy money into buying back the enterprise. And out of the 440 I think it was some 40 or 50 which restarted it.
They were wise enough to get back a very good manager from the past and he put a quarter of a million of his own money into it. And bit by bit the whole theory of co-ownership worked, and I was part of the thing because in my job at Bradford CBS, we had a community transport project, and they were making buses for us and so on.
And all that you know about the theory work, I would go down and talk to one of the guys. I'm working on these buses, and he said to me he said "Look, before" he said "and if there's a problem the other side of the workshop he said I wasn't bothered. now I am because it's my brass." He said that "Before I used to put one panel on, now I'm making the whole bus."
And bit by bit the build they built up their work until they were more than the 440 that had first been made redundant. Now the sad end of the story in a way it was so successful that they got an offer they couldn't refuse and sold the whole thing and all became very well off. It does work, there's the whole the Mondragon enterprise in Spain which has been going for 90 years or so, and it works on the same principle.
So co-ownership is the way to do these things. Also of course there are opportunities with food, nutrition, vegetarian, vegan and so on, and there are gaps there niches in horticulture which ought to be very much part of a new phase horse cocoon ???
Post COVID. And the next point of course is the whole area of the arts. I very much believe in what Albert Camus said that he said you could have the revolution without the arts but it would be but a jungle.
And I firmly believe that unless we have a society where the arts are part and parcel of their daily life then you don't really have a human society at all.
My last point about what will come and what should come post coded is that we need to revive the concept of community. Community is a nice buzzword, but we have destroyed the communities in so many places around Britain.
Now I'm talking in particular of the big urban areas, and the townships that used to exist within Manchester or Liverpool or Leeds, have often been destroyed just by the planning and by the house building that has changed them into suburbs. And it is possible to revive the perception geographically and therefore after that emotionally, and in terms of the spirit of the place it back to a community. And we need to do that because unless we have communities and ideally with urban parish councils and the like, we are really stuck into the old-fashioned structures. We're not able to move on, to see what each other can do and how we come together to do them.
It includes working men's clubs It includes space for enterprise and all that now those are the things which matter on the smaller scale which combine to make something worthwhile.
On the broader scale one of the macro things that I think ought to come is again perfectly part of that same kind of social enterprise, and that is to have land value taxation. Now it's only been liberal policy since 1893 so it might come in one day, but it's one thing that again works, and which is part and parcel of the sustainable society. The values that the community creates out of land should come back to the community.
My house here really when I'm sitting now is worth about twice what I paid for it in, plus inflation, now that extra half the value of the house just comes into my hand, I've done nothing for it. Now why do I get that as an individual rather than being part and parcel of a benefit to the community? And so that needs to be stressed and played for so.
We need a restatement of Liberal values including those things.
We haven't had an update of a statement since 2002 and you and I know the massive changes that have taken place since 2002. Then we need to build systematically upon those values and digress the Liberal opportunity. Thank you good.
Keith: thank you Michael very much indeed and thank you Jo as well to start with.
Jane: we'd wonder Keith because Michael raised such interesting points though we've got a lot of questions on there. I just wanted if we could we bring Jo back briefly just to comment on anything that is relevant in terms of the social responsibility side, with the academic side, and the more up-to-date things you've been doing in the last recent few years?
Jo: Just, well actually I did a piece last week for something called "The Conversation" which is the .uk academic blog (theconversation.com.uk), and it does podcasts and I was part of a podcast series. Sorry about Coco, but she'll just bark if she doesn't sit on my lap.
And we were actually talking about the comparison between transition in the former Soviet Union, and what might happen as we come out of lockdown and furlough and so on. And all of the panellists concluded on the actually acute shock therapy neo-liberal approach to creating a capitalist economy in the Russian Federation and the other successor states, has what has led to stratification of wealth ,billionaires, what they call a sovereign democracy, which in effect is you know a sort of democratic dictatorship.
And all of us agreed that Keynesian stuff actually works. You know, when you have an economic dip, you spend your way of out of it, you don't cut your way out of it.
And I think perhaps some of the conversations around austerity after 2008 financial crisis all got blurred in around the eye-watering amounts of money that Labour were just throwing up things without really thinking about whether that was the right place to put the money.
But I think if we do things now like ask everybody to pay more income tax, start cutting public programs, we will find that actually we will create more deaths. And I think more harm than we were actually trying to prevent by locking the economy down in the first place. Saving the economy will save lives for sure, and if you want a statistic for you, the life expectancy for men in the Russian Federation dropped to 57 during that period, and it took nearly 20 years to recover to what it was before the end of the Soviet Union.
So it's a very tricky balance and I understand why we went into lockdown, but how we come out of it is perhaps even more important than why we went into it. And so Michael was talking it reminded me of the discussion that we had next week, and if you want to listen to that you can do it comes out on the first of July this podcast.
Keith: Okay well absolutely that's an instruction to our audience to get listening. One of the things that has struck me in all of the discussions that we've had so far in this series is the changes that the economic lockdown have caused in society and before we actually started I was commenting that I had to go and open the door because I've got one of my neighbours who was doing some shopping for me. One of the things that has happened in this community which is a very small rural community there's been a WhatsApp group and that is a form of community that I think has grown up in a lot of different places.
Michael was talking about those communities in urban areas. The question at the top at the moment of the Q & A session actually picked up on this. So let me as the question from Jason Johnson to you both.
"How can we adapt some of the changes of COVID-19 to our lives going forward?
In other words, can we pick up this sense of community and the good parts of that and take it forward Jo would you like to start us off on that?
Jo: Right, could I start with a little personal anecdote about that actually, similar to you. We actually started a gym WhatsApp group. A group of us go meet at the gym at 6.45 in the morning on a Thursday. I know eye-wateringly early. And we started a WhatsApp group to continue that class online.
And there was a woman at that class that I saw every week, I did not know her name and I didn't know anything about her, I would just go hi, smile, get on with the class. As a result of this lockdown and being on the WhatsApp group.
