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Minimum Pricing: Battle lines are drawn

By Editor
December 2nd, 2012 at 3:37 pm | 6 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

There is an article in the Mail Online today that will warm the hearts of every good liberal.

Whilst Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne MP has been gagged (as has Farming Minister David Heath MP,) on the topic of minimum pricing of alcohol, word has leaked out that Jeremy is clearly on the side of the angels:

“…friends of Mr Browne have told The Mail on Sunday that he disputes claims that the policy is certain to cut binge drinking – or reduce the number of pub fights.”

A source close to Mr Browne said: ‘Jeremy’s view is that the thug who has downed nine cans of lager is hardly going to think, “Oh dear, I can’t afford a tenth because of minimum pricing. I think I’ll go home to bed instead of starting a brawl.”

Needless to say his stance has meant that Tory Police Minister Damian Green has been given the task of speaking publicly in support of the policy. Jeremy is right of course. As is the assertion made on his behalf :

“Jeremy maintains that the middle-class woman in Oxfordshire who drinks a £10 bottle of Chablis every other night will not be affected because it won’t go up in price and she can afford it anyway,’ said the source.

‘But the working-class woman in Oldham who drinks a cheap bottle of Lambrini will be hit because it will cost more”

Well said that man. Is his, and other MP’s, opposition enough though? It would appear sadly that there is no ‘organised’ campaign against minimum pricing to date. It is not clear if this is because the supermarkets & drinks companies are following the strategy of appeasement, looking at the likely boost to their incomes such a policy will deliver regardless of the hurt it will cause their customers, or were genuinely taken by surprise. Perhaps they feel the policy is too absurd to worry about?

But history tells us that you need more than having right on your side and reasoned arguments to win against the relentless, rich and powerful lobbying health “charities”. With privileged access to policy makers, often funded by those they lobby, these fake charities rarely fail their paymasters in delivering the desired outcome in such “public” consultations.

There are signs of a resistance building. An e-petition against minimum pricing was created a while ago but has trebled signatures in the past 24 hours and an informative facebook page here (and an event to sign up to here) has appeared in the past couple of days (that from which we harvested much info – thanks!) .We have also seen the excellent Chris Snowdon step up to the plate with a must read report (co-authored by statistician John C. Duffy) “Minimum evidence for minimum pricing” and enjoyed his many and brilliant turns on the media. And of course we have the efforts of Pub Curmudgeon, Dick Puddlecote, Frank DaviesSpiked! ASI, IEA and TPA, (and many others) to count on. (We also hear tell of a newspaper campaign though can’t pin that one down right now).

Whether their efforts, combined with the fact that minimum pricing is illegal , fails the evidence test, is based on a flawed model, punishes the poor, the sensible and the moderate, and of course that public opinion is against it, is enough to win out against the might and money of the government’s own pet groups, on a mission to deliver Mr Cameron’s desired outcome, however remains to be seen. For now our thanks and appreciation to Jeremy (and many other MPs) for standing firm.

Ps if you want to get the minimum pricing widget (above) for your web site, click here (courtesy of the marvelous Pub Curmudgeon).

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Orange Bookers Vs Social Democrats : the movie part 2

By Angela Harbutt
October 2nd, 2012 at 2:36 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Apologies to all you folks wanting to see the second part of the IEA/LV fringe event at Lib Dem Conference. Technical glitches have now been sorted. Enjoy.

00023 from Institute of Economic Affairs on Vimeo.

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Lib Dem policy ideas lack substance

By Editor
September 25th, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Comments Off on Lib Dem policy ideas lack substance | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Hat Tip : Mark Littlewood (formerly of this parish) delivers some sound thoughts on latest Lib Dem policy ideas in today’s City AM. We agree with much that he says, especially the part where he says that we didn’t get into this mess because there were too few opportunities for people to run up debts guaranteed by others. Indeed.

“Sometimes, it’s hard not to feel rather sorry for the Liberal Democrats. After the public relations disaster of Nick Clegg’s toe-curling apology on tuition fees last week, the party faithful have gathered in Brighton only to be battered by violent storms. The Lib Dem leadership was hoping to pilot a course to sunnier political climes and calmer economic waters. But, thus far, the policy proposals emerging give little grounds for optimism on either count.

If the Conservative side of the coalition is insufficiently bold on supply-side reforms, their Lib Dem partners often seem incapable of comprehending how such reforms could bring growth to a sluggish economy at all. The Lib Dems’ default position remains one of old-fashioned demand management, and often comes with a fairly hefty price tag attached.”

Continue reading here.

