The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Monday, October 31, 2005
A trip down memory lane....

You may have seen this image before...but it is usually printed the wrong way around.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 12:25 pm   1 comments
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Fast cars, cocktails and tropical beaches
by Peter

It's hard to improve on theguardian's own headline for the latest on the DTI (the tiltle is the link.

Staff at the Lib Dem's least favourite government department have apparently been travelling around the world to investigate export opportunities and spending the time on the beach.

Members of one political party will not be surprised.

The smoking gun here is not so much what happened, but the delay in sorting it out.
posted by Apollo Project @ 11:32 am   0 comments
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Costcutters for Liberalism
by Peter

Uncle Vince has been setting out his thoughts on tax and spending in (where else?)Public Finance. Good (if cautious) thoughts they are too.

His starting point is that "(b)roadly speaking, the Liberal Democrats have supported Chancellor Gordon Brown’s increased funding for health, education and policing." This is clearly true - but I am one of the minority who thought that the speed with which spending was increased in the Health Service was ridiculous - well beyond the capacity of the Health Service to absorb the extra spending.

The task this Parliament will be to find areas where money can be saved - and Vince has some candidates in mind: ID cards; baby bonds; the DTI; the Single Farm Payment Scheme. This is not a bad list. But the first three are familiar calls, and the fourth raises a different problem. Scrapping the SFP (which hasn´t yet hit farmers bank accounts) will require international agreement, and in reforming the CAP the first priority should be to scrap tariffs and export refunds. Dealing with direct and untied payments to farmers is a lower priority.

There are many other schemes we should be looking at critically: Sure Start is one, the vocational training bureauracy another.

Still, Cable is headed in a liberal direction:

"Whatever detailed conclusions emerge from the LibDem tax review, there will be an underlying philosophy of fair and simpler — and also greener — but not higher, taxes."

A decent start, at least.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 11:07 am   0 comments
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
The Classic Movie Test
by Peter

Jonathan Calder came out as Apocalype Now. So did I. Does the same thing happen to all Lib Dem Bloggers?

The Famous Leader Test came out like this:

I´ll give the theatre a miss tonight...
posted by Apollo Project @ 5:22 pm   1 comments
Smoke without Fire
by Peter

Schadenfreude may be the German language's greatest gift to the the world, and stories of Labour splits often bring about this agreeable sensation.

But the spat over smoking in pubs does not qualify. People join political parties to deal with bigger issues. There is no more reason to believe that all members of the Labour Party should agree to a common position on smoking than to think that all Liberal Democrats should agree on foxhunting.

According to the BBC:

The Tories say the government is in disarray, calling it a "shambles".
This seems to me the sort of thing that politicians say that discredits them in the eyes of the electorate.

Not having been born with a silver spoon up my nose, a lot my misspent youth was passed in smoke-filled pubs (although I never smoked myself). The original Labour compromise (no smoking where food is served) struck me as reasonable. I don´t see why it should illegal for consenting adults to gather together and smoke tobacco.

Many Liberal Democrats - not least Steve Webb - will disagree. I don´t think that makes us a "shambles". The government should allow a free vote in the House of Commons - and the Tories should cut down on the Schadenfreude.
posted by Apollo Project @ 3:32 pm   2 comments
Monday, October 24, 2005
For "Modern Conservative" read "Neo-Con"
by Jabez Clegg

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." opines Kevin Spacey's character in The Usual Suspects. For one blogger, Neil Clark, who also happens to write for the Guardian, Tory leadership front-runner David Cameron is managing to pull off a similar feat.

It is no secret that Cameron's impact so far has been long on presentation and short on policy. No-one is quite sure what he's for, save mouthing some Blairesque platitudes. But this doesn't matter - he scrubs up well, all pink cheeks and hand-made suits, and can learn and deliver a speech when it matters. Cleverly, Cameron is leaving the substance of policy to his lieutenants. But let it not be forgotten that he was the man who penned the Conservatives' 2005 Election Manifesto. This document was the epitome of policy-lite that Cameron is making his own.