I know that her name is Jane, I know where she lives, I know like me she's a complete enthusiast for everything 1920s 1930s, she has a huge Clara Smith collection as do I which I'm very much looking forward to going around and seeing. So weirdly this gave me an opportunity to ask a woman's name or I couldn't possibly ask in other circumstances, because once you've said hello to someone for two years you can't.
and so that's a positive But I also think there are some negatives to carrying on your life electronically.
And everybody particularly people like myself who live alone, it has been incredibly challenging, it's not the same to engage with people in this way, although it can be convenient. And I think that those individuals who already had mental health problems will probably find that they've been exacerbated, and we will probably create more.
And I think it's difficult to create a real sense of not feeling alone by engaging electronically. That said, if we want to expand that out a little bit further, the number of people who used to tell me that they couldn't possibly work at home, there's no way that their life could work in that way, have proof because they used to say, you're so lucky you can work at home two or three days a week, tell me they can never do that, well they've all done that now, and so I think hopefully we'll move into a place where a lot more of us do a more blended approach to work
This means we can cut down on commuting time, use that time for something better and I think I might have frozen? have I frozen? I
Keith Your picture's frozen but we can still hear you Jo. So I should crack on I know we perhaps lost her I have had these problems as chair of the Green Liberal Democrats, when I've been chairing zoom sessions. My experience is that I've reappeared after about a minute, so we will expect Jo to reappear in a minute, and the solution in my case was to get a wire between the BT router and the back of my computer, it was very simple to resolve, but it took a long time to find the answer.
Michael do you want to come into that question solution how can we adapt some of the changes of COVID to our lives going forwards?
Michael: Well it's all right for those of us who have a nice big house and a garden, it makes life much easier but if you're a family stuck in a flat with children it must be horrendous, plus of course domestic abuse and violence is actually exaggerated when you can't escape, that's one of the most things.
One of the good things that came out of it is people looking out for each other, that is quite surprising. I have a brother-in-law, who is fairly recently widowed. He's had a heart operation and moved to a smaller house int eh village of Crich, where the Tram Museum is.
He just arrived there and straight away there were neighbours bring the mails around for him because they realised he was somewhat elderly and just come into the village. That's I find quite remarkable for our day and age.
So there are that side of it which can be built on and I think people get to I've got to know each other better curiously. By the even arm's length connections that they've had, but I don't think you can go much further than that without meeting people, without the body language, without seeing or without the informal interaction. I think though as Jo said that we will end up with more distance work certainly than before.
I think that's probably a good thing if we can do more of that, and trust people, it's not just with the COVID thing where you get this. Good spirit coming forward, I'm a bit of an addict of these sort of 24 hours in A&E programs,
I find them great to have at the background and I'm trying to reach something in the evening, and I'm astonished that virtually everybody who comes into A&E, they come with their neighbour, or they come with a friend, they come to somebody, and this the support that exists is more than I would have ever thought.
Now coming back to the politics of this which I think is important, if I greatly oversimplify political philosophies:-
Socialism requires a great deal of altruism.
Conservatism depends on selfishness.
Now the difference is that Liberals understand the human nature, that we are both altruistic and selfish.
And the job of the politician is to enhance the altruism, and to diminish the selfishness. And you can do that to some extent through law, you can pass those which have certainly I mean for instance single sex marriage is a good thing whatever people think, I don't think necessarily people are all greatly favourable, but they recognize it's a good thing and goes on.
Other things come through changes in society like are happening now as you say with enabling us, but I think to take these things down to work on them in the future and see whether you can draw the helpfulness and the getting to know people into more face-to-face meetings, I think there's possibilities for it, but you have it in the end of the day, to build on the political consequences of the whole change and breakdown that has come through the COVID emergency.
Keith: okay Jo I'm not sure how much of your answer we lost because you suddenly got dropped by zoom. Is there something you want to come back with you are muted by the way.
Jo: Yes I can't remember my thread now actually a whole technical thing to get back again online again.
Keith: We were talking about how can we adapt some of the changes of COVID.
Jo Oh yes remote working and how so many people told me they could never work at home.
Well it turns out that everybody could work at home to an extent and I think if you think just in Whitehall, if everybody went on a rota, down to three days a week, what the impact that would have on congestion?
Some of you know some of the tubes are our tube stations are shut at peak times. So you would change just that function of working. And all of us if we work at home two days a week probably more efficient. It's working at home five days for four months where we stop being so efficient. We do need that human interaction, that interaction with other people.
And I've also discovered that some things can be done a lot quicker if I get up out of my from my desk, go to my colleague's door ask him a question and come back to my desk and get on with it. Whereas doing a zoom for absolutely everything is also incredibly time consuming.
And as somebody just said on the comments here, not everybody can work from home you know. I asked I got a tree surgeon round to remove a tree here. He was desperate for work, he came round, gave me a price and did it that day.
But lots of us can and we can do a blended approach, and that will continue I think to keep some of those changes we've had in terms of climate change and noise pollution and other things that we've seen as a result. But we are human beings and by our very nature we need physical interaction and sitting around chatting over a coffee, and for the best will in the world, a zoom coffee, or a zoom g t is just not the same.
One thing I rather and liked was Alistair Campbell's comment that it meant that he didn't have to go to meetings they didn't want to go to in the first place. That too and I had a conversation this morning with somebody working at university in Scotland who said I've got to the point now where I seem to be on these meetings, but I'm not actually in them, and I said yes that seems to be the case and actually you can just solve things with a quick phone call.
But now it has to be a whole performance let's set up a zoom, let's do this let's do that, so but you know. We've still got the 54 participants are all genuinely very engaged in our discussion.
That's good because what the other thing you discover is you can be tuned into a zoom but you can be googling something or answering your emails and yeah ,well hopefully we've got the attention of all 55 people we've got a few more questions, let's try and crack through some questions.
Let me just I'd just like to pick up on a comment here that's come up from Sean H and, it says "government looking into passing legislation were employees could have the choice.
