Monday, 20 December 2010

Let's hear it for the kids

It is difficult in ones later years to say anything contrary to the accepted wisdom without sounding like a conspiracy theorist or Rik out of the Young Ones (old ones favourite from long ago). Lobbyists are now so good at their job and so entwined with the political establishment that we are defeated before we start by the tinkle of superiors laughing. Not so students. They can call Norman Tebbitt a fascist with sincerity and get away with it because, until they get offered a job by them, they ignore lobbyists. And it's now easy for them to ignore lobbyists because unlike me, they're not listening to Radio Four or reading The Guardian, they're gathering the views of the cyber networks.

More power to their mouse clicks I say. I could bang on about the growth of private equity ownership of UK companies but what would be the point? Who would listen to me? I'm not sure I would if a halfway decent football match was on telly. But students don't have to listen to me or Boots the Chemist style PR gurus - they just shut their ears and go and occupy Topshop for a few hours to make their point. Why shouldn't they? For the millions who believe that the economic management of this country is in the hands of a handful of vested offshore interests (conspiracy!) there is no political champion. Ed Milliband is off trying to work out how to rid himself of his union backers so he can look better on telly (conspiracy! Oh no, sorry, more of a fact) and the Liberals are shacked up with the Tories.

UK Uncut have targeted Philip Green, billionaire owner of a clothing empire paying less than his fair share in tax. The political establishment tuts in disapproval as largely non-violent sit-ins hyphen their way into the news. UK Uncut aren't particularly bothered about having John Humphreys mediate a discussion three minutes before cock crow with a well heeled ex-lawyer representing Topshop. Philip Green, who advises the Government on efficiency savings, has already pointed out it's the UK tax system at fault - it allows him to avoid tax by paying his wife a £1.2 billion dividend. Tina Green lives in Monaco. Mr Green will tell you, if you listen, that punishing the rich will encourage them to leave the country, despite the fact that almost the only people connected with Philip Green still working in the UK are his customers. UK Uncut don't seem to care much about the argument - they're young, on the side of right and willing to actually do something.

What can an old Liberal do with such folk? Well, make them a cup of tea after a hard day's sit in for a start. They are the vanguard of a group who are fed up and want things to change because, as most of us know, the system is broken and needs a fix. There is no consensus in Britain anymore, we are virtually leaderless and thrown to the gods of right wing economic theory without so much as a reasoned debate before breakfast. If Nick Clegg wanted to do something worthwhile with his next few years perhaps he could work out a real middle way, one that helped people without stifling them, rewarded enterprise without exiling it and gave us a future that didn't cling to the past.

Does my society look big in this? lol

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Just for the record

I'm not going to bang on about this but for those wanting to know what pledge the Liberal Democrats signed prior to becoming a member of the Coalition the details are here

Actually, I could bang on about it, who's going to stop me? I'm becoming a bit like the drunk in the local pub only I'm doing it online for mutual convenience.

When the Liberal Democrats agreed as a party to sign the NUS pledge to NOT raise tuition fees I presume they were thinking one of three things

1) Let's just sign this and get these freakin' students off our backs


2) Let's sign this because it's worth a few votes and it's not like we'll ever have to account for our actions


3) Let's sign this because they're right, we've thought it through and our policy on tuition fees mirrrors their campaign.

As all the Liberal Democrat candidates signed the pledge, presumably it wasn't for the first reason, they weren't door-stepped. If it was for the third reason, well shame on you Nick Clegg for agreeing to something you hadn't researched or costed, given that it's taken you no time at all to 'see the sense' in the Government proposal. And if it was the middle option, how many more core principles do we as a party hold dear that are agreed upon not because they're right, but because they're simply a convenient way of attracting a wider support base?

We've certainly grown up as a party, we've left the fresh faced enthusiastic idealistic teenage misfits and joined the sour faced twit uncle cartel of established political parties. And I remember when whisky and fags were our only vices....

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Crunch

I'm enjoying the discomfort over the tuition fees far more than is appropriate given the misery of education debt approaching most of us. At last we see a few of the Lib Dems remembering who they are and to what purpose they govern.

One of my central points about the Coalition is that in order to take part in it the Liberals have subsumed their personality to such a degree that they have become Ogrons to the Tory Daleks. Coalitions work pretty well if everyone agrees or if it is a partnership of equals but the Lib Dems have brought almost nothing to the table and supported a Tory manifesto without demur. Now, at last, tuition fees have prodded a few of them into action.