Now that Ken Clarke has been removed from the end game, Cameron has a free run to promote himself as the "moderate reformer". Take note, however - Clarke's pro-European and anti-Iraq views will not be on the agenda. As Tory guru Danny Finkelstein puts it:

"The central job of a new Tory leader is to put the Conservative argument in a different way ... to be the change, not just to talk about it. Putting policy meat on the bones just isn't the point"

The message, we think, is clear: vote Conservative, get Conservative. Just don't expect anything Liberal.
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:38 am   0 comments
Thursday, October 20, 2005
The £125 billion mistake
by Alex Sweet

Let's hope that Industry Secretary Alan Johnson thought long and hard about this week's decision to scrap plans to move the retirement age to 65 for current public sector workers. It is perhaps the costliest yet most pointless decision ever taken by a New Labour minister on behalf of the ever-suffering taxpayer.

Indulge me in some back-of-the-envelope maths: on cautious assumptions, five million current public sector workers earn an average £20,000 salary, and will work say a 15-year stint to accrue a £5,000 pension from those jobs by 60, worth £25,000 over the five years to 65. I make that 5,000,000*£25,000, or a cool £125 billion that has been signed away this afternoon. Not bad for a day's work.

Even granted that previous proposals implied certain concessions for years already served, we're talking tens of billions of pounds worth of bad decision.

Maybe there are mitigating benefits for us taxpayers? After all, you need to provide decent benefits in order to be able to recruit good people into the public service? Ahem, no -- the pull-up-the-drawbridge nature of the deal achieves precisely the opposite, and makes recruitment harder even than if the age had been raised to 65 for everyone. "Come and join the civil service! We'll put you on inferior conditions to the rest of us!"

Instead, the deal effectively freezes the current cohort of public servants in their jobs. It will now be increasingly difficult to achieve a healthy turnover in those stagnant parts of the public sector that desperately need more interchange.

The blatant unfairness of the deal is matched only by its obvious absurdity. Just 24 hours earlier, the United Auto Workers, America's last-standing heavyweight union and second to none in knowing how much it can squeeze its host body for, cut a deal with GM and signed away 25% of its retired members' healthcare benefits. That the Treasury allowed Mr Johnson and the TUC to move in the opposite direction shows a serious detachment from reality, and bodes ill for the likely direction of a future Brown government. Expect short-term fixes rather than long-term decisions. But then we already knew that, didn't we?

Meanwhile, union leaders would do well to keep that champagne on ice: the inevitable public backlash will be slow-building but powerful, and the deal will survive only until the first change of government or the first serious recession, whichever comes sooner.
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:47 pm   4 comments
Flying Club Class on Camerair
by Jabez Clegg

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose as the French say. Timothy Garton-Ash has produced a masterly disection of the Blair style, and its aping by David Cameron, in the Guardian today:

Very short sentences.

Large gaps between each line.

I care passionately about this. We must do that.

Self-deprecating joke. Guy-on-the-street anecdote.

List of past failures. Visions of future success! Sentences without verbs.

(You know the sort of thing)

His argument is that by aping Blair Cameron gives himself the best shot at power - a transition from one upper middle class, public-school educated member of the ruling elite, to another.

We're not so sure about that - but what we are sure about, is that Blair-lite Cameron will give the Lib Dems the opportunity to be distinctive.
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:02 am   1 comments
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
So farewell, then, One Nation Tories
by Jabez Clegg

Let us pause for a minute and mourn the passing from influence of the last One Nation big beast in the Conservative Party. Ken Clarke had his critics (and many of them from within our party), but on issues such as the role of Britain in Europe, and the invasion of Iraq, he was right (and against the majority of his party). He is also socially liberal, and all the more welcome for that.

His elimination from the leadership election shows clearly the direction the Tories now wish to face: Atlanticist, authoritarian and socially conservative. We welcome this for, as we have already argued, a Conservative Party so orientated gives a clear choice to the electorate and sets up the Liberal Democrats as the undisputed party of liberalism.

Some weeks ago we opined that perhaps the last vestiges of the One Nation tradition, in the form of the TRG, should wake up and smell the coffee. Yesterday's leadership result ought to make them drain the dregs of their first cup, and start on the second.
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:55 am   9 comments
Monday, October 17, 2005
The Tory leadership, Little Britain style
by Jabez Clegg

How Tuesday afternoon might look.

Lou: "So here's your ballot paper... you've got four choices. Now, which one are you going to vote for?"

Andy: "That one!" [points to Fox's name]

L: "Liam Fox. Now are you sure?"

A: "Yeah."

L: "But you said his aggressive American-style conservatism would keep the party out of power for a generation. You said Ken Clarke was the man who could appeal to the public."

A: "Yeah I know."

L: "So who do you want to vote for?"