I think certainly we could get to the point where you can request that. I think we've all got past the issue of trust now. In terms of trusting people to work at home, and it does give you flexibility, so maybe the government will also look at something similar, yeah.
I think reality is with
Jane: I mean I'm a Trafford councillor and I've been very engaged in local council meetings and this is quite relevant now the way. We're moving forward in the public sector is exactly that, blended, and one of the reasons it has to be like that is because companies have to do social distancing, so you can't have everybody in the office all at the same time, and it does allow that freedom and flexibility.
I really want Keith to press onto these more questions.
Keith: So we've got people are ticking them we've got a couple, should we do the next two because the next two I think could go quite well together.
We've got one question here from Steven Broadhead okay so Steven Broadhead's question is here is "how do we encourage people to stop having foreign holidays and flying there I haven't flown since 2005 my passport expired in 2007. I've lots of holidays organized by the society that I'm a member of?"
And I'm going to link this in with George Miles's point as well because it's addressed particularly to Michael Meadowcroft MP "The 1974 Liberal report on environmental love trash? Friendship beauty, art and music, can we put that on the GLD website?"
I think the obvious answer of course we can. but I'll throw that those two questions out there and we'll start with Michael for these two please.
Michael: Well yes we could do a lot of those things together. I think again the basis of law is to start how you're going to change working at home, and working at distance, is very difficult. Because some things don't lend themselves to it as others do. I'm not sure that we can really change too much from the macro society.
I have a certain connection with Jo in and away with the Russian background. In that the failure of the west to have a kind of Marshall plan and to save the rouble, and so on led to all the disasters for the ordinary people.
And I was horrified to see people saying when I was there at least we had bread under Stalin, and it led to that, and in the end they looked for a strong national leader and of course there was Putin hovering in the wings. And that's the danger you get with this.
That you may get some populist leaders who can start banging the drum, and the end of having a worse situation than before. My friend Steven here on the question, here he's talking about flying and how we can flying that's right. The thing I'm against is the unfortunate.
I did 20 years of electoral missions in four continents, and new and emerging democracies. So I've been everywhere. I have no great wish to go and spend another five months in the Congo. But the places I would want to go to now my advanced age. I can go to by train and go down to France.
But I think the problem of international travel, air travel particularly, is one of the biggest problems of the lot. Now it's causing of course the airlines to develop much better, and much more environmentally conscious planes in that sense.
And that's a very good thing. But I don't know whether you will ever be able to pass laws s, and that's a very good thing, but I don't know whether you will ever be able to pass laws stopping people using air travel. It's a real issue.
Keith: Let's direct this to Jo in a specific way. The title of the evening social responsibility.
To what extent do we as individuals ,owe society that social responsibility to not go on European holidays? Is that is there something we can? Is it like smoking for example, can we make it an unpleasant thing for people to do as part of society? Is that a reasonable way of approaching it?
Jo: I think the short answer to, can you stop people and go on foreign holidays the answer is no. Because our weather's rubbish and people like their two weeks in the sun, and we've made it very cheap. And I think it's gonna be making it more expensive again. Yes we could make it very expensive the only people who can afford to do it are rich people. And internet it can be very educational. I've been a bit like Michael I've been around the world three or four times before this was an issue.
Um I got to a point now with the best of things places I want to go is very short But does that mean that I then have to say to other people you can't go to all the places that I've been to? That doesn't seem very fair.
I've also been to, I'm a big 20th century history enthusiast so I've been all over the world to different places, I was going to go to Berlin for VE day 75. And so I've learned a lot through doing that. So I think international travel is a really tricky one.
It can be enriching and it can also and it expands people's horizons. I wouldn't be the person I am now if I hadn't travelled to the Russian federation in the early 90s and seen things that were so completely counter to my own culture.
So it's a very tricky one. If you increase the price only rich people can go. And that's not the society we want either. And so the probably the answer is going to be a technological one. It comes down to whether or not you can actually develop an electric engine, which you might be able to.
There are many things that we do now that we never thought we'd be able to do, when we were kids having a video phone call was not on the cards. So but I just don't see how you stop people from travel, and I am not even sure I want to stop them from doing that. Do we want to stop people from being able to go to Auschwitz for example?
It's a really tricky question because I know from personal experience I was always very much not, I like the questioner Steven, who asked the question on there, he's talking about the fact he's not flown, and doesn't fly that's in terms of being socially responsible.
Jane: It depends on what your work is doesn't it. Because then I when I got elected to be the European Parliament member, there was sometimes no other way to travel than to go by plane, but and it's about the way it happens, so it's like the price of it isn't it?
If it costs more to go on the say Eurostar, or on the train or by other means, both money and time, and people are going to fly. So in terms of social responsibility it's kind of like, going back to Michael's point, the governments need to fix this, so that it isn't cheaper to fly than it is to go by more environmentally sustainable ways, just a thought. But I don't want to.
I think you can do that balance to Europe door-to-door for me to go to Belgium or France probably about the same times flying by the time you go to the airport and jump through all their hoops. But there's no way you can get to Vancouver by train without doing something that goes over a big piece of water.
Somebody has made a comment here, put my glasses back, on about people in developing countries. I mean again people in China, India, Africa - are we telling them they can't do travel, but we could? It's a real tricky issue in terms of equity I think. And it's intergenerational as well isn't it? Because the older generation..
Keith: Can I just interrupt, I've just been having a little exchange with Caron in the background, we can do a poll, what I'd like to do is to ask the audience the question about should we encourage people not to travel yes or no should we encourage people not to travel, rather than legislate for people not to travel?
So that's the question I think Caron will now work on the background to see what the audience thinks. And whilst that' happening, we'll do another question. But whilst that's happening, let me just advertise another session. Which is next week when we will be looking at carbon tax. Because one of the issues with travel abroad is that the polluter must pay. And if we are flying, and therefore our travel is polluting, then we are due to pay the extra costs associated with that travel. Now that might in facet make air travel more expensive, but it does get to the point of making it not possible for people to travel.
