Saturday, October 23, 2010

Making the progressive case for a flat tax

The release of the comprehensive spending review in the UK focuses attention on the expenditure of the government. However, if there is to be real progress in improving the state of health of the UK economy, then the revenue- tax- side of the equation must be considered too. This is not just the rates of taxation, but the costs of collection too.

The UK spends roughly 1.15% of net revenue on the administration of its tax system. For comparison, the USA spends 0.52% of net revenue: that is to say that Britain spends roughly three times more on administering its tax system, per Pound raised, than the US does per Dollar raised.

This is before we discuss the return of revenues via tax credits and especially benefits. Benefits, which may be taxable, are counted as part of the social security budget. It is safe to say, then, that the UK has an extremely expensive cost of administration of taxes and benefits combined.

According to Alan Johnson, the Labour Shadow Chancellor, the cuts that the coalition are imposing should not be implemented since they will tend to reduce employment. Indeed we now know that over the course of the next four years or so, up to half a million public sector jobs may be lost.

If we follow Mr. Johnson's logic, since reforming the tax system would cost jobs in administration, it should not, therefore, be attempted. I think this exposes the essential fallacy at the heart of Labour policy: the goal of the Labour Party is to maintain levels of employment, no matter what value added those employed may be offering. This may be kind to individuals but is is a disaster for society. It is also something of an insult to suggest that those who are currently in jobs that are adding little or no value are unable to work in jobs that do actually create value.

The fact is that there is a huge amount of inefficiency in the UK tax system, and the staggeringly complicated regulations have led to large mistakes. It is next to impossible for an average person to accurately calculate their tax liability. So on top of the issue of the huge costs of administration we should add the social cost of the need for so many tax accountants. Tax is an industry that - by definition- only takes value, and does not add to the productive capacity of the overall economy.

It has been quite clear that the costs of such a complicated system of taxation are not worth the supposed extra revenue they might bring in. Tax simplification is now a not only increasingly popular policy, it is an increasingly necessary policy.

The fact is that the system is so complicated that it hides an essential injustice: at present the poor pay a higher percentage of their wealth in tax than rich people do. The fact is that the supposedly progressive taxation of higher rates for wealthier people not only does not work, it actually does the opposite of what it is supposed to do.

The cheapest tax system of all is one with a single all encompassing rate of taxation with no loopholes. This idea of a flat tax has been derided by left wingers who believe that it is unfair that everyone, both rich and poor, pays the same rate of tax: they argue that this is regressive.

Except a flat tax is NOT regressive.

If you set a flat tax, you also set a tax free allowance. Removing the high costs of administration and benefiting from lower levels of tax avoidance- which is what a flat tax usually creates- allows the tax free allowance to be much higher: in the UK, it could be set at a level of nearly two thirds of average salary: say £15,000. which means that if you are earning the average salary of £25,000 then you are paying income tax on only £10,000, instead of -as at present- roughly £19,000. Even allowing for the fact that in a transition period the tax rate might rise from the current 25%, this would only be a percentage point or two, so the overall tax paid by those on the average salary or less would fall sharply. Meanwhile the wealthier would not have loopholes to hide behind and would be paying the tax- albeit at a lower rate- on all of their income and wealth.

In other words a flat tax is not only more efficient, it is also more progressive than the current system that despite it progressive goals actually contrives to take more money from the poor than from the rich.

Meanwhile the simple flat tax is dramatically cheaper to collect and removes a significant burden from those who want to become entrepreneurs but who are put off by the red tape.

The current taxation system is complicated, expensive and unfair.

A flat tax is clearer, cheaper and fairer.

It is time for Liberals to consider these facts and work accordingly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Strategy, Spending and the Tea Party

The emergence of the "Tea Party" protest movement in the United States was both natural and even desirable. The positive side of things is that new people have become engaged with the political process in a way that they were not before, and indeed the break down of the American financial system has left many Americans with a lot to protest about. Yet, the initial spur to the foundation of the movement- a resentment of bloated government expenditure at the Federal level and a determination to impose stricter limits on Federal government power has become so confused with the social conservatives positions taken by such as Sarah Palin as to render the movement essentially incoherent.

Social Conservatives are- by definition- anti-Libertarian. So it is hardly surprising that time after time the relatively inexperienced candidates supported by the Tea Party Movement have not been able to provide consistent answers to questions that are put to them. As the mid term elections draw night it now seems clear that this lack of coherence will reduce the gains that the Republicans have been hoping to make at the expense of President Obama's Democrats.