A: "That one!" [points to Fox again]

L: "All right then." [marks X against Fox. Wheels Andy out of the ballot box to a fourth general election defeat]

A: "I want Ken Clarke!"
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:10 pm   3 comments
Another Fine Mess...
by Jabez Clegg

A theme of this blog has that NuLabor have failed to do their homework on the EU, and so underachieved (we said so here).

Wolfgang Munchau in the today's FT (at least the international edition - I´m in Brussels this morning)is saying the same thing.

He points out that Blair had planned on hosting Merkel at the upcoming summit, but finds himself facing Schröder's last fling instead.

His conclusions (in the subscribers section) are pretty depressing.

"For Blair, the best strategy now would be to use this otherwise superfluous EU summit to prepare for an eventual agreement on the EU budget. In so doing, he would have to accept a worse deal than he was offered by Jean-claude Juncker, the Luxembourg primie minister and previous holder of the EU presidency back in June. This is not an exciting prospect. But the petty issue of the EU budget is all that is left to salvage from Mr Blair's disintegrating EU presidency."

Blair will certainly want a few initiatives or deals to wave before the world's press. For Britain and the EU, a better deal later would be preferable. Even a deal that goes against the wishes of the Liberal Democrat's Conference...
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 1:04 pm   0 comments
On the absence of an energy policy
This story on the impact of rising gas prices on British firms is rather depressing confirmation that NuLab has neglected energy issues. Depletion of UK supplies is having the worst possible impact on British firms.

On Saturday, OFGEM had grim news for business:

"We are not hiding from the fact that if you have that 'one in 50' winter, its going to be tough - really tough," he (Ofgem chief executive Alistair Buchanan) says. "But its going to be tougher on industry and commerce than on the consumer."

The solution is that large businesses will be forced by the high gas prices to stop production, and sell on the excess power to the domestic suppliers.

"As a large business, I will have a choice," explains Buchanan. "Do I smash my aluminium or steel and sell my widgets, or do I sell gas? Many have decided that there is a point at which they would sell their gas back in the market." Ineos Chlor, manufacturer of a wide range of industrial chemicals and one of the top-three industrial users of gas in the UK, has already signalled it is willing to do this - helping to reduce the likelihood of business, and especially consumers, being cut off from essential power.

Elsewhere the ITEM Club accuse Gordon Brown of "dressing up" the economy before the election, and say that it is now up "up to the business sector to take up the slack".

This is a tough call, given the energy situation.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 9:29 am   0 comments
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Uneasy Sunday
By Peter

Hearing how Tony Blair is gong to spend the day somehow doesn´t make for a relaxing Sunday.
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:30 am   0 comments
Saturday, October 15, 2005
After the DTI
by Peter

This article from the BBC brings back memories of the 1980s. Before becoming Chancellor, Nigel Lawson was Energy Secretary. Famously he offered the quote that "The energy policy of this government is not to have an energy policy". A short time later the Department of Energy was folded into the DTI.

Lawson was being economical with the truth (remember the miners? remember Sizewell B? the privatizations?). In practice the Tories spent a lot of time thinking about energy, and reduced energy costs in the UK down to the level of most other EU Member States. This is one of the reasons that the economy has done better over the last decade and a half.

Nowadays few policies are more important than energy (and Lawson has re-emerged as one of the forces behind the House of Lords report on the likely impact of climate change . discussed here). Once we have abolished the DTI, we will need to rescue a Department for Energy from the wreckage. It is going to face a difficult task. We will want to reduce energy use and promote renewable sources. But we will wish to avoid damaging the economy.

Fighting climate change is, perhaps, the ultimate public good. We won´t be able to fight that fight through altrusm alone, not even our own.
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:45 am   2 comments
Friday, October 14, 2005
Ian Gilmour's view on the leadership contest
By Peter

To atone for the descent to the Mirror (see below), here is a something from the London Review of Books (link above - but you may need to subscribe).

Gilmour makes a good start by reminding us of John Stuart Mill's description of the Conservative Party, and goes on to ask whether the Tories are any longer a serious party. He is not sure they are, singling out for blame:

"The rebels against the Maastricht Treaty (who) didn't care how much damage their activities did to the party and government".

