Category — Politics
IF (Lib–Lab deal) –> 100% reliance on assorted Nats and recalcitrant backbenchers –> Government falls without enacting anything significant –> Tory majority within six months –> Full enactment of Tory manifesto
IF (Minority Tory government) –> Tory extremes stymied in short-term –> (Lib–Lab opposition brings government down, takes blame as ‘irresponsible in time of crisis’) OR (Cameron goes for dissolution at time to suit Tories) –> Tory majority within a year –> Full enactment of Tory manifesto
IF (Lib–Con coalition deal) –> (Tory extremes stymied in short-term) AND (Small number of key LibDem priorities enacted in short term) AND [?]
There’s likely to be a whole load of flak flying the LibDems’ way in the coming days, months and years, especially from the “progressive left”. I suggest they accept no criticism that begins without unpicking the puzzle above – one that the election result set them. That [?] might include the implosion of the party. It might also include the large-scale loss of anti-Conservative tactical voters in the North and Scotland, or the gain of anti-Labour tactical voters in the South, or both. But it might just include major changes to the way we elect representatives to both Houses of Parliament. Our major political parties are stuck fighting for the perception of occupying a bland, but pernicious, centre ground. Voting reform (AV is just one essential baby-step) is the only way to unlock the system, to set them all free to properly represent their constituencies.
It reads to me like Clegg has bet the house on electoral reform. His coalition deal, for all its faults, was worth the risk. Maybe.
I wrote a longer, more speculative piece on this before the coalition deal was announced, at Liberal Conspiracy.
May 12, 2010 No Comments
A year ago, I wrote a piece here about the great art of the Gothic and Renaissance periods, and how we owe its existence to the Dead Hand of the (Tuscan) State. But where should we look for actions of slightly more modern government working to enrich our lives? Certainly not in the unending flow of nutty, illiberal laws; nor in the insidious creep of compliance culture (subject of a memorable Stephen Fry podcast). So, here’s an idea: look to the British Library.
More specifically, their Turning the Pages project, 10 years in the developing, that put our national library in the very first rank of learning innovation worldwide. (See the video.) The project’s achievement has been to digitize 15 (so far) of the Library’s most valuable manuscripts, and deliver them inside an interactive online environment that re-creates the experience of handling them in the raw.
[Read more →]
February 26, 2009 No Comments
It costs me about £25–30 in petrol to drive the 55 miles from my home in Hackney to Brighton, and the same 55 back again. First Capital Connect is asking north of £90 for a return ticket for our family this weekend, starting from London Bridge. So if there’s a traffic jam on the northbound M23 this Sunday evening (inevitable), you can blame me.
If I lived in Florence, a family return trip of similar length to Livorno (birthplace of the PCI, home of the cacciucco) comes to about €33. From Brussels, a weekend rail trip to Bruges, 90km away, would cost us just over €49. A slightly longer journey in France, from Lyon to Chambery and back, comes to €59. [Read more →]
September 20, 2008 Comments Off
Rarely has the mix been quite as fruity as this weekend’s end to the Italian football season [Read more →]
May 16, 2008 Comments Off
Not long after I moved to Hackney, I witnessed an armed robbery. From a range of about three feet, the fact that the robber was a crackhead was as obvious as the hammer and kitchen knife he was waving about.
A few years later, my partner and baby daughter were abducted outside my house. The guy, later convicted of kidnap and assault, was no Moriarty: he was in custody by nightfall. He was a known local crackhead.
Last month, a 27-year-old bloke had his phone stolen at knifepoint at 6pm in the next street to mine. A couple of days later Jamie Simpson, 33, was murdered for the day’s takings in my local Matalan. It would hardly be surprising if either or both attacks were drug-related. [Read more →]
May 7, 2008 Comments Off
So, who wants to hear a joke?
Q: What’s the difference between libertarianism and anarchism?
A: Under anarchism, the poor people get to shoot back.