Yet the questions that the original Tea Party agenda was asking of the American political establishment remain important and valid. The fact is that on both sides of the Atlantic, the question of where to place the limits of state power is of increasing importance- especially as it becomes clear that the state can no longer fund activities that have hitherto been taken for granted as belonging to the public sphere.

In Europe, the gathering storm of protest in the face of significant reductions in government expenditure does not answer the critical question of why we intend to burden future generations with the costs of our own failure to provide for our welfare in retirement. The baby boomers- retiring in their fifties, but living in many cases into their nineties- have lived lives of ease that were unimaginable to their parents, and it seems will be unimaginable to their posterity. More to the point they have failed to fund the decades of retirement they now regard as their right.

The result is that ever more state funds have been diverted to funding the retired at the expense not only of those in current employment, but also at the expense of necessary strategic projects. The physical infrastructure of both the US and the UK has not been maintained, and new projects such as high speed rail links, which improve the efficiency of the economy for the future have essentially not been funded at all. As China benefits from massive investment in strategic infrastructure, the US and especially the UK fall ever further behind- because of the burden of funding the bankrupt pension system.

The demands from the British Labour Party to continue the current levels of government expenditure are simply demands to continue stealing from the future to pay for the present. It is wholly irresponsible to maintain "expenditure" when long term strategic investment has had to be cut to the bone.

Thus the problem is not just setting the limits of what the state budget can do- we already understand that we are at or close to those limits. The bigger issue is what the mix of state activity should be. The American Conservatives seek restrictions on behaviour they see as aberrant- gay marriage etc.- and demand that the state actively support causes they see as moral: "the family" etc. British Socialists insist that current expenditure should be maintained, in order to maintain the current level of consumption based economic activity. Yet American Libertarians have a far more consistent approach of limiting the state role, regardless of any given "moral" agenda, and British Liberals would argue that we must make expenditure sacrifices today in order to fund strategic expenditure for tomorrow.

If we continue to allow unfunded pension commitments to grow, then nothing: not strategic projects nor current expenditure can be afforded. We must stop paying for today by leaving tomorrow unfunded- and the sacrifices that we need to make to do this will be substantial.

I suspect that the American Conservatives have already undermined the Tea Party, and although gains may yet come for the Republicans, the real debate is being lost under a welter of Conservative hypocrisy. In the UK we must avoid the distractions offered by Labour and not only reduce government expenditure but also substantially restructure it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Poor little rich boys

The news that Wayne Rooney is considering his future at Manchester United Football Club has certainly attracted a fair deal of attention. The rules of sport reporting demand that transfer speculation is reported in a slightly breathless air, as though the well paid mercenaries of the footballing world had finer feelings invested in their choice of club- well pardon my cynicism, but the Corinthian spirit left sport well before I was born. The levels of money offered to the young men who attempt to entertain us twice a week are beyond the dreams of avarice. Literally millions of pounds are offered, not only in salaries, but sponsoring and marketing deals of all kinds. David Beckham, for example, is certainly worth more than the team to which he is nominally contracted in Los Angeles.

In exchange for the essentially unlimited wealth and heroic levels of adulation given to these footballers, it does not seem too much to expect that they should behave with at least a certain level of grace. Of course many, whatever their skills on the ball, are poorly educated and ill equipped to cope with the "pressures of the game". Well, that is as maybe, but you don't need much brain to understand that consorting with prostitutes is rather seedy- especially if you are married, as Rooney is. So is this one of those rants about the personal behaviour of footballers? Well no, the fact is that many footballers get caught in compromising situations, the problem for Rooney is his attitude in the face of the criticism of his behaviour. His rebellion against the disapproval of his manager has all the petulance of a child. He will not accept discipline from outside, and the repeated allegations of whore mongering that have dogged his career suggest that he lacks the capacity to discipline himself.

Yet Rooney, despite being one of the best paid footballers that has ever lived, is not one of the best footballers that ever lived. His achievements do not match those of previous generations, from Martin Peters or Archie Gemell, to Gary Lineker or Billy Bremner. Rooney was lucky to be in the right place and the right time to collect riches that players such as Pele or Beckenbauer could only dream of. So the very least he can do is show a certain measure of gratitude and humility.

Alas, in Britain today it is not just the "benefit scroungers" that demonstrate a level of entitlement and arrogance that even Milton's Lucifer might struggle to attain. Chris Moyles, the Radio 1 DJ- like Rooney another man of no exceeding talent- demands wealth and recognition that is way above his own fairly modest skills and attainments. It is a standing rebuke to the BBC that in dealing with the so-called "talent", they fail to resist the more outrageous demands for money from people who are already rewarded with more than their measure of wealth and fame.