And then he paints a fairly woeful picture of the contrast between Tory leaders past and present

"From 1832, the 19th-century Conservative leaders were Peel, Lord Derby, Disraeli and Lord Salisbury. Except possibly Derby, who was at least as interested in translating the classics as in governing the country, they were all excellent leaders and the best men for the job. Much the same is true of the first half of the 20th century, when the leaders were Balfour, Bonar Law, Austen Chamberlain, Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain and Churchill. In the second half of the century they were Churchill again, Eden, Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Heath, Thatcher and John Major – a more mixed bunch, admittedly, but still mostly distinguished and competent. That the names of William Hague at the age of 36 and Iain Duncan Smith at any age should now be added to that illustrious roll is bizarre. How did this Conservative descent into absurdity occur?"

Rather predictably, he blames the Press - and I think he goes overboard on this.

Then he turns his attention to the Leadership contenders this time around, with typical wit

"David Davis has promised not to swerve to the right, but as he is already standing on the right touchline, that does not mean much. According to David Cameron, one of the other candidates, Davis is a man of great experience. But that is true only by Cameron’s own standards."

Speaking of Cameron directly, he says "Cameron is 39 years old, but he lacks even Hague’s limited experience...that he thinks such limited experience should enable him to be a good leader of the Conservative Party and prospective prime minister looks more than a little conceited."

Rather sadly he refuses to say very much about Fox (a candidate who began as a rank outsider and yet who continually exceeds expectations).

So that leaves Clarke, and it isn´t any surprise to find Gilmour on his side. His verdict?

"For the Conservatives to spurn him and choose instead a pussycat to oppose Labour would be suicidal."

But "the party has made almost every conceivable mistake, and now looks likely to continue that record."

So there you have the views of the old Tory hierarchy, the last of the unreconstructed Heathites. His complaints about Clarke's opponents are, in the main, justified. But at the end of the day he does not make much of a case for Clarke at the level of ideas. Still John Stuart Mill's description of the Tories was as "the stupid party". So perhaps that doesn´t matter.
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:14 am   2 comments
Tory and Labour Watch
by Peter

Gentle reader, away from the pastures of the FT, Telegraph and Guardian there are other smaller papers, with fewer words and larger headlines.

Among these is one known as the Mirror. Today it reports on the close relationship between the Parliamentary representatives of New Labour and the Mod Cons under the headline TORY MP WALLOPS LABOUR MP.

The cause of all this was an e-mail, sent by the office of Philip Davies MP (Con, Shipley), which read

"Tomorrow Philip will be on Talksport from 12-1 with Steven (sic) Pound and Simon Hughes. Please let members know so they can call in and support Phil."

A pity this brawl was not televised. It might have done much to revive interest in politics.
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:07 am   0 comments
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
The Tory retreat from Towns and Cities
by Peter

No apologies for this link to a year-old article in the Times.

The interest lies in what has happened in the meantime.

Tony Travers (for it is he)

" highlighted Manchester Withington, a parliamentary seat held by Fred Silvester, the former Tory MP, between 1974 and 1987 under the headline of “not Conservative territory?” He said that the party’s share of the vote had declined from 36 per cent when the seat was lost to Labour in 1987 to less than 8 per cent in this year’s local elections.

"Significantly, the Liberal Democrats had moved to second place in the 2001 general election and this year won almost 50 per cent of the vote in the council poll."

A good call there then! And there is more:

"Other towns where Conservative support has all but been wiped out and the number of councillors now total less than five include Cambridge, Norwich, Durham, Oxford, Reading, York and Rochdale."

The Tories can't say that they weren't warned! Steve Travis looked at what this meant for Liberal Democrats back in August.
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:19 am   0 comments
Sobering thoughts on China
By Chrisco

It's a sobering thought, but let's face up to it: the American economy, and by extension all our fates, are in the hands of the Chinese government, and the politicians and voters of Taiwan.

China could, should it desire to for its own reasons, bring the American house of cards crashing down. Admittedly, it is a risky proposition for Beijing, as the ensuing global downturn will naturally badly hurt Chinese exports. The counter to this is the possibility that Beijing reckons that its own domestic consumption will survive the squeeze and continue the Chinese economic miracle, as was demonstrated by China's ability to weather the Asian financial crisis of 1997. (That said, the greatest risk to China's continued growth is precisely what saved it in 1997: its domestic banking system. They are working on their solvency issues, but this is going to take time.)

This begs the question, why would China attempt to pull the rug out from under America? The only motivation that would cause the CCP to take such extreme measures is Taiwan, which the Chinese do take very, very seriously. However, the one thing that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) prizes above all else is domestic stability, and thus the risks involved in destabilising the world economy are probably too great, unless they felt they had no other option.