Back in the early 80s I was a fairly pointless manager of a well known record and tape outlet and my immediate boss was one Norman Baker, the area manager. He was quite good at his job and therefore hated by those of us intent on shoving Echo and the Bunnymen on the shop stereo and ignoring customers wishing to buy anything by Kajagoogoo. He left to join London Transport when the ethos of the company finally ground him, disappearing from view before emerging as the dynamic MP for Lewis. In many ways he stole my career!....

Norman Baker is now getting back into my good books by going public on his doubts around voting with the Government. So he should. As I've said before, the rights and wrongs of the policy are almost irrelevant. What matters to me is that a group of politicians many of us held dear for their unconventional take on the corridors of power are about to go native and vote for something they not only never supported, but for something they all 'actively' opposed.

It does matter to me that politicians do what they say and it should matter to all of us. It may be inconvenient for Vince Cable to vote against his own policy but I'd much rather he voted for what he made us believe was his policy, Democracy only really works if we believe politicians will do what they promise they'll do and if the whiff of power deflects them from their pledge then we are all the losers. We didn't make them sign the pledge, they went for it because they either believed in it or believed it would get them elected. Students around the country should carefully note what they do on Thursday and learn a valuable lesson about trust and the wider world they are about to join.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Lonely furrow revisited

A promising leader in The Observer about fair pay contained the sentence 'There are valid questions to be asked about the scale of public spending under Labour, whether taxpayers got value for money.' It depressed me more than perhaps it should have done because, as usual, the taxpayer got name-checked as the arbiter of right and wrong.

Am I the only person who hates the tax payer? Well, no, actually, most of the neo-cons hate them as well as they feel they shouldn't exist. I'm a big fan of tax, especially income tax and am more than happy to pay it most of the time but I can't ever feel on the side of the taxpayer owing to his/her apparent allegiance to every petty minded argument against fairness and equality.

Now, The Observer article was actually right up my strasse. It made the points they I'd make if I was barely literate and able to pronounce or spell 'phenomonen' without laughing. The Liberal Democrats seem unable to carve themselves a role and are fast disappearing as a political entity but the article could direct their future path if they would but dare. The current political future is being shaped by the meritocratic ideas of an unelected elite using the past as the justification for their policies. The past owned by New Labour. The LibDems seem to agree. I don't and here's why. The Labour party didn't mismanage the economy, they ignored it. As long as the tax revenues kept rolling in, they were free to pursue their chosen policies, accepting the credit for a buoyant housing market and all the credit it stacked up. You can see what I did there.

The Tories want a return to housing led boom but I predict they wont get it, at least I'm pretty sure they won't. They may have a resurgent economy to crow about as we come back from the abyss but we avoided the abyss by bailing out the banks, not by creating a Big Society. We're not sunk but we're going to have to wait quite a few years for the wind to pick up. It will eventually of course, and the Government in power in five years will probably take the credit for that. We'll all be busy little ants again.

I think the Liberal Democrats should stop the Coalition now before it's too late. Clegg and Co are no longer acting in the interests of the country, they're acting in the interest of elitism and vested interest. The LibDems are being lobbied out of existence. If we really are partners in Government then we should stop cleaning the doorstep and start ordering breakfast. The Labour party used the wealth of increasingly disinterested big business and the credit  boom to prop up their regime. The Tories want to lead us back to that but with less of the obvious benefits. I want to enjoy life, not by being rich but by being happy and safe - is that not a slogan to begin again with? I want to live a life where I'm not running to keep up all the time and so do you, don't you?

Of course you could be on the side of the taxpayer, the alliance of joyless penny pinchers who begrudge the state every penny because it might do something good at their expense. The taxpayers are always hard working (work really hard on this and think of a job in Britain where you have to work really hard to good purpose, as oppose to working really long hours) and seem to derive no pleasure in life. They are the dead, as Wilfred Owen might say. Surely we continually work long hours because we have to, not because we want to? Shouldn't it be the other way round?

Personally I think we should be on the side of the individual, the one that wants to be part of something rather than against everything not designed to make him or herself materially better off. And I thought the LibDems were on that side once. They could be again, or they might be on the other side or they might, seriously, be on no side at all. And then they become just as sad as all the people who have sneered so publicly at them for all my years told them they were.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Out of the shadows

There came a time, in every series, when the Daleks passed through the confused ranks of the monosyllabic Ogrons and announced themselves as the real villains of the piece. The Ogrons shuffled off stage left without so much as a whimper. The same fate may befall the Lib Dems.