And I would actually question Jo's point about being educational. I'm not sure all the trips to Malaga or to some of the Balearics islands or what you would call educational but maybe not but you can't say you can't go to the Balearics but you can go here that's really that would be pretty. We are Liberals we can't do that.
But let's have that question I'm sure Caron will come up with a thing. Let's move to the next question.
Jane did you are you reading the questions> We've got one here from Nick Sanford I'm gonna do them more than one together, so pay attention because we don't want people to miss out on not having their question done. So we got one from Nick Sanford. "Michael, do you recall that in 1980, the Liberal Party assembly passed a motion in favour of having….
Well here comes the travel question, should we do this firs and then we're.
Well we can do that in the background, let people, let the audience kill that in
that in the background move that off screen.
Nick Sanford question "passed a motion in favour of having free public transport in urban areas is this something Lib Dem should consider as part of a radical package of measures to tackle climate change?
So we've got this whole question of having free public transports, and then let's have a look. We've got various points that have come up around that, don't forget rural areas lots of people live there too, just hard to deliver, so let's address this question of free public transport, so Jo do you want to go on that one first, then we'll come to Michael?
Jo: Well we have a unique opportunity right now because we took the railways back into public ownership during this period. I think that free is one thing, but it still has to be good. And that means, if it has to be good, then you have to find a way to pay for it. So I'm not sure about free, but it could certainly be cheaper, subsidized perhaps, that word which perhaps we haven't' used since the 80's.
£98 return from Chester to London strikes me as insane, usually to stand up by a very smelly toilet while the train is rocking, not great. But we do have an opportunity perhaps to do something about that now that we have taken rail back into public ownership. Problem is difficult to provide something free when you don't control it, so you'd have to take it all back before you did that.
Michael: I think there's there is a case for free transport in the city centres and thereabouts. Curiously, it was a Conservative in Leeds who wanted to have car parks on the outskirts at least, and free transport in from those, so he could then pedestrianize the whole of the centre of Leeds. But he didn't get away with it, because the big industries, the big shops, threatened that they would take their business away if they couldn't keep their car parks. But that was the thing, and we have had free transport of various sorts I think. The other thing would be to have a flat fare for public transport. In effect like we have a flat charge for post. It's the same charge for the post whether it goes to Stornoway, or round the corner and no one objects to that.
And that was a novel idea in 1840 when otherwise you paid at the other end the mileage that the letter had taken and so it suddenly became dead cheaper to put the penny postage and it went anywhere now wouldn't it. On the flat feed thing, I think that they do that in Belgium. I did I went to Belgium before lockdown on the train. And that is what they do. So we went all across Belgium on the train for very little money. Yeah of course as a very aged person, I have free transfer transport, and all over the place. So I am a very privileged in that way.
But no I think that the transport thing is another issue with as, Jo says with privatization as it is absolutely with it and to be you can't make a profit out of trades. We're paying more in subsidy than it costs as British Rail. It's a stupid idea.
And John Major was the one who of course introduced you, and it was dividing up the different aspects of it was a lawyer's paradise, because they then start suing each other for the costs. We'll have to change that as you say having brought it back into public ownership it may well be psychologically difficult to send it back to the private sector.
Jane: Some interesting comments on the chat here. Somebody's saying Luxembourg has got free transport. Dutch.
It's only around the corner everywhere, doesn't it look good? It's a bit smaller.
Vitality lots of really interesting things happening on the chat but let's go to another question perhaps while Keith correlates this voting. Panellists can't vote so, just so everybody knows none of us on screen here can vote, so that there's that's good to know.
So we've got another really interesting question form John Nash. Now this is an interesting one.
"that he's read on the conversation website today that loss of natural sleep patterns weakens the immune system, e.g. that it can reduce the effectiveness of flu vaccine by 50 percent. Should employers be required to ensure employee working hours allows a healthy sleep pattern?"
Michael, do you want to take that one first on sleep patterns and improve patterns.
Michael: Yes this is a political issue, that has never been faced. As a jazz man, I think sleep's a luxury, but that's another issue. I think you get into exotic things when you have employers deciding on sleeps patters, besides which I think everybody is very different in how they need sleep.
I this happens I always was an hour???? rather than a lot through being through playing jazz, but I discovered in parliament as a Deputy Whip, that whips team used to have to meet at 7 00 a.m. for breakfast every morning to plan tactics, and I realized this was a great time of day, because you were never bothered, and your phones didn't go and so on.
So I've carried that on, and I wake and get up at six o'clock every morning now without an alarm going. And it's great and it has a very selfish benefit as well. In that if I do two hours work before anybody else is up, nobody can complain if I take a very long liquid lunch.
So I have that benefit as well. But I don't really think we can start worrying about sleep patterns really. We're interfering in people's lives unnecessarily.
Jane: Yeah Jo, always you get up for a gym session
Jo: Oh no not that I feel tired already thinking about it.
Actually that got that back statement that the thing off the conversation I read that as well but I think the bigger thing that we need to think about is more about work-life balance.
I know it's a bit of a hackneyed phrase but it's really important. In academia loads of people work weekends, and at the moment we're all under enormous pressure to change the way we work, to put all of our teaching material online.
We don't know what's coming up next and that's if that's increased the pressure even more, and as a result I would imagine people don't sleep so great because they've got a lot of things on their minds. I'm not talking about saying "oh we shouldn't be challenging or demanding of people in the workplace, want them to do their best, but we also don't want people working six or eight weekends, 10 weekends in a row.
I think to a large extent people like you and I are highly privileged and that we don't work set hours and we don't have to turn up at a set time, and I'm thinking about it today. I don't think I've ever had to work through a set of hours of work since I was 16, literally, jobs I've been having since then I've all been having to and I don't.
I do have to be in the room when the students are there I have no choice about that well. Not all lecturers take that view either but the point is my point is but the point is more about having work-life balance. But we do jobs until they're completed we don't worry too much about the hours and we can take time off otherwise apart from your class contact times to suit us.