So, China is probably not going to make a grab for the island state/renegade province unless the Taiwanese make a formal declaration of independence. Yes, they rattle the sabre now and again, but this is for domestic reasons: to embellish the mantle of nationalism that the CCP has been wrapping itself in as it quietly dropped most of the tenets of communism. The most likely scenario is that Beijing will continue to wait; as Chinese living standards catch up with those on Taiwan, the hope is that a wealthy and prosperous mainland will seem less of a threat to Taiwan and thus the implementation of a 'one country, two/three systems' policy will be attainable. Perhaps even, if the Taiwanese stick with the status quo for long enough, democracy itself will have begun to take root on the mainland (they've managed for sixty years with an ambiguous status - what's another half-century?) But if before then Taiwan pushes ahead with an independence referedum, Beijing will act.

So let's all just hope that Taiwan doesn't vote for independence, or we're all in it.
posted by Apollo Project @ 8:44 am   0 comments
Doing the terrorist's bidding
by Peter

Here is Mark Salisbury with an analysis of trends in BlairBritain.

"I just can't help feeling that we are doing the terrorist's bidding with all this destruction of civil liberties," he concludes.
posted by Apollo Project @ 8:28 am   1 comments
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
The case against Blair
by Peter

Courtesy of Good Liberal on the LDYS forum, here is a though-provoking piece from Samuel Brittan, which makes a good case against Blair (and inter alia David Davis)

A related charge against New Labour is an indifference to the traditions and procedures that underpin British freedom, such as jury trial, habeas corpus and the presumption of innocence. It is not so much that Mr Blair has made a careful case for suspending some of these procedures in an emergency. It is that he shows no feeling whatever for traditional British liberties.

In case you think this is over the top, this is what Blair told the Labour Party conference this year

For eight years I have battered the criminal justice system to get it to change. And it was only when we started to introduce special ASB laws, we really made a difference. And I now understand why: the system itself is the problem. We are trying to fight 21st-century crime - ASB, drug-dealing, binge-drinking, organised crime - with 19th-century methods, as if we still lived in the time of Dickens.

The whole of our system starts from the proposition that its duty is to protect the innocent from being wrongly convicted.

Guilty as charged!
posted by Apollo Project @ 4:31 pm   0 comments
Free Trade, Peace and the Brewer
By Peter

Here's Paul on an unsung hero of the Middle East.
posted by Apollo Project @ 3:37 pm   1 comments
An offer we can´t refuse?
By Jabez Clegg

The FT has news on the US offer to cut farm subsidies.

Trade talks obviously work on the basis that they will cut theirs if we cut ours, so this is good news. But there is a lot of work to do. The UK Government stomped around at the Brussels summit in June, arguing for big cuts in subsidy. Sadly when Margaret Beckett went to talk to the European Parliament about her plans, they found that she had none: it had all been just words.

In practice it is just possible that the EU has made enough commitments to scrap export refunds (and thus, presumambly, reduce EU prices for agricultural commodities to world market levels) to force the decision through. The forces of reaction will be massing though, and even this cannot be taken for granted.

But if we are going to get an agreement to cut farm prices, it is just about unthinkable that we will also get agreement to scrap farm support at the same time. Freezing farm support in nominal terms might be possible, and this would be worth having too. This will take some real diplomacy from Brown and Blair (not to mention Mandelson). So don´t bet on it happening.
posted by Apollo Project @ 2:07 pm   0 comments
Monday, October 10, 2005
All Liberals are Equal ....
... but some are more equal than others.

by Jabez Clegg

Over at Inner West Central, Simon Mollan has been discussing the tension between liberty and equality. We think it's worth plugging again.
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:01 pm   0 comments
Friday, October 07, 2005
Big Ears Backs Down
By Peter

Well, of course he did.

The "glorifying terorism" charge was so transparently unworkable that my seven-year old would not have given it credence (and she believes in Father Christmas).

The puzzle is how this proposal got into the Home Office proposals in the first place.

It is unlikely to be the work of some six-year old civil servant. A more likely explanation might be that Tony Blair read something in the Sun and told Clarke it was a good idea.