I haven't heard a lot from them this week. Instead I've enjoyed the 'firing' of Lord Young for saying what most supporters of the sick meritocracy we call the United Kingdom actually think (we've never had it  - so good!) and endured the pitter patter of Daily Mail speak from Grant Shapps on Today. "With five million on the waiting list", he stated, oblivious to the sad reflection on Tory policy, "we can't allow people council houses for life". And then presumably went off for a kipper and Bucks Fizz for breakfast.

I like to think that the Ogrons didn't think, just grunted and shrugged their shoulders as another invasion got underway without them. The Lib Dems presumably (surely?) do think and either agree or disagree with what goes on in their name. What filters back to me? Well, my email traffic is down if that's any guide.

Back in the days when I thought 'That Mitchell and Webb Look' was going to be great, the first sketch, I laughed uproariously, like an Enid Blyton character, as the Germans wondered, what with all their deaths head regalia and black shiny uniforms, whether they weren't actually the 'baddies'? Do Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have the same doubts? Do they look around at their team, notice Shapps, Redwood, Lilley, the ghosts of Thatcher and Tebbitt, Osbourne, Gove and think that they might actually be the 'baddies'?

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Iain Duncan Smith?

I received an email form Iain Duncan Smith today. At least I would have assumed it was from Iain Duncan Smith if it hadn't notified me that the sender was Nick Clegg. My confusion arose from the first paragraph which bears repetition so we all know the Deputy Leaders state of mind.

Our Universal Credit is a radical and liberal policy. It will simplify
and amalgamate the main welfare benefits into one single system; ensure
that work always pays; and alleviate poverty by boosting take-up and
encouraging people into work. It is exactly the kind of change that we
came into politics to make.

Now I may be reading the wrong articles and watching the wrong news programmes but I thought this was Iain Duncan Smith's big idea? The Tories like it, they think its a winner so they've claimed it as their own. Nick Clegg can tell the party 'faithful' it's 'our' policy but surely he doesn't think anyone will believe him? This policy is true blue spin, and talking up work without providing it is not the change I campaigned for on behalf of Nick Clegg. The single credit policy has been around as an idea for ages, the desire to make work pay the battle cry of successive post war Governments, I didn't hear Nick Clegg exhorting party activists to extol their virtues a few months ago, B.C.

Given the first paragraph is so depressing, it comes as no surprise that another great Liberal is dragged in to brighten things up.

We will return the welfare system to its historic mission, as articulated by the
great Liberal William Beveridge, to offer security but not ‘stifle
incentive, opportunity and responsibility’.

Well, no, actually Nick, I don't agree with your argument. Nothing anyone has talked about with regard to the welfare state has anything to do with stifling incentive, opportunity and responsibility. It has nothing to do with these and everything to do with saving money by inciting the prejudice of the population. Now is not the time to tackle such great welfare reforms and neither is it the time for Liberals to turn their backs on the millions systematically disenfranchised by the Tory governments of Thatcher and Major and largely ignored by Blair and Brown. Not only do these people deserve a better champion than Bob Crow, they deserve a system that really helps them by re-balancing society and gives them a light at the end of the tunnel. Millions more will soon be joining them as real jobs disappear in the public sector and short termism and insecurity haunt the economy.

Will Hutton , who is sometimes a bit, well, wrong, can also be totally right and today he wrote an article containing values and arguments so beautifully simplistic that I think Nick Clegg would do well to offer it as the new Liberal manifesto. Not all of it, just the last bit. He wrote, ostensibly about tuition fees:

'The message is explicit: you British are on your own. Buy a house, fend for yourself and now pay your tuition fees. Society is going missing.

It is the sense of being helpless, of being forgotten, of having the social settlement recast in ways that takes away while offering nothing in return, and above all, not being heard that so inflames not just students but huge swaths of the British'

Personally I'd put an 'e' in swaths to make it look better but there is a kernel of an idea there for those looking for a banner to fight under. Everything that has been done for the benefit of the rich has taken away something from the rest of us and more and more of us are aware of it. Iain Duncan Smith may be offering a brave new idea for a fearful world but he's not offering the help he suggests, just an idea to keep those people still treading water happy. That Nick Clegg should claim this pretence at justice as partially his idea to the dwindling band of loyalists outside the halls of Westminster is a sad reminder, if any were needed, of just who he feels his friends are.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

I'm not stupid, it isn't the economy

James Carville is credited, I believe, with getting Bill Clinton to the White House with the simple campaign  'It's the economy, stupid'. Mr Carville was/is a clever man with a brain a bit bigger than mine but I would like to think that his phrase, or his choice, has been used inappropriately for long enough. I may be stupid, but I don't think it was the economy.