These two figures are by no means unique, but their arrogance and sense of entitlement will have increasingly short shrift as this new age of austerity begins to bite. We now see the scale of the financial crisis, but understanding it does not yet give us a way forward: we know that whatever happens now, it will involve horrible choices. Thus those whose jobs are essentially entertainers may find that they can no longer rely on the endlessly deep pockets of patrons who have not counted the return on their expenditure. So, Wayne Rooney may find that he can not get a billet as lucrative as the one he now so scorns, while Chris Moyles may find himself returning the wilds of Radio Aire from when he came.

It is the lesson of Icarus: no matter how high you can fly above other men, it is still possible to fall to destruction. The gracelessness and naked greed which Rooney and Moyles have displayed may make their fall a very satisfying morality tale. Fortune is not all a one-way street, and it is as well for all of us to remember that. In the face of life's triumphs and disasters, it is still as well to retain a measure of humility and a sense of proportion.

Sometimes it takes bitter experience to learn that lesson- and I suspect that both Wayne Rooney and Chris Moyles are about to learn the hard way that they are much less valuable than they thought.

Monday, October 11, 2010

So, Quo Vadis, Estonia?

A few weeks ago I had the honour to moderate a discussion session between President Tomas Hendrik Ilves and an international group of wealthy and successful people who have become, for various reasons "Estophiles". I too count myself a full paid up "Estophile", since I have been interested and indeed involved in the idea of a free Estonia almost all my adult life.

The President asked a question: "After we have achieved so many things: freedom, independence, a democratic society, growing prosperity, membership of NATO, membership of the European Union, membership of the OECD, joining the Euro in January 2011, what are the things that we should aim for now?"

It is a difficult question, because the fact is that Estonia has been an exceptional success. Estonia stands as a standing rebuke to the violent society and essentially criminal government of Vladimir Putin's Russia. It seems astonishing that the two were still under the same state as recently as twenty years ago. Estonia has become a model and a mentor for Latvia and Lithuania in their own struggles, as Finland was for Estonia over the course of the last two decades. Indeed the clarity of the single tax regime has marked Estonia as an important experiment in economic Liberalism, which has been emulated from Tbilisi to Tirana.

Yet, as the Estonians themselves know, much remains to be done.

To my mind, the success of the country has been founded on clarity of regulation and transparency of implementation. From the very beginning, the Estonians understood that in order to create a prosperous society, both the cost of the state must be kept to a minimum and that what it dies it should do fairly and openly. In this they have been remarkably successful: simple and clear rules are cheaper to enforce than large numbers of complicated ones. The judicious use of secure technology has allowed the emergence of an extremely efficient e-administration. Entrepreneurship has been fostered by simplicity of regulation: companies can be established on-line, in the course of a few minutes, for example, and they do not pay tax on retained earnings. The result has been a vibrant and rapidly growing economy.

Nevertheless, it is not true to say that Estonia is a particularly low tax country. The nominal rate of income tax is relatively low, at 21%, but on top of this is "social taxation" of employees of another 30%. Even allowing for the untaxed allowance, the fact is that the effective percentage rate of income taken in tax is still in the mid forties for most people. While this may be lower than the Scandinavian economies, it is higher than the UK, for example. By the time one factors-in VAT and local taxes- based around a land tax- the total tax take is not especially low at all, even if the cost of administration is a fractional level of the European average. Even if administration is generally cost-effective, this is not the same as a liberal economy.

Although figures such as Mart Laar, the former Prime Minister, enthusiastically agree with this analysis, the President himself- quite rightly- points out that Estonia needs to invest in infrastructure, especially highways and perhaps in the long run, high speed rail as well. However such projects are not usually funded entirely from current expenditure, but from long term debt. Yet Estonia does not have any debt- and this has been a cause of great satisfaction over the last two years. The nominal debt of 9.2% of GDP is off-set by 11% reserves, and the government has been taking more tax than the money it pays out: a fiscal surplus that would be the envy of most of the rest of Europe were it but more widely known. To my mind, despite the stress in the financial markets, infrastructure expenditure could be funded by tolls on heavy trucks entering the country and a modest increase in debt. This could then allow a reduction in taxation which could promote further growth- as the Laffer curve predicts.

