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Cuddly Cuts?

By Andy Mayer
June 6th, 2010 at 3:53 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in coalition, Liberal Democrats, Policy, UK Politics

‘These are not just cuts, these are delicate, compassionate Coalition cuts…”

So might run the Central Office of Information campaign following Nick Clegg’s announcement of “sensitive” cuts. Or at least it might, only the COI budget is one of the first in the firing line…

Nick Clegg’s general point is that although spending reductions are essential, he doesn’t want them to be done in the same way as in the 1980s, which in the “folk memory” of the north of England in particular, were particularly “brutal”.

A good ambition, but is the narrative wise?

The main problem is that there is no nice way to lose your job.

The government can create better support structures for retraining, can incentivise moving people to where the jobs are, and can ease transition in other ways. A lot of this already exists. It doesn’t though make losing your job a pleasant experience.

It also doesn’t sit well with the Coalition’s other major welfare focus, workfare, that although ‘progressive’, a ‘centre-left’ innovation, and tied to the Clinton administration, is still a very big stick, not a carrot or candyfloss.

Rather than focusing on compassion alone then, Nick might be better off talking about his ambition to get everyone affected back into work as soon as possible, and how the coalition intends to improve the chances of that happening. That’s what matters when you have job insecurity not hearts and flowers.

The other big credibility issue in the ‘sensitivity’ narrative is where cuts are most likely to take place. It is evidentially the case that the most bloated public sector institutions, and welfare abuses such as using disability benefit to mask unemployment, are in the areas where Clegg wishes to be most sensitive.

Does regional sensitivity then mean the more balanced south must face the music first, or pay most of the bills? Neither is likely to go down well with most of the people who have elected this coalition.

Other aspects of the brutalism narrative of the 1980s should not return. We are unlikely to see the Police face down members of BA cabin crew. The concentration of failing nationalised industry in small towns that made the impact of some 1980s closures more devastating is less likely to happen with the closure of targeted Council services.

But Nick would do well to remember that in no small part the shock of the 80s was due to the decades of political dishonesty that preceded it… ‘cradle to grave welfare’… ‘the state will provide’… ‘jobs for life’… ‘homes for heroes’… and so on… that put necessary changes in the most difficult context possible.

Nick will need to walk a very careful tightrope to avoid perpetuating a similar mistake. Policy needs to ensure more private sector growth, a smaller better focused state, and pathway between the two for those impacted by transition.

Promoting the pathway is surely the right kind of compassion to consider, not tea and sympathy without any sense there is something fundamentally wrong with vast swaithes of the country having no better career opporunities than working for the Job Centre.


INVITATION: Westminster Events Feature Liberal Visioners – in person!

By Julian Harris
June 2nd, 2010 at 11:31 am | 3 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats, Policy, UK Politics

clockwork_orange_fightStarting this week, a series of debates in Westminster will focus around the issue of:


Remember that? I do, just about. I rather liked it, too, and am hoping to see its return.

Two Liberal Vision spokespeople will be panelists on two of these debates, and more importantly…

(as that fella off Clockwork Orange said to the two women in the record store before he … well, yes, you know, you’ve seen it.)

Anyway – please come along. Note: the events include wine.

I repeat: the events include wine.

You can bring friends, too. Just contact the organisers and say that you want to attend:

E-mail or telephone 01223 370156

Full details of all the debates are here:

This Thursday Liberal Vision’s Tim Cox will be speaking on: THE FREEDOM (GREAT REPEAL) BILL, Laws that should be reformed/amended.

Then on 29th June, I will be speaking on: WHO HOLDS THE LIBERAL TORCH IN 2010? Libertarians, Lib Dems or the “liberal elite”?

What an enticing question, eh?

Other speakers throughout the debates include:

Guy Herbert of NO2ID
Iain Dale (of Iain Dale)
Philip Davies MP of the Conservative Party
Philip Johnston of the Daily Telegraph


Be there then.

Words about words

By Timothy Cox
May 5th, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Comments Off on Words about words | Posted in Election, Liberal Democrats, Policy, UK Politics

Is the Clegg/Cameron friendship cooling off before it even got going? Well, certainly a neat analysis (from Millward Brown) of the language employed during the last leaders debate would seem to suggest that it might be.  Clegg and Cameron had the smallest pool of common words by some way- just 13, compared to 27 shared between DC and GB, and 20 between NC and GB (see chart).  Considering that almost a quarter of their shared terminology was unlikely to be complimentary (“Gordon”, “Brown” and “Labour”), and the only meaningful phrases they shared was “council” and city” (both issues upon which they disagree) they appeared to have very little in common to say at all.

