You would have thought that these would be uncontentious statements—after all, Labour (and especially Brown) has, without question, been a complete fucking disaster. The Labour Party has failed in all of the objectives that it claimed for itself—the government has not been "whiter than white"; despite vast increases in funding its policies on "education, education, education" have left us with a deeply uneducated workforce; Patsy Hewitt admitted that billions poured into the NHS had been wasted; thre has most definitely not been "an end to boom and bust"; the country has been pulled into three disastrous and illegal wars (the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq); social mobility has decreased; and the government is now spending about £150 billion more per year than taxes bring in.
And yet somehow—fuck knows how!—the Tories don't seem to be able to take a decisive lead.
The “people’s bonus” plan comes as a Sunday Times/YouGov survey today reveals that the Tories’ lead over Labour has slipped to the narrowest gap in more than a year.
The poll, the first in a series of weekly surveys which will be conducted between now and the general election, puts the Conservatives on 39%, down one point on January’s figure, and Labour on 33%, up two. The Liberal Democrats drop one point to 17%.
6%? That's fucking pathetic. How the hell have the Tories managed it and, more importantly for those who believe that they are the only ones who can save us from that Barbary Ape in Number 10, how the hell can they pull ahead?
In the Times, Dr Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute reckons that the Tories should focus on growing the economy.
Focus on growth. Don’t argue about cuts
The battle of the economists is a sideshow. We must urgently put money into entrepreneurs’ hands
Public spending does not stimulate growth. It merely takes cash from where investors think it will create mid and long-term returns and puts it where politicians think they will get the best short-term political return.
Indeed, maybe the right time to cut government spending is actually when things are bad, because government spending is inherently wasteful. In 2007, economists at the European Central Bank calculated that with a bit of tweaking, the Government could deliver exactly the same level of public services but with 16 per cent less spending. When the Government already takes nearly half the nation’s income, that saving would be a huge boost to struggling businesses all over the country.
This is a point of view, and it is one that Burning Our Money shares—although Wat Tyler feels that people are not going to realise just how bad things are until the storm actually breaks.
How can the Tory poll lead be collapsing? Or to put it another way, how can Dave be so ineffective at capitalising on Bean's disasters and offering a clear alternative?
There is a school of thought - to which Tyler has subscribed - that says we need to see the actual invasion before we'll be convinced. We need to see that much-trailed collapse in market confidence, complete with sterling plunge, huge hike in bond yields, and Darling frozen in the TV lights outside HMT.
But Tyler's now beginning to wonder. Would that actually do it? What if Comrade Bean held an immediate morale boosting parade in Red Square (as Stalin did in November 1941)? Comrade Mandelsonski nodding gravely by his side, he reminds us that such a moment of national destiny is no time for a lightweight novice from the PR industry flip-flopping all over the place.
He, the Great Helmsman, has learned from previous mistakes, he will now always listen to his generals, and he stands ready to form a government of national unity with Comrade Cleggomov and St Vincenzo. It is time for all True Patriots to set aside past differences, to rally to the flag, and to defend the Motherland!
It is this kind of approach that the Labour Party seems to be taking, as this interview with Douglas Alexander seems to suggest.
He said: "We must not allow the Tories to frame the election as a choice between status quo and change. What we want is a choice between two competing visions of the future."
Yes, Comrades: ignore the past and look forward to our Glorious Future!
And, in the meantime, everyone wonders what the fuck the Buttered New Potato is playing at. Part of the problem is that Cameron has had a charisma by-pass and this is allied with the fact that we have no real idea of what the Tories are planning to do. Where we do have an idea, e.g. school vouchers, the Conservative policy is seriously undermined by the fact that the Tories don't seem to understand why said policy works and, as a consequence, make it look shit, e.g. still controlling what and how schools teach.
The wife feels that the Tories should not, in fact, be concentrating on the money at all.
First, begin immediately to practise what you preach re: accountability, openness, responsiveness by operating the Conservative party according to these standards. The party is a large organisation very like a government; its own record on these matters will be viewed as an accurate predictor of how the Conservatives will run the government itself. So stop the stupid infighting about selection. Stop providing local associations with shortlists chosen by non-local party leadership. Sure, you might end up with a load of straight, white male PPCs as a result, but that won’t matter because you’ll have shown that you encourage localism and democracy within your own organisation, thus giving voters more confidence that you’ll encourage it across the nation when you’re in charge.
Second, announce everything you intend to do to protect or, if necessary, restore civil liberties. Without mentioning Labour, enumerate every piece of legislation you will repeal or amend to this end. Commit to destroying the NIR and ID cards, repealing the Coroners and Justice Bill, the Digital Economy Bill (if these things have passed), the Civil Contingencies Act, RIPA, etc. If you think a Bill of Rights is desired by the populace, produce a draft and circulate it. Invite suggestions, consultations, the contributions of legal experts, constitutional experts, and so on. Actually tell the country how you intend to ensure the restoration and protection of ancient and long-held liberties.