Public pronouncements have a way of being hijacked by loud mouths. We probably all remember Cherie Blair suggesting it was possible to understand the motivation behind the mothers of Palestinian suicide bombers. Within hours the story ran that she was defending suicide bombers, a hopelessly inadequate assessment of a fair comment which should have led to a reasoned debate. Anyone suggesting it isn't all about the economy in public would survive for about five minutes as a serious politician so, thankfully, I'm neither a politician or a public figure. So let me explain myself.

My Liberal past, the one influenced by John Stuart Mill and William E Gladstone and a rag bag bunch of free thinkers, Galbraithian economists and talkative alcoholics led me to believe in the power of society. The seventy or so years we tread the earth should be as enjoyable as possible, the enjoyment derived from interaction within the society you inhabit and contact with the societies you reach out to or are touched by. I fear, though I'm not unbending in my belief, that social Capitalism may well be the best way to achieve this but my starting point was, and remains, that any economic or political structure should be aimed at supporting the ability of an individual to prosper without undue impact on the prospects of others.

On social Capitalism, I recently listened to an interesting debate (Start The Week) on Quaker Capitalism, the belief by founding fathers of major British companies that Capitalism wasn't just about making money, possibly very little to do with making money, but the more to do with the establishment of a welfare state. But I digress.

The economy, however it is driven, is vital in achieving the aims of me and my economic heroes but, and here is my point, it's what the economy does for you that is important. For some, this will be a house in Monaco, for others a desire to let go the restraints of the society that made them but for a goodly majority I think its the absence of fear, the confidence of security, the platform for life that motivates. If it's just about the economy, we could be China, India, we could perhaps go further and become the slave dealing states of ancient worlds or the Imperialist African hungry economies of early and pre-Victorian societies.

Without the means to realise goals we are doomed but without the ability to reach for them we are equally defeated. Like fire and water, the economy is a good servant but a poor master; if we base our future on achieving financial goals we dispense with the need for Government, we are lost. But if we plan for the best possible outcome for everyone we may take the economic decisions that restore our society to balance.

I don't think James Carville meant it was all about the economy to the exclusion of all else but I think many Tories do. I've always thought that. What worries me is that the Liberal party seem increasingly to be trapped into thinking that way, the way of social and economic Darwinists. It's the John Stuart Mill, stupid.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The shop window

I've been busy. I remember Jonathon Sachs explaining on the Today programme how he was taught to expect leisure time to expand as machines took the strain. Capitalism put a stop to that. I often wonder who these dreamers were who worried about excess leisure time, was our future ever so uncertain?

It came to me earlier that the Liberals may just be making a rudimentary error which, when pointed out, will have them back on the right track as soon as the first flush of embarrassment has faded.

Nick Clegg seems convinced that the Coalition is his chance to prove that the Liberal's can handle power when it is thrust upon them. It must seem so from the office of the Deputy Leader. Nick Clegg must think that if the economy improves, the powerless behind the throne will steal some of the glory. His gamble remains that the Coalition will convince voters that the Liberals are a party of Government.

My take on it is that the voters will recognise that the Liberals are able to adapt to retain influence. They might see it as a selfless sacrifice and a few votes may follow but basically, by merging with the ideals of the Tory party, the Liberals have been seen to believe in nothing more than power. And bang, there goes the USP. I see this as a schoolboy error for a party to make but, of course, the party didn't make it, the party leaders did, politicians with jobs and influence and a whole set of new friends explaining the way the world really works.

So, although it came to me earlier that the Ogrons will hold their hand up at some point, it now comes to me, a couple of paragraphs later, that they won't because the rudimentary error I made was in expecting individuals to care much about the aims and beliefs of the political party they belong to when the need to have aims and beliefs has passed. This turns the Liberals into Curiosity Killed The Cat rather than The Clash, corrupted by the seeming success of a mistaken public reaction. Fortunately, I was never in the Cat fan club.

So the older the coalition gets the harder its going to be for me to walk across to shake Clegg's hand and vice versa. We are falling out of love, each knew shock leaving us (well, only me really but that doesn't work for the analogy) betrayed by the depth of misunderstanding. In the Liberal shop window is the ability to rule without, it seems, the inconvenience of obligation. In my shabby corner shop window, the faith in my political and economic beliefs steadfast against the corruption of power.

The only thing perhaps we can both agree on is that the way things are, we may never have enough leisure time for Jonathan Sachs and his generation to worry about. I just happen to think that's a sad thing to contemplate.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A lonely furrow

Ploughing the sands. That's a saying I liked until I realised that perhaps I was ploughing the sands with my ideas on social well-being but now it turns out I'm simply ploughing a lonely furrow. And it's only lonely becasue my celebrity endorsers have no idea they're endorsing me.