Then there is issue of social cohesion. After some disturbances three years ago, that were seen -rightly- as being incited by the Russian government, there was much soul searching in Estonia as to why relations between the majority Estonian population and the minority Russian speaking population were still so poor. The malign influence of the Putin government was not sufficient explanation, although the cyber-attacks which the Estonians successfully fended off at that time were proof- if any were needed- of Kremlin involvement in deliberate attempts to destabilise this highly Internet-dependent country. Nevertheless, people on both sides of the linguistic divide have now begun to reach out and the process of national healing- still tentative- is under way. In this, the country can benefit from some core Estonian values.

President Ilves pointed out the backbone of Estonia as its "peasant democracy". It is indeed a generally egalitarian and open society, and this is particularly refreshing even to one raised in the USA and even more so the UK, where social barriers are particularly obvious and long lasting. These values allow Estonians to feel that no one is their master and has given the country something of a can-do spirit, which has stood Estonia in good stead over the nearly 93 years since independence was first obtained. However, as the President himself points out, this self reliance can also express itself as stubbornness and even a kind of arrogance. One only has to read the comments pages in Estonian newspapers to see a carping and unpleasant tone that is far from the trust and respect that one sees in the political discourse of, for example, Denmark. There is still a certain national rancour, rooted in the primeval Estonian peasant fear that someone, somewhere, is out to cheat him. This, of course, has not been helped by the horrors and lies of the years of the Soviet occupation, where snitching and betrayal were the social norms most encouraged by that vile tyranny. The reborn "peasant democracy" for all its determination and resilience could do with at least a thin veneer of courtesy. Even if the Estonians might regard such courtesy as occasionally hypocritical, it would certainly help the national discourse a lot.

So, where is Estonia going?

In many ways, when the country is so clearly going the right direction, and when even the national football team is scoring successes against major international opposition, then these observations from me might be considered a little presumptuous. Yet I clearly do see challenges on the horizon. Estonia, despite spectacular progress, is not in the same league as -say- Singapore. Small changes in regulation could promote Estonia as big a centre of finance as it already is of trade today. Investment in physical infrastructure is clearly needed, and Tallinn-Narva, Tallinn-Tartu, Tallinn-Ilka and Kohtla-Jarve, Tartu-Valga highways should become firm commitments for the near future. Yet in my view this should go hand in hand with a renovation of the overall business infrastructure, including a renewed commitment to lowering the overall tax burden in order to promote growth. Education, excellent at high-school level, declines rapidly at the tertiary level, and this is the result of the Universities failing to promote the needs of international scholarship alongside their role as upholders of Estonian cultural values. Away from the Humanities, more effort needs to be made to make Tartu, Tallinn, Viljandi and Narva more accessible and open to international scholars.

Estonia needs to improve the interaction and dialogue with its international partners, especially investors. I recently made some sharp comments on this blog concerning problems that have emerged with several international investments in Estonia. These comments have been widely reported- and indeed quoted with some glee by Estonia's enemies. I can only say that a true friend of Estonia should not be a sycophant and should be honest where problems exist. In any event I believe that these problems could be largely alleviated simply through better communication. Nevertheless it is also true that a greater commitment to the idea of "my word is my bond" that forms such a part of Danish society would also help. It is an increasingly widely held view that individual happiness rests on an ability to trust your society. After the breakdown of social values under the Soviet era, the independent Estonian Republic has been at least partially successful in restoring a measure of respect and trust for itself- indeed it still shocks foreigners that the Estonian tax authorities have an 86% approval rating. In order to continue towards a more prosperous and more socially content country, it is important that all stake holders- international as well as the citizens of the state- know that Estonia will do what it says and says what it does. Estonia's critics should gain no comfort from her occasional lapses and a renewed commitment to honesty and transparency would leave these critics no platform.

Perhaps this restoration of national trust is the greatest challenge for the Estonian Republic and its people. The ground rules of clarity which were laid in the rebirth of the country have created a strong ethos, and given the country real discipline in facing the challenges of the past few years. Even these extraordinary achievements may yet be succeeded by the emergence of Estonia at the top of the rankings of national prosperity and national happiness over the next two decades if such discipline can be maintained.