I think we have a great privilege not everybody has jobs which first of all they enjoy, and secondly they can take time as they wanted some people. My point was that right now we're not in that we're not in that situation and academia hasn't actually been like that for quite a long time no that's true really so people are working very long hours yes that's true you.
Jane: jump in and hand back to Keith, I can briefly comment on this sleep pattern and immune system come on from a health background. Just to make sure this question is properly addressed. Because it's kind of not really a political question
But what I would say is that what we're discovering is mental health ,and we have talked a lot about this Jo when we've done social responsibility, that mental health is actually key to how people work, and work-life balance as you've stated, and actually sleep is one of the most crucial things for having mental wellness.
And it is actually true your immune system works better when you sleep properly, and all other kind of things work better. But I'm now going to hand back to Keith to take more questions.
Keith: Oh could I just comment on something, could I just call something on Suzanne Fletcher was written LibDem bosses don't think we have time to sleep, and I would concur as a former target seat candidate they just they definitely do not think we have time to sleep. Standing over the Rhizo at 2 am perfectly acceptable. Lib Dem mental health needs to be looked at.
Okay let's move on there's a question here that has particularly caught my eye. I was able in my working life and I've have left work now for quite a long time, 14 years I've been retired. And whilst I was still working, I ran the Institute for Sustainable Development in business. So this particular question has caught my eye
It's from Steve C. "We have the words social responsibility here in the title, are we just talking about individuals, or also corporate and business social responsibility?"
Jo I'm going to come straight to you for that one should we be, or what should we be doing about corporate social responsibility as we come through out of lockdown and into the threat of climate change.
Jo: Well there have been some really good examples of companies engaging in a way that perhaps we wouldn't have expected during lockdown. Companies giving things away, switching their production to things. So we have seen individual instances of what we call CSR, corporate social responsibility.
One of my fellow MP colleagues, Ed Hill actually wrote a piece on companies being kind, and whether or not it will pay for them to be kind, now and going forward. Quite an interesting piece.
But actually what that piece really draws on is that companies are not charities, and companies do have responsibilities both codified in law, and I think these days, it used to be that corporate social responsibility was viewed as something optional, companies don't view that as optional anymore, it's something they have to do. But of course they still have the scope within which to decide how they do that and they always will do.
So some of that pressure comes from us as consumers in a market-based economy, to say we're not going to go there, or we do want to go with you because you were kind, because you did do this thing in lockdown, because of xy, and we're not going to buy things from you because you didn't do this.
So we have tremendous power as consumers, and we can legislate firms into doing a certain degree of responsibility. Others take that on because they realise it's expected.
But because they're not charities we will never ever be able to completely direct them in the way that they want to do, in the way that we might want them to do things, but I've been studying this for 20 years, and the concept and the way in which CSR is viewed within management back then, as something optional,
Milton Friedman, a neoliberal economist famously said, "the business of business is business" and that CSR was going to detract from the bottom line and therefore you shouldn't do it well there is no company espousing that ethos anymore. But in a market economy firms can interpret that in different ways and they do
Keith: Yeah I think I think Weatherspoon's is an example where as soon as the lockdown came on he got rid of all of his staff, and only actually to furloughed them and there is talk know of a lot of people boycotting Weatherspoon's pubs.
Is something you take yourself in for on a regular basis not really? But I think I've only boycotted them if I.
If it's confession time that the only time I've used Weatherspoon's least it is station is when it was the only toilet I could find.
Michael: I mean curiously about Weatherspoon's, I wish he wasn't such an appalling man, because of the story of why they're called Weatherspoon's it's actually very good but it was a teacher called Weather scrutinise who told him the school he'd never make anything of himself, I mean now calls all these Weatherspoon's. But he's a dreadful man also on Europe of course.
Now coming onto Jo I wish the consumer power was better exercise I fear that far too many people will take the cheapest price and again I think we're fairly privileged that we can probably afford to pick and choose to buy organic even if it's a bit more expensive.
A lot of people haven't got that choice they really are struggling financially.
But I'll tell you one thing that I really would do in terms of working relationships, I would make zero-hour contracts illegal for people who don't want them. If people want them fair enough, but I would make it unenforceable on people. I think zero-hour contracts are monstrous in the way that they impact on people.
I mean for instance just one aspect of it, how on earth can you get a mortgage as a younger person if you're on a zero-hour contract and there's no security at all?
And unless people want to be on these companies, and some do because they do two or three different jobs I would ban them.
Coming on to the best businesses or the ones that have the best relationship with their workers without a doubt. And I've known many companies where the relationship with the trade unions for instance has been really good and it's beneficial to the way the company works and to its profitability.
And it's the ones that don't take into account the rights and responsibilities of the workers as well that are where there's problems. I mean the old Quaker firms, are the classic case on that. The workers used to dislike all this sort of paternalism, but when they were taken over by other firms, they want the paternalism back.
But there are aspects of that as I say which are part and parcel of developing.
a more cooperative and co-ownership attitude to it.
Keith: talking about co-ownership and people's attitudes, a question that's actually not reached the top of the series of questions yet, but it does relate to what we were just talking about.
From Daniel Nelson,
Jane: Another question here Keith that's risen to number eight on that.
Keith: Hang on Jane there's a there's a question that I'm trying to relate to what's just been talked about.
Jane: Okay go for it hasn't got to the top yet but I think it's one of these things that relates to what certainly what Michael was just saying.
Keith "Is it better to impose an outright ban on finite resources in the future or simply offer incentives to switch?"
This is this is to do with what both Michael and Jo were talking about individual responsibility, as part of social responsibility, so I just wanted to bring that in Michael do you want to come back on that one well all finite resources being you?
Michael: No I do you can't ban fund them, as such I think you can have a package which includes legal aspects of it, as well as the pricing of things that, for instance with you referred earlier Keith to smoking we have been one of the most successful countries in the world where the number who smoke is down to 18 percent.
Some of those will be older people who just were totally addicted. But the pressure to get smoking down have been various. Pricing is one aspect of it, social pressure is another. People like me, who various people who want to kiss an ashtray you know. But it's there are different aspects to it, but it has been a successful campaign.