Boom, boom. I guess that’s more a caricature than a joke, as such. Anyway, I’m not here for the standup. What I want to address is the arts, partly by way of reply to Chris’s post here last week, specifically the estimable libertarian objection to arts funding. In libertopia, arts funding is for private individuals. “There is no such thing as society” (some of them really write stuff like that, non-ironically), so spending on the collective is wasted. Immoral. Theft. In any case, the Dead Hand of the State (10,300 Google hits for a phrase I’ve never heard anyone actually speak) can only have a pernicious impact on private interaction, and what could be more private than art?
Let’s look at some evidence. [Read more →]
February 18, 2008 Comments Off
It’s common knowledge on the left that Christmas is a pernicious racist-imperialist construct, an unholy alliance of Catholicism, Coca Cola and capitalism whose only function is the exploitation and repression of the international working classes. Well, bollocks to that. Christmas is a right laugh, a time for family, friends and frolicking whether you do the God thing or not.
But if we want those doey-eyed little ones looking up at us to have a future free from acid rain, hurricanes and summer floods, it’s time for a festive fightback. No, I don’t mean making common cause with the fundies, but what better day than the feast of Santa Lucia to publish a cut-out-and-keep guide to an enlightened Winterval.
Here are fifteen ideas to get us started; feel free to add your own below.
[Read more →]
December 13, 2007 Comments Off
A kidney patient who travelled to the Philippines to search for a live donor has defended his decision to become a so-called “transplant tourist”.
Stories like this hit the bullseye of the inherent tension between ‘liberal’ and ‘left’ ways of looking at the world. [Read more →]
December 6, 2007 Comments Off
I’ve never been much of a joiner. Even though I’ve worked as a writer/journalist for a few years, I only sent my form off to the NUJ last month. The Union, the Tartan Army, the Tufty Club… and, er, that’s about it. Still, I have given recent thought to joining my local Green Party – so I read Dave Osler’s recent piece: Green Party: vehicle for the British left? (and there), with interest.
Like Dave, I doubt the Greens can build a systematic left-wing alternative to Labour, now properly classified as a ‘centre-right’ not a ‘left’ party. But I do believe the popularity of mainstream greenish politics offers something. A ‘moment’, perhaps, for slipping something with a progressive flavour in with the recycling. A reasonable place to look for inspiration is Sweden. [Read more →]
November 23, 2007 Comments Off
“I’m not pro-smoking just pro-freedom. “Having a pint and a cigarette in a pub is one of the last great enjoyments left for the working classes. “
You have to like the cut of his mainsail. It makes you wish he was right, but alas he’s 180 degrees wrong. Calls to liberty – working class or otherwise – are spurious on this one. As much as hard hats on a building site, or breathing apparatus down a mine, smoking legislation is about workplace safety. I suppose any staff who object to a pub pea souper could always work somewhere else. Your average Victorian mill owner would have agreed.
Tell that to the student working off his overdraft, or the single mum who needs employment that fits round school hours, or the 50-something asthmatic roadie who’s plain forgotten how to do anything else. Or any number of other constructs a hack-philosopher might invent. Can any of these make a meaningful choice, a free weighing of the alternatives, before selecting their place and conditions of work? That we don’t always have a real choice is a cornerstone of left thought; it’s all about the power, stupid. Asking: “Who has it; who doesn’t; how does that change things” is what separates liberals from the ‘I want, I want, it’s soooo unfair’ breed of prep-school ‘libertarians’. (That’s a misnomer, of course; these chaps are nowhere near as concerned about liberty as they are about property.)
In any case, there’s nothing special about private property that gets us off our obligations to each other. This is no more a case of liberty at threat than are the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. You’re not allowed to poison your staff, not even minimum-wage workers. There’s an easy, costless way to internalize your externality: get off your backside, take three paces to the door and smoke outside. You could use the exercise.
First posted at Liberal Conspiracy.
November 7, 2007 Comments Off