Ploughing the sands, should anyone care, relates to the pointless pursuance of a particular task, such as writing a blog for no-one or resurrecting long lost economic ideals or remembering the Ogrons. I'm a bit of a fan of cultivating sand in my spare time. Just because you're in a minority doesn't mean you're wrong!

The Guardian has come to my rescue. Two A list celebrities have come out and agreed with me, assuming their complete ignorance of my existence is no bar to agreement. First up - Armando Iannucci who, it turns out, voted Lib Dem in 2003 and came along for the ride until the C word. Secondly, Iain/Ian Banks has waded in with his usual heart-on-his-sleeve sincerity in the letters page

Both of these articles encourage me that I'm not the only one still inclined to believe that cuts are not the answer to the crisis, or at least not the only answer. When Nick Clegg railed against the FSA for condemning the spending review as unfair he made the valid point that you can't judge fairness by targets and statistics. What he needs to rediscover is that you can't measure success quite so easily either. A return to the days when a triple A credit rating was all the government of the day aspired would be a failure and, however difficult, Clegg must remember it is a politicians job to remain steady under the persuasive muscle of expensive lobbyists and deliver a life and opportunity for all members of a society before, rather than after, all other considerations.

We none of us choose the societies we are born into but those of us lucky enough to grow up in a free and fair society should never forget the sacrifice of others in ensuring our basic freedoms. Before we sneer too loudly at the stupidity of the Tea Party in America, we should remember the cheering backbenchers last Wednesday as Osborne announced the demise of a way of life for 500,000 innocent vicims of an economic theory. And now, if you'll excuse me, the sand is looking a bit dry.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Let's hear it for the cuts....

As Boy Osbourne sat down after formalising the inevitable social butchery of Coalition spending cuts, the Tory benches erupted in wild applause. It was pretty sickening to hear, possibly worse to witness live and in the flesh for those Libs inhabiting the Commons. I'm not so sure it was such a bad thing myself. The obvious glee of the barely restrained Tory right might have served as a recruitment drive for a New Model Army, but it also shone a light, yes one of those lights that politicians are busy shining in many a nook and whatnot, on an uneasy Nick Clegg.

I think Mr Clegg may be squirming under the pressure of being shackled to the silent blue hordes. When Labour kicks the bin it is is to Nick Clegg that everyone looks to get a reaction. When the Press analyse policy, it is the Liberal Democrats who invite scrutiny. We/They have become the modern day Ypres salient - break through here and the war is as good as won for those wishing to rush back to the polls or sell a few more newspapers. And, if I can take the WW1 analagy a little further than Douglas Haig managed to advance the line, the relentless bombardment has intensified with the news of an all time low in the opinion polls for the Liberals, this despite the majority of Sun readers agreeing with the cuts and public opinion still seemingly benign.

Nick Clegg certainly didn't like the Institute for Fiscal Studies' findings that the cuts hit the poor hardest. "Distorted nonsense" he decried. He may have a point, we shouldn't see life, the universe, everything as just a profit and loss account disposed to be judged financially. But he must know that the cuts were not in the manifesto, that by and large they were in the Tory manifesto. Cameron has paused and let the coalition partners come panting up the road behind him, full of 'we didn't realise' (tuition fees) and 'the view from here is not what it was from there'. I think Nick Clegg knows his supporters are sceptical at best, that they believe the cuts are unfair and that Tory supporters don't and don't care what his supporters think. If you follow me.

If the party wants me back (and they may not) or even people like me, it might play well to expose the gaps that are now, for the first time, appearing. Liberals have taken gambles in the recent past and most have paid off but if they want this unholy alliance to get anywhere near working they need to publicise their unease. Nick Clegg might feel this is contrary to the spirit of coalition but, like finding a way of making the banks pay big time without chasing them away to their tax havens, pushing the boundaries of dissent against the Tory overlords might just keep the sorry ship afloat long enough to salvage the cargo.

Monday, 18 October 2010

They're all the same

I had my attention drawn to this weeks Victoria Coren article in the Observer Pretty much what you would expect, pretty much what I would expect until the line 'This isn't meant to be an attack on the Lib Dems; all the parties are the same. They're interchangeable'. This really shows how far the Liberals have come and how low they've sunk. No longer ridiculed by the nod to their unelectability, they're grouped in with all the other parties in the laziest put down of all.