I look forward to seeing it, and to playing my part in supporting the Estonian cause of freedom as much as I can.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Now the Crisis really begins

The UK property market is unusual. Firstly, owning property is considered the norm: Britain did not have the wrenching changes caused by the second world war that gave a folk memory to much of the rest of Europe of losing everything as borders shifted to and fro. Secondly, the proprietorial feeling of "his home is his castle" made home ownership the social norm. Latterly, as Sterling devalued, Property prices through the 1970s stayed stable in real terms, but gave the illusion of go-go returns. In the 1980s, as inflation cooled and the Pound stabilised, a real boom set in. In the end the boom became a mania. Even after a crash that was largely caused by poor quality mortgages, the UK property market has continued to climb. Now, despite the deliberate attempt to support the mortgage market as well as the wider corporate debt market through ultra-low interest rates and "quantitative easing", the various ratios measuring "affordability" of housing look a bit stretched. If we took interest rates at the 5% that is the average base rate for the Bank of England since it was founded in 1694, then valuation measures are historically stretched.

So, you might have thought that the news of a one month fall in UK house prices would be greeted with something of a shrug. In fact, as we know, and despite the fact that prices still remain (slightly) ahead over the year, there was rather a feeling of shock. The fact is that the Brits are still in deep denial over what has happened to them. Over the course of an economic cycle, inefficiencies and imbalances build up, and eventually it takes a recession to clear inventory, and force restructuring, and that is certainly what has been happening in the corporate sector. In UK residential property, however, there are still significant distortions. Although we are told that there is a shortage of property, it is still estimated that there are 700,000 empty properties in the country. Furthermore, the credit-fed boom in the housing market is coming to an end as the British banks are forced to deal with the consequences of their own profligate lending. The availability of cheap finance has fallen substantially.

Then there is the consequences of the UK government intervention in the banking market. Britain has essentially doubled its national debt and is now running record deficits at levels barely seen even in time of war. Unless the British government can cut the deficit very quickly, it will face drastically increased interest charges and far more difficult spending decisions within 2-3 years. The coalition really has no alternative but to drastically slash the budget. The consequences will take a lot of money out of the economy and in the short run will probably increase debt still faster. But whatever any government says about the current situation there is one unpleasant truth: major cuts are needed, and given the growth in the public sector over the past few years, this means a substantial increase in unemployment.

So there you have it: increasing unemployment coupled with a reduced availability of mortgages means a down swing in the UK housing market from their recent highs.

So how low can it go?

Some of the rise in prices is clearly the result of a classic speculative bubble: people buying-to-let, people doing up older properties for sale- one only has to see the plethora of housing programmes on British television to see a speculative mania in full cry. Of course people do need to have a roof over their heads, but in many other countries that roof would be as likely to be rented as to be sold. There is of course a similar property market to the UK: the US, and here the omens are not good. it is difficult to talk about national averages, but several US regional markets have seen price falls of between 20% and 40%. Even that would only take UK property prices down to the levels of the late 1990s. It may well be that housing suffers a market capitulation, once prices start to fall, and we could go from housing bubble to housing panic.

Even if it does not work out like that, it is hard to be enthusiastic about UK property as an investment. The IMF continues to argue that UK property prices remain substantially over stretched. It seems inevitable, despite every hope to the contrary, that a correction is looming. After all it has happened virtually everywhere- now most spectacularly of all in Ireland. The bursting of the Irish property bubble has been brutal and has destroyed the Irish banking system, and quite possibly even the credit of the Irish Republic itself. Given the large presence of Irish investors in the UK, it would be surprising if their forced withdrawal from the UK market did not have a substantial cooling effect.

OK, I am talking my book: I sold my London flat last year and I have now relocated to Tallinn, where prices fell 60% over two years and where valuation measures now look highly discounted compared to the neighbouring Finnish market. I may return one day, but I have clearly taken the risk that London prices continue to fly and that I am essentially shut out of the housing market, at least in the South East of England. However I think that this is a risk I am prepared to take- the upside is probably low, while the downside is potentially very large indeed. This is one unusual market that I do not see the profit in playing.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The UK's Top 100 Most influential Liberals and Liberal Democrats

Three years ago I drafted a personal and probably slightly eccentric list of the most influential liberal and Liberal Democrat figures in the UK.

How the political world has changed since then! At that point Ming Campbell was still the leader (albeit that he had already announced his resignation). The economic crisis was but a whisper away, though the scale of it was still unclear. The prospect of Liberal Democrat ministers at Westminster seemed gloomy indeed.

Alas some of the figures I named have died, others have forsworn their previously liberal allegiance. Yet, new Liberal Democrats can still be found- the list is therefore quite a bit different than it was three years ago. The order is rather random too...