Then leave the money stuff for later. You’re the opposition party; you don’t have access to the information you need in order to make credible promises about finance. You don’t have access to the civil service brains in the Treasury who could explain the ins and outs of the budget and recommend cuts that wouldn’t affect ‘frontline services.’ You don’t even really know where the money comes from. So quit throwing around silly figures like £7 billion. Instead, reassure people that you are committed to responsible financial management and eliminating waste, and promise that one of your first, if not your actual first, undertakings in Government will be a thorough and completely open auditing of the country’s books, after which you will commit to responsible financial practices and put the budget back into the hands of Parliament as a whole – in which every expenditure, saving, tax cut, or tax rise will have to be approved by the legislature before you can implement it.
I tend to think that this would be a good approach—one of the worst failings of the Tories is that they have failed to bother building a coherent vision of what the country might look like under their stewardship.
One of Cameron's most terrible omissions has been his utter silence on civil liberties—apart from the ID Cards. For fuck's sake, one of his own front bench resigned from his job and called a by-election on this issue!
The civil liberties issue is bound in tightly with the financial issue too, as Milton Friedman acknowledged.
I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible. The reason I am is because I believe the big problem is not taxes, the big problem is spending. The question is, "How do you hold down government spending?" Government spending now amounts to close to 40% of national income not counting indirect spending through regulation and the like. If you include that, you get up to roughly half. The real danger we face is that number will creep up and up and up. The only effective way I think to hold it down, is to hold down the amount of income the government has. The way to do that is to cut taxes.
Which is why I am so gutted that I was unable to attend a recent Adam Smith Institute event at which the Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, talked about his country's proposed Liberty Act. [Emphasis mine.]
However, the main function of the evening was for the President to outline plans for one of the most sensible pieces of legislation enacted since the United States' Constitution: The Liberty Act. This seeks to constitutionally enshrine the economic reforms pursued since the Rose revolution, by imposing a strict cap on the remit and size of any future government. Under the Act, government spending is not permitted to exceed 30% of GDP, while the budget deficit is capped at 3% and public debt at 60%. Price controls and state ownership of financial institutions are banned, and no new taxes or increase in tax rates can be imposed without a referendum.
One question in particular elicited a marvellous response. When asked why he was seeking to bind his successors, the President promptly replied, "I don't trust any government, including my own".
Which is an entirely excellent attitude to take: I don't trust any government either—it's just unusual to hear that any politician say so. Mind you, we British didn't spend fifty years living under the Communist jackboot—so we are merrily creating a British jackboot government all of our own.
But, to return to the issue at hand, I believe that there is one single issue outlined in that section above that would win the Tories the next election. Did you spot it? Yup, it's this bit...
... no new taxes or increase in tax rates can be imposed without a referendum.
There's your election-winning strategy right there, Cameron. But you won't deploy it, will you? No, that would severely limit your control over us all—as Uncle Milt pointed out.
As the wife pointed out in a later post (she's really much better at analysing and articulating these things than your humble Devil), the point is that the Tories and Labour really aren't that far apart.
The function of the Republican party in the United States and the Conservative Party in Britain is to disguise the fact that the country is ruled by what is essentially a one-party statist blob. Superficially, R/Cs may differ from Democrats/Labour on such issues as abortion, gay marriage, the role of family, etc – but the keen observer will notice that regarding all of these superficial issues, the solution on both sides is statist intervention of one form or another. Abortion – legal or illegal? Gay marriage – legal or illegal? Whatever the outcome, it will always be determined by some fiat legislation or judicial decree. Rarely does either side say, ‘Hey, these things are not for the government to decide.’
That, of course, is the function of the Libertarian Party—although we are constantly trying to juggle pragmatism and principle.
The trouble is that people do not seem to want to hear these arguments. The vast majority of comments concerning my party that I get are derogatory—they are all along the lines of "yeah? And how many votes will you get?" or "you aren't libertarian enough: I'm considerably more libertarian than yeeeeooow".
Rarely does anyone pop up to say "thank fuck that at least one political party is even thinking in this way" or "you might be wrong on this but I'd like to help you to form a practical policy on it".
It seems that even the libertarians floating around the blogosphere don't want a Libertarian Party (or not this or that particular one)—so why the hell should the Tories (let alone Labour) edge that way for the vast majority of the population who don't even claim to be libertarian?
So, the Tories will carry on tinkering at the edges and the political pendulum will keep swinging between Tories and Labour—sometimes one will win sometimes the other.
The only thing that is absolutely certain, no matter which one of those statist parties wins, is that the British people will lose—lose their money, lose their freedom, lose their pride.
It's a depressing thought.