In the good old days I used to rail against this comment. Well done the chattering classes, dismissing heartfelt passion and energy as the corrupted morals of each and every politician. Moving slightly to catch more sun, the loungers fall  back on one of the staples - all politicans are in it for themselves, a truth so self evident that it serves as a clincher for any dispute.

I refute it but I find it harder to dismiss it completely out of hand these days. The number of politicians who have stood the test of time and more or less stuck to a principle or two seem an exotic rarity. The Liberals promised to be a sanctuary for them in a hostile world but since the dawn of the coalition I have to say I might just have been a bit too wide-eyed and innocent. In order to make power work it would seem they have to let principle go and in doing so, challenge the very nature of what a party stands for. If the bottom line of the coalition is that Nick Clegg defends his spending cuts by talking up the brilliance of allowing more two year olds to be taught by the state (2 year olds for pities sake) in total work families, for example, I begin to see that power does have the ability to corrupt principles enough to make it pointless following a team. Perhaps its just the Government and the Opposition?

I'm no longer sure I like the idea of coalition politics in any form but I'm fully aware the poisoned economy has made being in charge a slightly iffy proposition. The trouble is, if in adversity you feel unable to speak up loudly for the things you disagree with (as the Tories will do over voting reform) then what exactly is the Liberal Democrats place in the world?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

An Education

Once again it falls to the Ogrons to front the latest assault on the quality of life. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Lord Browne's report into graduate funding, it's the Lib Dems that have come out to play with the media. Was the report shown to the Tories at all? Does anyone have any idea, 24 hours in, what David Cameron's view is?

Pre-coalition, this was exactly the issue that made me glad to be orange. Some Liberals may have embraced controversial issues because they knew they would never have to enact them but I always felt power for power's sake was pointless. It would have been easier to support the Labour party if being on the winning side was all that mattered but for me, and many like me, it meant more to be righty than mighty. And I don't think it was falling back on our principles that made us unelectable, more the pocketing of our mainline policies by the other two when it suited them and the constant barrage of condescending comment from all sides.

So what do those Liberals who signed the education pledge not to raise tuition fees do now? If Vince Cable is to be believed, nothing. Apparently the reality of the situation has forced him to see tuition fees in a new light. Not the 'where did it all go so wrong?' light, more the 'now I'm in power I can stopping mucking about and go with the flow' light. We used to value university education, now we put a value on it, another sop to the 'why should I pay for.....?' brigade.

We already know Oxford and Cambridge open their doors less to the working classes, if such a term doesn't sound too Eric Blair, than their less fussy neighbours. Removing the cap will make it worse. Oxbridge doesn't need to pander to the masses as much as it needs hard cash and the overseas students and public school pupils who already pack their lecture halls will be willing and able to pay a premium, possible even glad to if it keeps the riff raff out. We give in to the social Darwinism yet again without murmur, the perpetuation of unfairness in society marching on triumphant. Or perhaps it's just coincidence that all the clever people go to Eton, generation after generation of them.

The Liberals do us all a disservice by accepting Lord Browne's proposals without debate. The chance to examine how we got here has been trumped yet again by the need to act immediately. And not a Tory in sight.

Friday, 8 October 2010

On Blogs

As you get into this Blog business you realise that some people out there are blog happy. Are they frustrated authors? Are they authors? Most people I know have time to squeeze in The Inbetweeners before falling asleep on the sofa with the kid's packed lunch still unmade.

Nick Robinson, that masterly observer of the modern game of tabloid reported politics, gets paid for it so fair do's. Apostrophe in do's? Many of the other blogs I've toured have no such excuse, they're just out there filling in the hours they've rescued from the demands of life. To be fair, most of them seem to have readers and therefore need to keep going for fear of being seen as impulsive, unlike myself. I'm impulsive, but, you know, four followers is less than my band got on a wet thursday after Christmas. No one would notice if I gave up and those of you good enough to have become followers might justifiably sigh with relief.

But its good for my soul. Someone once wrote that we have forgotten how to disagree and I don't disagree with that. In the days when I willingly went door to door selling the LibDem message (about six months ago) I took comfort in the fact that I stood for something rather than hid from everything and I'm hoping this blog will give me the same rosy glow. I believe it's important to stand up and bare a small part of your soul to random friends and strangers - it shows you're for something, not against everything.

Blogs, it seems, may well have replaced the pub. Or it may be Facebook or Twitter. I learn't many a lesson in a pub. Before the advent of the internet the pub offered a forum to discuss opinions, a public place where friends gathered and exchanged views. You can't do that in the pub so easily now, unless its the local, no music, meat raffle on Friday pub where the old gimmers hang out. The pub has had its soul stolen, its purpose perverted.