The health side of it is accuracy the least important influence in all this, pricing certainly has and certainly the social pressures have been great. And I think that's the way you do this actually. Keith and I, I'm always wary of law in these matters, I really am.
Libertarian aspects, Jo would you accept what Michael's just been saying?
Jo: I think you can use you can use pricing to change behaviour without question and some things are incredibly elastic and some are very inelastic so a plastic bag might be five pence. But no one wants to pay five pence for a bag so the use of plastic bags just went shhhh, and similarly the price of cigarettes is obscene, so who would start?
So you can change behaviour through pricing, but I think interventions where you tell people you can't do something, it is a liberal, but also in some in some ways it then just makes people, me included, just want to do it more - you tell me I can't do something well I'm going to show you.
Keith: Jane back to you and the serious questions on the top of the line.
Jane: So I mean I'm just going to make a brief comment about this because it comes into the field of public health and I was saying on one of the other zoom calls, when we watched the film 2020, that actually public health and climate change are very closely linked together. Because it goes back to the question from Jason Johnson, about the changes to of COVID-19, that if we're all going to do something for a public health. It's kind of that con that conflict with liberty, and how do you move people from A to B?
But anyway let's move on to this really good question because it's got nine thumbs up which means nine people want this question asked and it's from somebody called Troy Hill and Troy here asks:
How can we make people positively adopt environmentally friendly changes in their daily lives?
(again it's that question about public health again isn't it?) Which may require sacrifice or inconvenience and yet maintain liberal values and choice.
There's a couple of comments I'm just going to add as well to this same question from Steve C who says maybe incentivize and make it easy to do the good, and the opposite for the bad.
And then we've got Victoria Atherstone and we can introduce a reward scheme for a range of positive environmental actions?
so we'll start with Michael on this and then come to Jo.
Michael: I think the public is has accepted the need for action on climate change and the public is prepared to accept a lot of restrictions now actually I think, it's one of those issues which has tipped over.
I mean in terms of the law to make it illegal to have petrol and diesel fuel cars for instance by whatever it is 2035 or something, it's quite an astonishing thing to do, but there's been no great outcry about it, it's quite interesting.
And I think there are aspects sometimes where you can leave public opinion and you can go out in front by persuading people, and there's been a number of examples of this in the in the as you say in social responsibility over the years, and I think it's possible with a combination of persuasion and regulation, to do that.
I mean one of the things that Liberals have been very upfront and not greatly winning a vote and that is to decriminalize drugs for instance, and there's no doubt that it's the best way of dealing with the drug situation, to take the dealer out of it.
People would not like to get started on drugs unless there's a pusher. And if you take the market away from it then you're doing something.
It's the combination of something which is evil and yet you can make persuasion as well as legal action.
I'm not sure incentives are too much of a thing. Just interestingly about talking about consumer power.
One of the things I was involved with in my travels was the question of defeating apartheid and after the De Klerk speech 1990.
And I was doing a mission there to do with parliamentary standing orders in South Africa. And the while I was there the High Commissioner, the Deputy High Commissioner, said could I spare time for a dinner with one or two people while I was there, and we had a bac lawyer, and three ANC lawyers and viewers, plus this this diplomat.
And in the course of the conversation he said is there anything you think that the diplomatic core, the foreign office can do to help the process?
I say well look, see one of De Klerk's problems he's had to acknowledge that a referendum amongst white voters on the changes, and I think it would be very useful if the foreign office and the others could arrange for the All Blacks to be touring South Africa during that time.
And because of course it was sport which was the great determinant of attitudes, and I remember Jim Poston sitting, he said that may be possible,
I don't know whether you remember, but on the day of the referendum, it was the final day of the World Cup at cricket, and South Africa won the world cup at cricket, and they all went and voted yes in the referendum.
Now whether or not it was part and parcel of that discussion, but it's interesting that a boycott, then of on sport, rather than on outspan oranges or whatever, was actually effective.
And you could do the same in other aspects, and I say I think the same with Israel these days. I think the boycotts are on Israeli products is something which is actually quite effective.
Thank you Michael, Jo do you want to take that question? Have we lost Jo again I think we've lost Jo again yes?
So it's this whole question, we'll wait for Jake to come back you back Jo.
Jo I'm back yeah cool so you got the question on the incentives and the changing people to do the right thing?
Jo Well I think doesn't the question use the wording 'make people do things' (and a couple of supplementary on there as well) I don't think you can. I don't think you can Michael says you can provide sufficient incentives. But I think I may have disappeared again.
So the question is how can we make people positively adopt environmentally friendly changes to their lives which may require sacrifice or inconvenience and yet maintain liberal values and free choice?
Keith: I think in my experience Jane that Jo has frozen is it drop zoom frozen show she's probably trying to answer the question while we're, we'll get her back on that.
I mean I think it's a really interesting question from a public health point of view isn't it because we know what the right things need to happen.
We've got Jo back is she still on mutes yeah actually how do you move people positively from a to b whether it's a health behaviour like smoking or an environmentally friendly behaviour Jo do you want to comment on that have we got you back place when I think it has to be?
Jo: I think these things have to be about influence, they're not about making people do things and you can change the public course of debate.
If you go right back to the seat belt ban., I mean there were some people there who thought that was they were coming up with these that it was infringing your liberty, and that if you it would cause death because you wouldn't be able to get out of the car. You'd be strapped in it and all of these other things, but actually you passed the seat that law, and everyone went fair enough or just wear a seatbelt.
So you can change public opinion, and I think in the way that we didn't achieve changing public opinion on plastics in the 80s when I remember lots of refills ,and lots of chitter chatter on plastic coming along, and then it all just disappearing, and now it's back and I'm thinking.
Didn't we have this conversation in the 80s, we did, but now it seems to have traction, and people are much more inclined to say I want to take plastic out of my life and make an individual decision.
They did that without passing any law, no one's putting a gun to their head, but we change public opinion and we move that forward through discourse and debate. And I think that's the best way to change people's individual behaviour, and then you get policy change.
