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.