So those of you wondering why I started this blog a) read the first post and b) think of the good it does me and my fellow bloggers. Convinced I have something to say in a world often moving too fast to listen, the blog lets me stand up to be knocked down and gives me the rolling arguements to shape my soul, antagonise my friends and work out my allegiance. It might do the same for you?

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Red Ed?

I thought it best to let the soap opera run its course (as if) before thinking about where the election of Ed Miliband leaves me. Apparently it leaves the Tories weak with laughter. The BBC told me that one, chummily reporting as fact the prevailing view that Labour have lost their best chance to bounce back by rejecting the elder Miliband. Ed might be a nice guy, but he's naive, leftish, in the pocket of the unions and wholly unknown to the electorate.

For those of us interested in the outcome, the effect of the press, condescendingly nice, has been unsettling. Suddenly, the last port in the austerity storm looks a bit feeble. We Liberals are used to this. Voters may have liked the Liberal Democrats, they might even have preferred them over the others, but they wouldn't like to actually give them power. Like allowing Brian Clough to become England manager, it's best left in the 'what if?' category. As a paranoid Liberal, every day saw the little dig designed to keep us down, the broadsheets joining in the tabloid game of keeping up the sterotype. We were simply too nice, well meaning and do goody to be trusted with anything but a few councils.

Now Labour are going to get the treatment. Murdoch and his ilk will build up David Miliband, praise the work of Blairite ministers and express regret that their day has passed. The BBC, which has so much influence over how many of us think, because we think it strives to be impartial, will report the news we don't read. It will tell us what the papers say. It will make us think about the origins of smoke. It will worry us.

Those of you familiar with Michael Haneke's Funny Games will know that the premise of the film is that violence is violence whether its real or simply portrayal. The audience is seeing what happens, knowing its not real but being confronted with the idea that it perhaps doesn't matter that its not real. The reporting of something becomes as powerful as the thing itself.

So, too, with Ed Miliband. The accepted truth becomes fact whether it is or not. David is the clever one, the leader, the saviour of Labour. Ed was a nice idea who tricked his way, or had someone else trick his way, into first place. We are all unsettled, we liked the idea but do we like the fact? The small group of press barons who claim (when it suits them) to hold the power of government in their grubby hands don't have to attack Ed Miliband, they just have to do what everyone in the media has been doing to the Liberal party for 50 odd years, they just have to sow the seeds of doubt.

Don't be swayed dear Etherons. Ed Miliband is clever and erudite and is trying to be inclusive. David Miliband was pretty similar but he had baggage. His speech at conference wasn't some miracle oration  too late to save the day, it was simply an OK speech from a clever politician who will be deeply missed but who wont be irreplaceable. Hats off to the way he's retained his dignity and made the right move. He'll be back, he'll be helping but Ed is the immediate future and I'm still thinking of jumping ship.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Comment and Debate

I notice Joanthan Freedland in the Guardian has taken up my theme, taken it up even before I announced it. In the Wednesday edition he wrote "Mocking the Lib Dems will bring easy laughs - and suits Cameron. The Tories are the real enemy, cuts the real battleground" (are you allowed to quote people in Blogs? Don't sue Jonathan, you take my idea, I'm relaxed about it). He says more of the same here

He comes up at it from a different angle but basically argues that the Ogrons are the fall guys, drawing the Labour fire while the Tories get on with quietly changing the country to suit their backers and/or themselves. I'm personally struck by how little David CAmeron is in the news, how totally free from the brickbats he remains. What does he do all day? Rub his hands with glee I suppose. Or perhaps he's just busy with the young 'un.

Finally - Digby Jones. Simply vile. His patronising comments on Vince Cable's speech (basically suggesting Uncle Vince needs to decide whether he wants to be a Liberal MP or a Government minister) catapult him to the top of my List of Disdain, the fluffier cousin of the Hate List. I'm aware this is a rant rather than a paragraph, and he probably speaks very highly of me, but how has this self publicist gained a veneer of respectability?

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Austere Truth

So Nick Clegg has made his speech and aimed a few jibes in my direction. Not intentionally, I admit I'm not high on his list of adversaries, but he's made a few things crystal clear to me and my fellow whingers.

Firstly, it would seem that those sympathetic to the Labour view on the national debt (which I vaguely recall being the old Liberal Democrat view on the national debt) have been identified as refugees from the old Labour party, finding temporary succour in the arms of a real centre left party. I have some sympathy with his view but can't but help feel he insults me and other life long members of the Liberal party. I understand the coalition was always going to be hard work, a gamble forced on Clegg by a confused and worried electorate. My complaints lie in the difference between the views of the coalition and the views of the Tories. I can't get a cigarette paper between them. I simply can't see how we would have been worse off with a single ruling Conservative party.