So you would never have got let's get rid of all petrol and diesel cars without a bigger more global debate on climate change. I agree with Michael, never did I think I'd see that in my lifetime.
That debate has been won that's the interesting thing and the one with the public
I think curiously about the plastics and so on I think getting you getting the green bins everywhere was a big thing because then you had to make the choice which really went in and more and more but.
I think the whole the whole question of influence and persuasion what worries me a lot is that we are talking from a position of people who are have choices, the most pretty well all of us.
But there's a great mass of people particularly in the urban centres who are struggling day by day to survive in difficult circumstances. For whom these debates are absolutely you know on the fringe of what they think about, and we don't get through somehow to the needs of people who are struggling like that.
And I see them on the bus and I see them all over, and the strain of them with young children and everything else is massive, and we don't touch those people, we're talking only to ourselves really.
Keith: Okay time is moving on let me just explain that it's about quarter to nine we're going to finish at nine we've got it we've got time for one more question which is in my eye line at the moment.
So we'll have one more question and then I would ask both Jo and Michael to make a summary of where they think we're at.
The question is this and it's particularly to do with young people.
How can we encourage people to invest in more social sustainable investments?
A lot of young people in particular care about the planet and want their money in their pensions, for example, to not only bring a return, but also to do good.
Michael: Pensioners are relatively well off of course with because of the triple lock that Steve Webb insisted on, which if you think about it actually I'm afraid it's illogical you can't have a situation where which of the three is the highest, the pensions go up by that. In the end pensions will get more than people who are in employment, so there is a there is a logical problem with that.
But I think what you're saying about being able to contribute out of what we have and what we are, I think a lot of that's going on now. I mean I get cheesed off with people who row the Atlantic to raise money for muscular dystrophy or whatever it is.
If people can't give without doing something like that it's it is quite ridiculous
John Finnemore, in one of his marvellous programs had a great skit on it where this wanted to collect money from his workmen for a good cause to send him to Jamaica or Barbados or whatever they say well that's psychology you mean you want to send me somewhere awful.
You know to raise money. No they the necessity of being able to support things is quite important, but it's again I think sometimes it's a bit of a a luxury often enough to be able to do that.
Jane: There's a wave we've lost Jo again have you got Jo with us is that she's frozen at a very lovely pose hasn't she I mean that is. If you're gonna freeze then freeze with style freeze with style yeah
I must tell Jo that the answer to her problems is to get a cable between a router and a computer I mean. Or to move away from California
This question is quite important because it raises the issue of young people doesn't it and it's yeah. I mean here is Jo back.
Here on the panel most of us are probably the middle aged or in the older side (far more). But it's actually the next generation isn't it that is going to have to pick up all the problems with the planet, and in terms of pensions, and you know the investment we put in the planet has been pretty poor, and its young people are gonna have to deal with all these issues, and so I think that does raise a key thing
Jo are you back with us?
Jo: I'm back yeah (if you want to go for that question now you're back?) Yeah I was gonna say there has been quite a lot of academic research on the link between recruitment and corporate social responsibility, and how younger people are actually attracted to working companies that have a better environmental record, ethical record, CSR record, and this part of their sort of hiring. Well not hiring, their sort of ethos when they're thinking about where they want to work.
So that link indicates that they want to work in a company that already is doing good, because where they want to go there to do some good themselves I think.
So I think that's quite interesting to find it to find that link between those two things, you wouldn't have thought of that. I wouldn't have had that in my in my mindset perhaps when I was thinking about where I wanted to work 20 years ago.
But also I think there are lots of young people who want to start their own business and have got an ethical or social ethos around that, and that goes right back to the beginning I think maybe something Michael said, about how we need coming out of lockdown and coming out the other end of this to stimulate SMEs.
And we can stimulate them and we can channel some of that stimulus into social and ethical and environmental ideas. Not difficult to do if you have the will.
Advice to young people on employment isn't always very appropriate. When I was 16 I was advised to go into banking.
Could you imagine a less appropriate job for me? But I survived four years until at the age of 19 I went to work for Liberal party headquarters which got me out of that.
But no I think you're right about the future, and there is a lot of idealism, but there is also a problem of finding any job for so many people actually, young people particularly ,that's another issue.
Keith: Okay we're about to go into the final phase of this. I am not sure whether the answer to our poll has been placed on the screen Caron did has that gone and I didn't see it or have we got another there we go.
Should we encourage people not travel by air?
A whopping 84 said yes we should and only 16 said we shouldn't.
The question I think will still arise as to how we encourage people not to travel by air.
We are having a discussion next week on the carbon tax and that will include air travel, so just a quick reminder about that again ,so just to sum up then. I was going to give the last word to Jo but on the basis that we might lose her again I think no I'm sorry strike while the iron's hot Jo do you want to strike first and then we'll go to Michael in case you disappear?
Visit a summary of what you think the whole essence of this discussion has been about?
Jo: I think that this conversation has been a very it's broadly positive. I think but also perhaps realistic. We have to accept that just as there was, there was trade-offs with lockdown and coming out of lockdown, there will always be trade-offs in terms of the economy versus the environment, and you can't detach the two.
And what I've quite liked about this conversation it's been actually quite frank and open about that. But I think that as we come out of this we have got some real opportunities to change the way we work, and change the way that we think, and change the way that we use government interventions in our society and in our economy.
And I really hope that we take that opportunity to do. So I have to say some as well of the things you've got coming up sound really good, so I should be joining someone come on come on, and if you're interested in looking at our blog please go on to the Edge Hill institute for social responsibility website.
We had some really great contributions between April and May about COVID-19 and all of its ramifications. Which I can't capture in two or three minutes but it's a great reading we put it into a pdf document so you can download it. So I really encourage you to do that, and also thank you very much for inviting me this evening.
Keith: you're very welcome to be invited, and that's excellent. Michael a summary from you please if we may?
Michael: Well I would come back to perhaps the first point I made, that I think we have to be passionate about having a vision for the future as liberals, and I think we have to have an understanding of the values and the principles of Liberalism.
