If there is no outright winner of the next general election, who should the Liberal Democrats form a coalition with in 2015? Is the deal sealed with the Conservatives, or can the hatchet be buried with Labour? That is a question that will trouble strategists of all three parties as the next year, and the two following, develop.
John Kampfner has explained why he thinks that the Lib Dem’s future lies with the Labour Party, while Labour Leader Ed Miliband has indulged in petty personality politics in refusing to even consider an alliance as long as Nick Clegg remains leader. So could the Lib Dems really work with Labour?
It’s not as crazy as it might sound. It’s not as if the Tories are a natural fit for a party that likes to see itself as “of the Left”. Admittedly, the Conservatives may be far more sensible than the borrow-and-be-damned Labour Party when it comes to deficit reduction, but the Labour Party are in opposition; in government, we all know Labour would have introduced cuts deeper than those introduced under Margaret Thatcher. In opposition, the Conservatives made many loud and populist noises that they knew they would have to ditch once they were in power.
So, can the Lib Dems work with Labour? It depends very much upon which Labour you are talking about. The tax-and-spend, borrow-and-spend, ignore-falling-productivity-and-spend Labour Party can never be allowed to reign again. They were a menace to the British Public and left the UK in no position to face a global recession.
Neither can we willingly join forces with a Labour Party that is willing to keep interest rates artificially low just to achieve unsustainable short-term growth. But then, we should say the same about the Conservatives, who created the Lawson Boom that turned into the recession of 1990-92 and are again hoping to fuel the UK economy with a bout of cheap credit.
But the Labour Party’s legacy was not all bad. This was the party that stood against prejudice and allowed the hard-working, entrepreneurial people of Eastern Europe to come to our country, “steal” jobs nobody wanted, create lots of jobs they people <i>did</i> want and pay a bucket load of tax in the process. The Tories, by comparison, are poisoning the UK economy with their anti-immigration bias.
This was also the party that, famously, was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.” That may seem an unpopular sentiment now, but one should remember the words of the Liberal Prime Minster and leading light of New (now irritatingly re-labelled “social”) Liberalism, Herbert Asquith, who observed that:
“Socialism seeks to pull down wealth; Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. Socialism would destroy private interests; Liberalism would preserve private interests … Socialism would kill enterprise; Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference. Socialism assails the pre-eminence of the individual; Liberalism seeks, and shall seek more in the future, to build up a minimum standard for the mass…”
There is nothing wrong with extreme wealth. There is something wrong with hopeless poverty. A Labour Party that was more interested in social mobility and wealth creation and less interested in envy and wealth destruction, that was willing to adopt fiscal prudence and spend within its means, that was willing to put petty personality politics aside and work for the good of the country… That is a Labour Party that we could work with.
The government’s proposals to reform Britain’s planning laws have been a welcome island of deregulation in a sea of disappointment.
Both coalition partners went into the 2010 election promising a bonfire of regulation, but by February 2011 Ed Davey, the Better Regulation minister, was admitting in the Commons that not much had actually happened.
In that light, the Draft National Planning Policy Framework is genuinely a step in the right direction. It reduces planning policy from an eye-watering 1,000 pages to a perfectly accessible 52 pages. This is no small matter: irrespective of the content of any regulatory framework, a thousand pages is beyond the ability of anybody to read, comprehend and apply, unless they are a professional with the time and resources to devote to the task. 52 pages, by comparison, is easily managed by an amateur who needs to understand what the national planning rules are – which includes very large numbers of people, including very possibly you, if you or one of your neighbours decides they want to build an extension or develop a piece of land.
But the government should go further….
…and if you want to read further, please visit the Adam Smith Institute website, where you may also leave comments.
This Monday, Nick Clegg set out his vision for British society. As someone who has argued that Clegg has been weaving a liberal narrative from liberalism’s rich tradition, it is interesting to see Clegg draw these strands together.
Clegg distinguishes the socialist, conservative and liberal views of society. He argues that socialists, or social democrats, believe in a ‘good society’. Conservatives want a ‘big society’ and liberals promote an ‘open society’.
He makes it clear that there is some overlap for liberals with a ‘big society’ as both conservatives and liberals are sceptical of State power. There are also differences, which is why Clegg is a member of the Liberal Democrats and not a Conservative.
There is very little in the speech that nods to any overlap with Labour’s ‘good society’ bar that both parties see themselves as progressives. On this point, he makes it clear that Labour’s progressive agenda is based on a fixed blueprint. Having a set view is not, according to Clegg, compatible with an ‘open society’.
Clegg makes it clear that his liberalism is about people. As far as he is concerned the other two competing traditions put their faith in the State or non-State institutions.
The speech also covers some policy. Clegg’s interest in taxing unearned wealth fits with a party that has long had a fan base for land value taxation.
He ends the speech quoting Karl Popper.
The party now has to flesh out these ideas on social mobility, dispersed political power, transparency, a fair distribution of wealth and property and an internationalist outlook.
The challenge after that is to build an electoral base who support an ‘open society.’Tags: Nick Clegg
Common sense from Lib Dem Members… now common sense from the Health Secretary… What is the world coming to? A beady-eyed reader of the Independent On Sunday brings us word that the Health Secretary has come out loud and proud stating that minimum pricing on alcohol is not the answer. Some of you will have noticed last week that a group of leading doctors and academics were publicly calling for the Government to bring in a minimum price on our drinks. But this has apparently failed to impress Mr Lansley!
Talking about the impact of minimum pricing, Lansley said whilst higher prices for drink can reduce consumption “It is more likely to have a bigger proportionate impact on responsible drinkers who happen to be low-income households“. Yes sir. Exactly right. Why penalise the responsible hard-up drinkers for the actions of the irresponsible minority. But wait.. there’s more……He also is quoted as saying….
“Are we really saying that because a bottle of vodka isn’t £8 but £12.50 they are not going to preload with a bottle of vodka for a night out when they are in clubs where they pay £5 for a drink? That is absurd. They are still going to do this binge drinking because that is a behaviour issue. We have got to do much more to focus on what this means.“
Of course this does not per se mean that the Coalition has finally embraced it’s much-flaunted “liberal-self”. We do still await next years “alcohol strategy” – though quite what any Government thinks it is doing having an “alcohol strategy” is beyond us.
And who knows what the academics will come up with next to justify their tax-funded jobs.. I guess we can depend on them not to give up that easily.
After all, it was way back in 2003 that the British Medical Association first proposed levying a 17.5 per cent fat tax on high-fat foods. It was rejected back then on the grounds that the population would reject a ‘nanny state’. (Those were the days) . And whilst Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson has gone on the record recently saying that a fat tax is “not likely” – the sheer pressure being applied by health lobby groups means that there remains the distinct possibility that tighter restrictions on advertising and promotion of food and drink will be introduced.
But that is for another day. Today we applaud the Health Secretary for NOT automatically reaching for the legislative route just because the academics demand it – recognising the complexity of the issues involved and, perhaps, the danger of unintended consequences of Government intervention.Tags: alcohol minimum pricing, Andrew Lansley, health secretary
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