Nick Clegg concentrated on the dire state of the economy and used it to justify most of his actions, trotting out the same platitudes his elders and betters use. We know Labour left us with an economy in tatters, at least I do. I don't blame global events, I blame the Labour party fair and square. OK with you Nick? But what was it the Labour party did to bring about this state of affairs? Where is the discussion on cause rather than the easy one on blame?

The Tories seem clear. They blame Big Government and Gordon Brown's obsession with micro-management. I suspect they concentrate on Mr Brown to deflect attention from Blair, the old Cameron, who presided over a credit filled boom based, by and large, on the free market economic dreams of the Tory right. Like Thatcher before them, Brown and Blair stoked the fiscal fires by burning the forests more quickly than they could grow replacements. I believe they used the money raised as wisely as they could but the billions that left the country, and the reliance on the financial sector, took its toll.

David Cameron, using the theories of his irritating chum Phillip Blond, claims we need a Big Society, a community of volunteers. I don't mind the idea of the Big Society but none of the Tory policies seem to have anything to do with it. They want small government like all right wing parties and if you have small government you need Big Society, its a matter of emphasis. Small government is the ideological Utopia, Big Society the instrument to disguise its importance.

My Liberal Democrat party didn't like the small government plan, they saw through its vested interest. Support of the indivdual to live his or her life without injuring the rights of others, thats what I thought we believed in. So when Nick Clegg peppers his speech with the accepted truths of his Tory backers, he plays the Ogron to their Daleks and he cheats the country of the open debate on economic theory that we really need.

Yeah I know, I'm a dreamer. But think about what we're getting - and here I should declare I'm a public servant - the advance of extreme right wing policies based on the already right wing policies that have got us here in the first place. In a nutshell, saving money on services, at the expense of PAYE tax payers circulating money within the local and national economy, without addressing wealth creation or raising revenue through taxation.

Tottenham have drawn level against Arsenal. I probably need to concentrate on that. Until next time....

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The New Ogrons

Remember Dr Who in the 70s? Fabulous. In every sense of the word. But with CGI yet to be invented, the Daleks were left with a few awkward navigation problems. The Beeb put its heads together and came up with low budget mobile servants for the king of baddies, sort of walking missing links able to grunt and commit senseless murder - The Ogrons.

Given their mobility, their effortless ascent of stairs and ladders, these football hooligans from outer space claimed more than their fair share of screen time, strangely enhancing the menace of their metal masters waiting for episode 2 to reveal themselves. The Ogrons stumbled and threatened their way round the earthlings, gaining a bad reputation without reward or motivation.

The surprising thing about the Ogrons, well, one of the most surprising things about the Ogrons, is that the web has enabled worthy followers to create a whole back story to their existence. These cheap Dalek thugs had a 'life', a civilisation before becoming guns for hire. They lived and presumably loved, evolved and colonised, made friends and fought enemies until, powerful, yet still unable to communicate properly, they came to be known by the bad things of deep space as a reliable sidekick. Ask no questions, pay no mind to ambition, accept no worthy fee, the Ogron spirit is yours to subjugate.

Which brings me on to my party, the much pilloried, worthy, do-goody Liberal Democrats. A party with its own existence long before the Boy Cameron saw a silver spoon. Like the Ogrons they beavered away on the outer fringes and like the Ogrons they suddenly became the acceptable face of darker forces, willingly carrying the can for the evil things done in someone elses name.

So I'm doing what any sane Liberal Democrat Dr Who fan would do. I'm starting a blog. I want to learn about blogs, I want to remember the early days of Dr Who when baddies didn't have such weird ambitions of conquering time and space (just a little planet in the Milky Way is all we want guvnor)  but most of all I want to find out why the Liberal Democrats are so hell bent on giving so much, for so little, for the benefit of so few. Was I really a Labour man all along, blinded by my dislike of all things Blair or is there hope for me and the Lib Dems to bury the hatchet and crack open the ginger beer sometime next parliament?

I want to take in political and economic thought, current events, Liberal Democrat movers and shakers and I want to decide, by April 2011, whether to send that £30 to renew my membership. For the most part I'm going to be doing that by myself, blogging into the ether. But if anyone out there has any ideas, I'm open to persuasion. I think.

Ooh look, its the Liberal Democrats conference, This should be fun........