My guess is that they always knew if would have to go. But including in the White Paper meant they made headlines for a day ot too. And now Clarke will doubtless tell the House of Commons that he has made concessions and that locking people up without trial is really in the finest traditions of British justice....
posted by Apollo Project @ 2:07 pm   0 comments
Thursday, October 06, 2005
The Andy Warhol theory and the Conservatives
by Peter

Margaret Thatcher 1975 to 1990 15 years
John Major 1990 to 1997 7 years
Wiliam Hague 1997 to 2001 4 years
Iain Duncan Smith 2001 to 2003 25 months
Michael Howard 2003 to 2005 23 months
Davd Davis 2005 15 minutes
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 1:11 pm   2 comments
EU gets something right
by Jabez Clegg

Snafu is complaining about the EU. He doesn´t think the European Commission should have put up a web page comparing international mobile roaming costs.

Instead he'd like the return of Duty Frees within Europe.

I make the score here Europe 2 SNAFU 0.

As someone forced to travel quite frequently in Europe in order to scrape a living, the roaming charges are of great concern to me, and any initiative to get useful comparators strikes me as a good thing.

As for Duty Frees, we were told that their disappearance was going to be a disaster. But nothing seems to have changed as far as the traveller is concerned. The drink in the airport shops does not seem to have changed. And airports are just as inconvenient a place to pick up bottles of spirits as they ever were.
posted by Apollo Project @ 8:57 am   0 comments
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
You do the math!
(Or: how the Tories are too stupid to see how stuffed they are by FPTP)

by Jabez Clegg

Over at Make My Vote Count, Paul Davies has written this excellent article on how the Conservatives face a long term and systematic bias against them under FPTP. It makes sobering reading, as this bias is not going away anwyhere fast. They are stuffed good and proper (as are we).

Yet, most Tories believe that the system now weighted against them will even up or, eventually, work in their favour again, bless 'em!

Is it too much to ask that one or two of the brighter ones might sit up and take notice, and modify their views accordingly? Alas, it probably is ...
posted by Apollo Project @ 4:25 pm   2 comments
The danger of the abstract noun
by Peter

Liberal Democrat: one having an unreasonable belief in the power of the abstract noun.

In the wake of Freedom, Fairness and Trust (a good document with a poor title) Meeting the Challenge seeks to organise our thoughts under six of them: Freedom; Fairness; Localism; Internationalism; Sustainablity; and Prosperity.

More is not better, but there are some improvements here. No one would have disagreed with any of FF&T. At least some people will disagree with Localism and Internationalism. And Prosperity is at least connected to the grounds on which most people make poltical decisions.

But let's try to get away from this sort of talk. "Peace, Bread and Land" anyone? "Three acres and a cow"?
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:25 am   2 comments
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Ten (make that Eleven) Lib Dem blogs you should have read: September 2005
by Jabez Clegg

James Oates enjoys a beer.

Rob looks left, right and left again.

Chris Black remembers.

Simon Titley on the Bullying-Manner dynasty.

John Hemming on the toilet.

Jonathan Calder onnot being old Labour.

Peter Black on Drugs.

Stephen Tall on one more wafer-thin mint.

Simon Isledon on Brown going bust.

Simon Mollan on ID cards and push polling.

Plus an eleventh (as Mary Reid's site was down because of spammers earlier)

Mary Reid on keeping out the riff-raff
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:52 am   3 comments
Monday, October 03, 2005
Meeting the challenge: Prosperity comes first.
by Peter

The Lib Dem policy review is based upon the Meeting the Challenge document - a document that is rarely sublime and rarely ridiculous, but does seem to veer worryingly between the two.

It has little to say about the economy, although this is of fundamental importance. It does not engage seriously with the problems facing the next government (government spending pushed up from 37 to 45% of GDP, and GDP stagnating as Brwon´s debt bubble bursts).

Simplifying, people interact in three ways to meet each others needs:
free mutual exchange (through markets);
altruism and social exchange;
taxation and law.

Liberals privilege the first two, resorting to the third option only when it is clear that the first two cannot deliver. Intervention through the state ought – for Liberals – to aim at helping individuals, markets and society to deliver social goods, rather than delivering directly. But overall Meeting the Challenge is too Statist (even if this is concealed by pushing for intervention at a more local level).

Liberal Democrats are not the most materialistic of people (and long may this remain the case). But we would do well to remember Clinton’s advice to himself. Not just because the future of our economy is the issue that most worries voters, but because nothing that we wish to do in government will be achieved if the economy is not performing. Inflation, stagnation and unemployment put the State under pressure: Tax revenue goes to pay unemployment benefits rather than on investment; crime becomes a more acute problem.