HM The Queen
Nick Clegg MP- Deputy Prime Minister
Vince Cable MP- Business Secretary and best selling author
Danny Alexander MP- Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Chris Huhne- Energy & Environment Secretary
Graham Watson- Leader of the European Liberals, ALDE
Amartya Sen- Winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics
Simon Hughes MP- Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Chris Fox, Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats
Mike Moore- Secretary of State for Scotland
David Laws MP
Jeremy Browne MP- Minister of State at the Foreign Office
Baroness (Ros) Scott- President of the Liberal Democrats
Nick Harvey- Minister of State at the MoD
Lord (Tom) McNally - Minister of State and Department of Justice
Alistair Carmichael MP- Deputy Chief Whip
Norman Lamb MP- Chief Advisor to Nick Clegg
Professor Steve Webb MP- Minister of State at the Department of Work & Pensions
Sarah Teather MP- Minister of State at the Department of Education
Lynne Featherstone MP- PuSS- Home Office
Paul Burstow MP- Minister of State at the Department of Health
Edward Davey MP- PuSS Department of Business
Norman Baker MP- PuSS Department of Transport
Andrew Stunnell MP- PuSS Department of Communities & Local Government
Lord (Paddy) Ashdown- former leader
Fiona Hall - Leader UK Lib Dem MEPs
Lord (David) Steel- former leader
David Heath MP - Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
Lord (Jim) Wallace - Advocate General for Scotland
Tavish Scott MSP- Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Adair Turner- former head of the CBI
Edward Lucas- International Editor, The Economist
Kirsty Williams AM- Leader Welsh Liberal Democrats
Jo Swinson MP- Deputy Leader Scottish Liberal Democrats
Lord (Alex) Carlile- Government Legal Advisor
Lord (Iain) Vallance- Former Chairman BT
Baroness (Shirley) Williams
Alison Suttie- Leaders Office
Colin Firth- Actor
Daniel Radcliffe- Actor
Sandi Toksvig- wit and broadcaster
Lord (Tim) Clement Jones- Party Treasurer
Lord (Tim) Razzall- Peers Representative Federal Executive
Lord Avebury- Veteran Campaigner
Lady (Julia) Neuberger- Progressive Rabbi
Sir Menzies Campbell QC MP- former leader
Charles Kennedy MP- former leader
Alan Beith MP- Longest serving MP
Malcolm Bruce- Chairman of International Development Select Committee
Roger Williams MP
Olly Grender- media guru
Lord (Navnit) Dholakia- past President
Jonny Oates- campaigns director
Sam Brittan- Economist
Mike Smithson- Political Betting Blogmaster
Craig Harrow- Convenor Scottish Party
Jonathan Calder- Liberal Blogfather
Richard Reeves- former head of Demos
Duncan Brack- Chatham House and Party Veteran
Janet Street-Porter
Rosie Boycott- former editor The Independent
Tim Farron MP- Candidate for President of the Party
Philippe Legrain- globalisation guru
Susan Kramer- former MP and likely candidate for London Mayor
Dee Doocey AM- London guru
Iain Smith MSP- former Scottish Minister
Lord (David) Shutt- Fundraiser and Lords whip
Ross Finnie MSP
Mike Rumbles MSP
Lord (Tony) Greaves
Baroness (Sarah) Ludford MEP
Lord (Dominic) Addington
Julian Huppert MP- Scientist
Richard Kemp- LGA Head
Cllr. Jenny Dawe- Leader City of Edinburgh
Dorothy Thornhill- Long serving elected Mayor of Watford
Cllr. David Faulkner- Leader City of Newcastle-on-Tyne
Cllr. Barbara Janke- Leader City of Bristol
Cllr. Carl Minns- Leader City of Hull
Cllr Derek Osborne- Leader LB Kingston on Thames
Cllr. John Stewart- Leader City of Aberdeen
Cllr. Gerald Vernon-Jackson- Leader City of Portsmouth
Cllr Sian Reid- Leader City of Cambridge
Cllr. Jeff Reid- Leader of Northumberland County Council
Duncan Borrowman- Long serving member Federal Executive
Lord (David) Aliiance- Businessman
Martin Wolf- Journalist and economic Liberal
Lord Lester- Lawyer
Baroness (Kishawer) Faulkner
Qassim Afzal- Long serving member Federal Executive and PPC
Richard Grayson- Academic and PPC
Mark Pack- Blogger
Don Foster MP
Neil Fletcher- Lib Dem rep on COSLA
Paul Marshall- Investor and Centre Forum Sponsor
Alex Cole-Hamilton- Scottish Activist
Eamonn Butler- CEO The Adam Smith Institute
Lord Wallace of Saltaire
Stephen Tall- Blogger