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Orange Bookers vs Social Democrats: the movie

By Angela Harbutt
September 25th, 2012 at 10:54 am | 3 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

As promised – here is part one of the video from the LV/IEA fringe.

Part 2 will follow asap.

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About that fringe event last night…

By Editor
September 24th, 2012 at 11:38 am | 3 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

We had a full, and as to be expected, quite lively time of it at our fringe event “Orange Bookers vs Social Democrats: What does the future hold for Lib Dems” last night.  If you were there, thanks for coming along.

For those unable to make it, we’ve already been asked by a lot of folks if we recorded the session and when they can get to see it.The answer is yes, the session was videoed (thanks to the IEA, our co-hosts, for that) and will be posted up as soon as available. In the meantime, here is a taster of what each of the speakers had to say. It’s not complete by any means, and few jokes etc missed out plus the questions/contributions from the audience not listed here. We hope it will give you a flavour of the session – and encourage you to come back and see the video as soon as it’s up.

Jeremy Brown

Jeremy confirmed that he did regard himself as an Orange Book liberal – and to be an Orange Booker was not to be a Tory as some people suggest but to be a liberal. He reminded us of the four strands of liberalism: political, personal, social and economic, and said that it was important that the weight given to each of these was equitably loaded. He stated that the Lib Dems had a way to go on personal liberalism – and that the party was in danger of proposing that “people do have the right to do what they want, as long as it conforms to Lib Dem policy”. He would not want to tell people not to drink fizzy drinks.

Most of his speech addressed economic liberalism. He said that Orange Bookers were not arguing that in all circumstances the private sector is good and the state, bad, but that they seek to avoid “excessive faith in the state”. He said he was suspicious of monopolies – private as well as state. He acknowledged that the private sector is not always perfect, but as a rule the private sector is preferable, because in markets poor performing companies go to the wall. He said that he believed in choice for the individual – e.g. there used to be only choice in education for the rich (sending children to a private school or moving house to a catchment area with a better state school) and that Orange Bookers wanted choice in education for every parent.

Evan Harris

As has already been noted by several others elsewhere, parts of Evan’s speech were attacks/assertions about other members of the panel and/or their organisations. Possibly cowardly, but we have left those bits out from our summary for fear of misrepresentation (perhaps he was being ironic?). So you’ll have to wait for the video where you can see exactly what he said in his own words.

The substance of Evan’s speech was that we cannot go into the next election after having attacked one party for five years and one party for one month. He said that would not make the Lib Dems credible as an independent party. He stated that he thought that differentiation was now coming through and that he wished it had happened sooner.

Referring to Jeremy Browne’s point on choice, he said that you can’t compare an informed consumer choosing their bread and margarine with a patient, who knows next to nothing about what medical treatment they should be given. He said that we should not let markets rip in areas such as healthcare or education . He believed that academies and free schools create two-tierism, and that the mantra of choice goes against creating effective public services.

Paul Marshall

Paul was co-editor of the Orange Book eight years ago and kicked off with an apology for only printing 3,200 copies of the book. He said that the limited print run meant the book was much more talked about than read. He said the Orange Book was not new – but was rather an attempt to reclaim liberalism. He said that the party had been neglecting one of the four pillars of liberalism (specifically economic liberalism) and that neglect of it had made the party unbalanced and irrelevant.

Specifically he listed that the lack of this pillar back in 2004/5 – he cited the extraordinary list of pledges made before the election (21,000 extra teachers, 10,000 more police officers and an extra £100 a month pension for the over 75s etc) – a combination, he said of unrealistically high spending commitments and “bribes” to constituencies (eg pensioners, students etc).

He argued that the Orange Book had made it possible for Lib Dems to get into power. At the 2010 election the Lib Dems had abandoned this kind of “oppositionitis”, he said, with one exception: the promise not to raise tuition fees. He noted that we have since discovered that Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander all believed the policy unaffordable.

Nick Watt

Nick from the Guardian was absent from the start of the fringe filing his copy for the paper. He apologised and kept his remarks brief. His key point was that the Orange Book vs Social Democrat division was a false one.

He pointed out that both some of those described as the Continuity SDP were actually contributors to the Orange Book. Vince Cable and Chris Huhne both had essays in the Orange Book and that Vince led on the tuition fees U-turn and that Chris Huhne pushed the party to back an extreme deficit reduction strategy. (He revealed he was, in fact Chris Huhne’s step brother).

That’s it for now. Our thanks to all the panelists (and Mark for chairing) and the IEA. We’ll post the video as soon as possible.

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