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2015: the Oyster Card election

By Simon Goldie
December 22nd, 2010 at 11:59 am | 3 Comments | Posted in coalition

In 1918 Conservative and Liberal electoral candidates were given a signed letter from Lloyd George and Bonar Law stating that they were supported by both leaders.  Asquith famously called the letter a coupon and the campaign has been known as the ‘coupon election’ ever since.

The UK’s next general election isn’t scheduled until 2015. Despite that, there has been talk of some sort of informal pact between the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats already.

At yesterday’s PM and DPM press conference, David Cameron said that it was likely that the coalition partners would fight the campaign separately.

Likely is not certain.

It is doubtful we would have a ‘coupon’ election. But we just might have an ‘Oyster card’ election.

What that means is that candidates from both parties would campaign on their manifestos but refer to the successes of the coalition.  More importantly, like an Oyster card, they might top-up their manifesto pledges with commitments that cut across both parties.

A lot can happen in the next four and a half years.

If we do have an ‘Oyster card’ election, remember you read it here first.

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The decline of Liberty

By Tom Papworth
December 21st, 2010 at 5:11 pm | 6 Comments | Posted in freedom

The fantastic Google Ngram Viewer enables one to see how prevelant words have been over a period of time.

Hat tip to Tyler Cowen for this comparrison of the use of Liberty and of Freedom in English over the past three centuries.


Use of Liberty in English writing since 1720

Use of Freedom in English writing since 1720

Use of Freedom in English writing since 1720


In the tent please

By Andy Mayer
December 21st, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Comments Off on In the tent please | Posted in Liberal Democrats

There is a well used political maxim that it is better to have your rivals within the tent abluting out than without the tent abluting in. In respect of Business Secretary Vince Cable’s incautious remarks to two Telegraph journalists it might be added, in either case, unzip first.

Some of the wilder speculation on what this all means, has called for Vince to consider his position, or for Cameron to sack him. This would not help the Coalition.

Nick Clegg needs Vince Cable in the tent.

Outside the tent Vince would displace Simon Hughes as the leading senior voice of dissent, and most likely do so personally and by building up Tim Farron as an alternative source of leadership. This would look like a split or the start of an alternate platform for a future alliance with Labour. From this corner, that is not currently an attractive proposition.

A reshuffle move looks unlikely, where would he be better placed than BIS? And whilst it might be attractive to picture such a change as a route back for David Laws, who would be displaced?

Whilst the Coalition rides out some of the most unpopular decisions it needs to make, Nick Clegg will need to hold wavering allies close. After that, assuming growth returns, some of the newer MPs will have been in Parliament long enough to want to step up, and current Cabinet Ministers may feel something of the insecurity currently permeating Whitehall.

At that point Vince Cable might recognise that to threaten a ‘nuclear option’ one should be very clear who is holding the button.

Vince Cable – Player or Prima Donna ?

By Angela Harbutt
December 21st, 2010 at 1:09 am | 6 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

The accusation of Anne Widdicombe pre-Strictly-Come Dancing …was that she would lose herself to the giddy world of fame (and presumably fortune) and be led like a donkey down the route of becoming some mad media tart..  She didn’t… She consistently and eloquently explained that she understood perfectly the difference between being a serious politician in her hey day – and a dancing anachronism in her twilight years.

With really heavy heart (witness my tribute to him ), I have to say that it looks like  Vince  seems unable to do the same.Vince is acting out the role of the love-child  of Nick Clegg and Pamela Stephenson. Bright-Politician-come-OAP-media-ballroom-star.

Well my friend – You are not . And it’s time  for your to choose. You are either a serious politician who is signed up to the coalition..playing by the coalition rules  – as the Tory boys have to -and is willing to take on the responsibilities of that job….

Or you are a retired old has-been looking for a way to fund your retirement years with a bit of a reputation, a couple of books – and a nearly successful Strictly-Come-Dancing career.

Which is it ? A player ? or a Prima Donna ?

You are one man – who apparently thinks he is so big and so clever  – that YOU can bring down the government…  Is that really the Vince Cable I saw in action just a few years ago ? Has power really gone to your head that much ?…

…  Put another way. In footballing terms… Are you a Beckham – rooting for the team that you are playing for and  the country that you love …  or you are Tevez /Rooney – looking for the next big chance for yourself?

If I were Nick I would tell you to sling your hook. I doubt he will. Not because he is weak. But because I think he knows your value. Do you ? Or have your forgotten ? I am guessing that Nick will tell you that this is your “AABF” ( absolutely absolutely bloody final) warning. 

On balance he may be right, but it is “too close to call”. Your Ego seems to be taking hold.

If Mr Ego hasn’t seized control ..and you simply can’t stomach the necessary cuts that you yourself said were necessary… then retire gracefully – with your dignity intact. Write your books, do your cruises and Waltz your way around the country.

If you are are not yet ready for the sell out. Prove it. Stand by your colleagues and the Coalition Agreement.

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Keynes and the Laffer Curve

By Tom Papworth
December 17th, 2010 at 5:02 pm | 7 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Supply-side economics, summed-up neatly by the Laffer Curve, seems to annoy many self-styled progressives. To be fair, there is something of the air of having one’s cake and eating it about the idea that one can cut tax rates and thus raise more tax revenue. But one cannot help but feel that the detractors of supply-side factors are simply struggling to overcome their desire to punish rich people for being so successful.

Anyway, the logic is irrefutable: at some point the effect of raising tax rates must diminish rather than increase tax revenue, if only because at 100%, taxes would eliminate all wealth creation utterly. But don’t take my word for it. Just ask the 20th Century’s most influential economist:

…to create wealth will increase the national income and that a large proportion of any increase in the national income will accrue to an Exchequer, amongst whose largest outgoings is the payment of incomes to those who are unemployed and whose receipts are a proportion of the incomes of those who are occupied…

Nor should the argument seem strange that taxation may be so high as to defeat its object, and that, given sufficient time to gather the fruits, a reduction of taxation will run a better chance than an increase of balancing the budget. For to take the opposite view today is to resemble a manufacturer who, running at a loss, decides to raise his price, and when his declining sales increase the loss, wrapping himself in the rectitude of plain arithmetic, decides that prudence requires him to raise the price still more—and who, when at last his account is balanced with nought on both sides, is still found righteously declaring that it would have been the act of a gambler to reduce the price when you were already making a loss.

"I understood the Laffer-curve before Laffer was born!"

"I understood the Laffer-curve before Laffer was born!"