And a performing economy delivers many of the social goods we wish to see provided: employment; a sense of social worth; opportunity; self-development; and prosperity.

So the key to a successful policy review will be to put the economy at the centre of the analysis, not (as at present) on the fringes.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 3:04 pm   3 comments
Stand Clear! How to Revive the Tories
by Steve Travis

Edward Leigh's Cornerstone Group now have their own blog, and interesting reading it makes too. After bursting onto the scene at the end of July (to noises off saying "Here come the Tory Taleban!") with a pamphlet entitled The Strange Desertion of Tory England (NB - no mention of Scotland or Wales there), Leigh & Co. present their second offering, a full-blown mini-manifesto called Being Conservative: A Cornerstone of Policies to Revive Conservative Britain (Phew! They've noticed the celts this time!).

I apolgise for the flippant tone of my first paragraph, as it would be very easy to dismiss Cornerstone as the usual collection of right-wing extremists. However, in the case of their latest pamphlet this would be (a) unfair, because this is a positive set of policy ideas worthy of serious scrutiny and (b) unwise, because a positive policy programme is exactly what the Conservative party (and by extension the country) needs. Furthermore, Cornerstone claim at least 25 supporters and so make up a significant chunk of the Parliamentary Party; many more than groups such as the TRG can muster. Consequently they will have a significant, possibly pivotal, influence on the outcome of the Tory leadership election and politics in this country as a whole.

Cornerstone feel that the cultural, social and political agenda of the country has been hijacked by the "liberal elite" to the detriment of Conservative values and thought. Indeed, Leigh urges a return to “traditional values” and states:

“We must seize the centre ground and pull it kicking and screaming towards us. That is the only way to demolish the foundations of the liberal establishment and demonstrate to the electorate the fundamental flaws on which it is based.”

From this it is clear that Leigh’s interpretation of “liberal” is “socially liberal”. This confusion, deliberate or otherwise, is worth bearing in mind when we look at the "Being Conservative" manifesto, for it is a curious mix of economic liberalism, social conservatism and “Little Englandism”.

Some of the ideas floated in the pamphlet, such as reducing the size of the state, or introducing flat tax, deserve at least a second look from a Liberal perspective. Others, such as withdrawal from the EU and the Human Rights Act would be rejected soundly as against our principles. One – the re-appropriation of the Environment as a Conservative issue (linked to Conservation), is inspired and offers a real "left-field" opportunity for the Tories.

What this eclectic and rather uncomfortable mix of policies does is reinforce how the central dichotomy that has bedevilled the Tories since Thatcher was in power has taken hold of the party. The "problem" with economic liberalism is that it both requires and engenders social liberalism, and that is anathema to most Tory members. Dynamic economies require social and geographical mobility - "funny foreigners", gays, and other such "undesirables" will be attracted in by the boom. And on the flip-side we have the human flotsam created by rapid change, as people become separated from pre-existing familial networks via work-related migration, and cease to have the time to devote to vountary activity as they work ever harder.

Whilst fully engaged in “rolling back the state”, Thatcher found herself presiding over an unintended and profound social revolution that swept away the old structures of society and ushered in a much less reverent, more discerning, individualist and less compliant Britain. Chasing economic goals meant the Tories took their collective eyes off, from their perspective, the societal ball. Lord Tebbitt admitted as much recently in conversation with Andrew Marr on Thatcher’s legacy.

So how do the Tories square this particular circle? In the introduction to “Being Conservative”, John Hayes MP argues:

“Conservatives must be both brave and authentic; brave enough to undertake the task of challenging the dominant liberal elite in all the spheres and institutions it has so effectively colonised, and authentic enough to regain the respect and loyalty of our natural supporters.
“It is this courageous authenticity that will awaken the interest of all those weary of the current political stagnation.”

Hayes has hit the nail squarely on the head. The Tories need to abandon all pretences at liberalism of any shape and form and instead stay true to their conservative nature. By so doing they can shape an authoritarian, interventionist and socially conservative programme for government designed to appeal to Conservative Britain, and leave Liberalism to the Liberals. As a result the electorate will be offered a genuine choice.

The Tories, and UK politics as a whole, will be revitalised.
posted by Apollo Project @ 11:10 am   3 comments
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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.


The Apollo Project seeks to put together new ideas on policies and campaigning to help broaden the appeal and enhance the impact of the Liberal Democrats.

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