Nick Clegg's call for more co-ownership in industry, along the lines of the John Lewis Partnership, has revived an idea that used to be a cornerstone of Liberal manifestos in the 1950s and early 1960s. It has been given impetus by the remarkable trading results of John Lewis over the Christmas period while competitors were falling back or treading water.
When the Liberals resolved to support Jim Callaghan's administration in the 1970s in order to prevent an economic melt-down, the party received no political profit. However, we did manage to initiate one item of legislation, that to make it easier to set up and run co-operative enterprises. After Sir Geoffrey Howe, in the Thatcher government that followed, drove up interest rates again, a great swathe of British industry, heavily indebted, was forced under. Co-operatives disproportionately survived.