I’m afraid it’s a little hard to make out, but hopefully you’ll get the picture!


Of course, this is hardly a litmus test for co-operation but is does provide some interesting insights. Take a look at their top twelve words used list: 

Brown                                        Cameron                        Clegg 

people  62                                   people  61                         people  53    

tax     56                                     government      37            tax     49    

cut     45                                     tax     33                            money   26    

bank    32                                   year    31                           work    26    

country 32                                work    28                           pay     25    

David   31                                  bank    25                           bank    24    

credit  29                                   country 23                        Cameron 16    

job     25                                     economy 22                      David   16    

Conservative    24                   business        17                 income  16    

year    23                                  cut     16                             Brown   14    

economy 21                             money   16                         Gordon  14    

work    21                                 waste   14                          problem 14    


Neither Cameron nor Gordon made reference to “Nick” or “Clegg” enough to make the list. Fence sitting before a hung parliament, perhaps? And while tax and people topped all the polls, work was a strangely low priority in GB’s vocab- possibly starting to regret that tax on jobs he’s stoutly defended for so long?

One final observation from the shared words chart: Clegg was the only man to breathe the word “Chancellor”. In 90mins of debate in which the economy was the focal point, neither Cameron nor Brown dared to mention what we’ve all been thinking. No-one wants another term of Darling after the mess we’ve been put through and Osborne looks green and unsure. During times of financial uncertainty the minister behind the finances need experience and nous- Vince has both in abundance. Increasingly he looks like the only man well suited to steering our economy and Brown and Cameron both know it. Funny that Brown didn’t remind us of his (oh so successful) tenure as Chancellor isn’t it?!

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Geek the Vote!

By Sara Scarlett
April 21st, 2010 at 9:11 am | 7 Comments | Posted in Election, Liberal Democrats, Policy

Love, love love this website.

Thatcher’s think tank slams Tory policies..

By Angela Harbutt
April 12th, 2010 at 12:02 am | 2 Comments | Posted in Election, Liberal Democrats, Policy

Mark Littlewood and Vince CableA week or two ago I thought the Tories had it….They were the ones who were talking about the need for spending cuts… And the need for them NOW…. That seemed credible to me and I thought they were on to something.

Ok Ok the liberals were talking about cuts … and we had been more specific about where the cuts would come from….and Vince is …well Vince…. but we seemed reluctant to commit to them anytime soon  – and that worried me. I could not (still dont) get why we weren’t the “totally honest party” that actually said it as it was…we’re f*cked.. the cuts need to be bigger than anyone has told you, and by the way we can’ actually carry on with more people working on the “spending wealth” side of the scales, than the “creating wealth” side…  

The Tories on the other hand seemed to be grasping that spending cuts nettle with a vengence. Whoa I thought…these cats have got it. Any day now, the Tory’s will deliver the coup de gras and “come clean” with the voters about the future we must all face up to. And the liberals at that point might as well pack up and go home….

But no such thing.  The Tories look to me like they are determined to screw this thing up. No sooner have they marched down the spending cuts route like a well-drilled army …then they swerve off down some blind alley to have a some silly punch up with the Government about National Insurance and then stagger around blurting out some ill-conceived bribe for the “poorly weds“. Confused? You betcha…. 

Tough on debt, tough on the causes of debt one week…err….its a freebie giveaway ..the next week…. oh please someone get some sanity back into the debate..

..Ah, the big daddy of all Think Tanks – the IEA – enters (stage right obviously) to bring us back to the real world…. It blasts, all over the front page of the Business section of the Sunday Telegraph today , both main parties….

Labour and the Conservatives both stand guilty of presenting vastly under-ambitious economic plans which fail to address the dire state of the public finance“….

and…..”The National Insurance row, which has dominated the headlines this week, disguises the fact that none of the parties have offered the scale of spending cuts necessary to heal the economy“.

The Telegraph goes onto report that the IEA “will this week launch a campaign urging the winner of the election to reconsider the entire edifice of public spending“.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

And why not start by getting the IEA and Vince Cable together? The IEA sits within 20 yards of Lib Dem HQ. And surely Vince has the number of the DG over there – afterall one of them used to work for the other.Then perhaps we stand a chance of getting this election debate on track……

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