I'm not a Liberal because I support the environmental and ecologically imperative.
I support that ecological imperative because I'm a liberal, it's that way around it's the same with all policy.
Unless we have a framework of values and principle and philosophy then we are going to be absolutely all over the place, pragmatic about each individual issue.
It's only insofar as we have an awareness of what our values are, and then we can do something about it.
And the lack of intellectual rigour around the political system in general is quite appalling, and I think it's something we have to work on and.
As I said the post COVID society will be very different.
And unless we are sure in our own values, there is some, we have a strong base on which to stand and start looking at that. I think we will be in incapable of making the sort of change which is our which are needed.
So that's my great plea is to let's understand our basic values and then we can apply them to these issues with some real confidence and real passion.
Keith: Okay thank you I seem to have mistimed the timing of this we've actually got five-or-six-minutes left.
Um we could talk to people about what's coming up on our programme because indeed we could indeed.
what I was going to do because of tomorrow night we're actually going to be talking about well-being. I thought it might be interesting to get Michael and Joe's view about the situation in New Zealand and the fact that they have created a situation, where instead of measuring success of economics by GDP, they're measured they're measuring it by in some instances anyway at least by well-being.
Do you think that's a route that we should go to in this country?
Michael: Well it depends how you define well-being sorry to be pedantic, but what goes into that and what doesn't.
Some people we already we talked about sleep some people thrive on three or four hours. Some people like eight or nine. I like to have my weekends off, some people don't yeah.
I'm afraid well-being is a choice between burgundy and Bordeaux I think.
Keith: How does that get here I hope you don't fly it here Michael?
Jo: Just to go in the mix about this discussion that Keith has just highlighted is it's changing away from measuring growth and GDP and how we measure our economics if you change your way what your starting point is.
And it does actually go back to some of Michael's early comments when he talked about music and Liberalism, but actually if you measure that part of that as like how educated people are, how free they are, how much well-being they've got.
If you if you switch around the measure it depends on what where you go to. So for example when it comes to making decisions locally, about, we've got a debate locally around during lockdown. What they did is we've got this big main road and they took half the road up for cycling and walking during lockdown, so that people you know, because not many cars were going back.
This week we're all-in uproar because this big main road has gone back to being a main road ,and they've closed the cycle lanes, and for me it's like well what was the starting point to make that decision, why did they.
Keith: So it's kind of like what your vision is depends on what decision you make so I'll get your comments on that.
Michael: go for it well yes look.
What you were saying early on about that about the arts and so on. Unless the arts belong to everybody they'll end up belonging to nobody. And you've got the philistines particularly amongst the Tories. And everybody has some affinity with the arts. Some people it may Fine Art, some people it's music some people will be drama and so on and we have to unlock that with young people we really do.
Because there's still that class barrier where you might go to the miners welfare and they say oh opera you know not for me, how do they know?
It's something which appeals to everybody if given the right context and yet we don't do that and we make it elitist and I think we have to get beyond that otherwise we are again struggling.
It is part of the human experience to be involved in some aspect of the Arts,
and those who do it well then it's brilliant.
I wonder if I might end on a story a little store in the anecdote. I talked about clarity and border reminded me that Roy Jenkins who was always discarded described as a clarinet socialist and he came up to me one day in the in the house of commerce and Michael said why do they all call me a claret socialist he says burgundy's magic burgundy and he's complained about the nickname with nothing to do with the drink it was that they got the wrong version of it.
There we are we can do the final word on this Keith.
Keith: I'm just drawn to the fact that I'm getting shouted at from the audience by George, who's gone into capital letters just to remind people that we can continue this discussion on Facebook. And those of you who are still there in the audience if you check us out on Facebook if you're not already a member of the Green Liberal Democrat Facebook page then then do by all means join.
And I think one of the things that has been true of all the discussions that we've had so far is that we have never yet reached a point where we've concluded something that has been a discussion throughout. And there are nuances that we ought to be talking about afterwards.
So the Facebook group and the Facebook page is something that we can continue working on.
I think we're just about there. It's 20:59 and I'm known to be a stickler for time so I think we're going to finish there.
I'm not sure Caron is the meeting hall open or not.
I can indeed open the meeting hall if it's required.
I think it would be nice because I think there are enough people still left in the audience. And thank you hey and we can move there and just generally talk about the things we've been talking about in in a relaxed way amongst the audience.
So it leaves me one situation that I need to do and that is to say thank you very much to Jo Crutty thank you very much to Michael Meadowcroft for leading the topic of social responsibility and the Green Liberal society post COVID. we do appreciate your input.
Thank you Jane for co-chairing with me and reminding me of what the questions were when I lost track of them and thank you to Caron for making sure that we were all in the right place at the right time.
And just in case you haven't noticed Michael and Jo we've got the audience going clap applause. Thank you which is it's not easy to do on a zoom appreciation but that's my appreciation yeah.
Well thank you very much and anybody who wants to can move across to the meeting hall.
Caron: I am going to put the link in the chat you will need to leave it will open at 10 past nine you can give it a go as soon as I post it in here. But I need to close down this room before I can open up the next room unless someone with the GLD team has got there first.
So if you get there, you'll be able to get in, if not do be patient, and I will get to you by about five past nine at the latest. So thank you very much everybody and they it is in the chat, I will put it in the chat. Let me put it in the chat, there we go. Please do go and check that out, and we will keep that open for a half an hour, if someone's already gone over, there so thank you very much everybody.
Keith: Thank you Michael thank you Caron. Bye Jane thank you Jo I think Jo's already gone.
Michael: We must watch the weather forecast next time okay.
Jane: Thanks Michael, nice to see you likewise yeah okay bye for now yeah all the best yeah bye.
Keith: Bye Jane bye I'm going over you're going over and then I'll come and chase you with the keys, so if everybody we've got 12 people left off you go I'm gonna end this room and I will see you all in the meeting hall.
Thanks for editing by Gemma Roulston
Tue 23rd June