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Should government regulate marriage?

By Sara Scarlett
June 27th, 2015 at 11:48 am | Comments Off on Should government regulate marriage? | Posted in Equality

Probably one of the best commentaries on Same-Sex Marriage I’ve seen so far.


Public policy failure

By Alex Chatham
June 19th, 2015 at 2:30 pm | Comments Off on Public policy failure | Posted in Economics, Public Sector Reform

Lord Bob Kerslake, the author of a report in housing in London, has said that the failure to build enough homes “has been the biggest public policy failure of the past 50 years”. It is refreshing to hear someone admit that public policy can fail. Normally, commentators and policymakers talk about market failure. This is normally a cue to proposal State intervention. Lord Kerslake appears to be thinking along these lines, which is a shame. It would be better to admit that public policy has failed and that it is time to let the market function properly.


Farron Vs. Lamb: Another Underwhelming Election

By Sara Scarlett
June 15th, 2015 at 11:52 am | 3 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

The Liberal Democrats have already sown the seeds of a disappointing 2020 General Election. I predict they will get four MPs. Neither of the leadership contenders show any sign of stemming the bleed.

Largely regarded as the favourite, Tim Farron has written a lot of op-eds on LDV sending out the right signals. He’s talked a little about rebranding… But there doesn’t seem to be a lot of substance and detail on how he will do that. Norman Lamb has talked about Mental Health a bit.

Farron is right, the LibDems do need a rebrand, however…

In order to rebrand – you have to admit you’ve gone wrong.

In order to admit you’re wrong – you have to know that you were wrong.

Neither candidate seems to have shown any inkling that they believe either of these things. You’ve also got people like Ryan Coetzee who thinks he ran a perfect campaign… Too many have also bought the ‘it was the politics of fear’ narrative which, whilst it may be comforting, does not actually exist.

The most important thing the next Leader of the LibDems will have to do is convince Joe Public that there is a reason the LibDems need to exist. At the moment, it is not obvious to anyone other than LibDem members and the few remaining LibDem voters why the LibDems still exist at all. Unless the next Leader of the Liberal Democrats can get inside the heads of the people who don’t think the LibDems should still exist and attempt to engage with them then it’s just playing at politics. If this is the case then the LibDems should just reform as a hobby/club and drop the pretence that they’re a poltical force of any kind.

Full School Choice In Nevada

By Sara Scarlett
June 15th, 2015 at 11:36 am | Comments Off on Full School Choice In Nevada | Posted in education, US Politics
As of next year, parents in Nevada can have 90 percent (100 percent for children with special needs and children from low-income families) of the funds that would have been spent on their child in their public school deposited into a restricted-use spending account. That amounts to between $5,100 and $5,700 annually, according to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Those funds are deposited quarterly onto a debit card, which parents can use to pay for a variety of education-related services and products — things such as private-school tuition, online learning, special-education services and therapies, books, tutors, and dual-enrollment college courses.
Notably, families can roll over unused funds from year to year, a feature that makes this approach particularly attractive. It is the only choice model to date that puts downward pressure on prices. Parents consider not only the quality of education service they receive, but the cost, since they can save unused funds for future education expenses.
I’ve been wanting to see how a full school choice model will work and now we finally get a chance. It’s a profoundly egalitarian model that gives access to all whilst still allowing the markets to function freely and obliterating the flailing government monopoly on education. Despite record investment in education, the USA’s public school system remains an inconsistent, mediocre, zipcode lottery.
School choice interests me because it’s one of the policy areas that should be loved by Libertarians and Social Liberals alike. To me, it’s a policy that schould distinguish the Social Liberals from the Social Democrats. The way it will be enacted in Nevada, it makes the State’s poorest completely equal with the majority of the Middle Classes. The more affluent Middle Classes will still be able to top up these funds, of course, but this is a hitherto unknown level of education equality. Local government ensuring equality of access to services whilst fully exploiting the benefits, decentralisation and pluralism of the markets. This should be the dream of a Social Liberal. Sadly, SLF’s declared hatred of monopolies never seems to extend to failing government monopolies…

Kennedy’s Legacy & The Leadership Election

By Editor
June 5th, 2015 at 2:28 pm | Comments Off on Kennedy’s Legacy & The Leadership Election | Posted in Liberal Democrats

A difficult article for Liberal Democrats, and unwisely inaccurate to personalise the issue to Kennedy so much, and so soon. But the underlying issues raised are there all the same. Collins, as a project New Labour man is more sympathetic to the Lamb-cause than Farron-project. No surprise there. I’m not entirely sure he gets either right.

Farron will be more left-wing and populist than Clegg. Clearly. I’m not sure it’s correct though to presume that means a return to the Kennedy era. Kennedy’s Party was relatively left-wing because the Labour Party wasn’t. It was populist because it seemed to help win by-elections. It would be difficult to ascribe anything as uncouth as a deliberate strategy those events. Kennedy for example while more left himself, was very happy to sponsor groups and MPs that were not and build the ground for the change that came.

Farron on the other hand has the vision thing. He does seem to know where he’s going and wants the Party to come with him. He wants to lead a revolution not chair factions with a vaguely common purpose.

Whether or not this revolution is actually capable of achieving, let alone wielding power is not clear. Will for example Farron find himself scrapping with a Burnham-led Labour Party for a handful of Guardian readers? heralding another decade of majority rule by a centre-right minority. Or will a few good crises enable him to do to Labour what Labour did to the Liberals? Perhaps both?

Lamb, I agree is more pragmatic, more clear about his comfort with being in Government. More comfortable with compromise and coalitions. He is more classically liberal in the Orange-Book mould. But he’s not offering a grand strategy for a return to power, let alone holding on to it. He has set out his ‘liberal vision’, but one it’s rather hard to see as distinct, other than being less left-wing.

His Leadership campaign so far for example appears to be classic populism. Principally a mental health revolution, and mobilising the suspicion the Party’s significant gay rights lobby has about Farron’s theological views.

The Lamb critique then is not dissimilar from one Collins makes about Kennedy. What do you do if you get there? With ‘if’ very heavily underlined.

Clegg got there and promptly set about imploding. In part due to the internal contradictions of the Party. In part his lazy indifference to doing very much about them. In part due to the difficulty in selling something that amounted to being ‘a bit like the others, just more liberal’. Then switching tack mid-term to being little more than a brake on the ‘nasty Tories’. Trying to run a ‘keep the bastards honest’ pitch works better if you’re not one of the bastards. It doesn’t work at all if you cack-handedly manage to make honesty the antithesis of your personal brand.

Neither Lamb or Farron have that problem, quite the opposite. But the Liberal Democrat Party, after a string of avoidable scandals made much worse by the Liberal Democrat Party, still does. On that issue Farron has a track record of asking questions and leading reform. Lamb of avoiding getting embroiled.

In respect of the full package then, a vision, a sense of the organisation needed to deliver it, underlined by values that are applied consistently, arguably Farron is more the Blairite. Lamb the more Kennedyesque. Neither though will be repeating history. Both are very much their own people better judged in that light, responding to events today, than by comparison to circumstances and Leaders past.

Collins should avoid the temptation to view absolutely every political problem through the narrow prism of his own experience of the Labour Party.