Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005

Thursday, April 28, 2005


And this infernal machine has only gone and done it again. I cannnot quite believe it. I'm giving up and going to have a nice strong mid-afternoon cuppa before I get cut off again. Back later. Grrrr....

More sound stuff on schools going down well with the audience.

I will go back afterwards and do the bit I missed - looks like it may have been fairly key, being about immigration, war and lying!

Sound economics, Howard sounds like he's got what he'd do cracked. You certainly can't doubt he wouldn't get to grips with the job.

Damn computer has begun overheating and turning itself off. I've missed the middle chunk of what, as a political junkie, could have been my highlight of the year. Oh balls. Did manage to see Kennedy contradict himself over coalitions in Scotland though. Thought he seemed blustery and didn't go down too well. He was pretty opportunistic but probably made the right noises for enough people...

Howard, from the snippets I've managed to get so far, looks much much smoother and a comparative breath of fresh air (for me at least). Probably making it look too easy though, as some people will interpret it as playing a game.

So, it's wrong to have any means testing, therefore even those who can afford to go to university whilst paying fees should get it free. Then in the next breath it's right to means test in Scotland and charge students who can afford it to subsidise those who can least afford it. Weasel words and Liberals trying to have it both ways yet again.

The Conservatives can't win, yet in the same breath Mr Kennedy says there is a long way to go and the LibDems could become the opposition. Eh? Aren't the Tories closer to Labour than Liberals to the Tories? Oh, just more "honest politics"...

Liveblogging the Question Time leaders debate

Just enjoyed seeing Champagne Charlie getting a pretty dicky welcome for his local income tax plans. The big question he has to answer is what would have happened to Saddam if we hadn't gone in. Just saying "he might have gone anyway" isn't good enough. If he did want Saddam to go he has to say whether he would have done something about it (if so, what) or whether he'd have left him there.

Likewise this latest about not giving troops even if the administration wants them there really does show coherence and, dare I say it, opportunism.

Update from FOX News

Further to my post about the FOX News website the day before yesterday, the network has risen back up somewhat in my estimations by getting in touch. Here is the full text of an email I received just now:

Thank you for writing.

The story to which you are referring was written by the Associated Press and no doubt appeared in hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- of news outlets throughout the U.S.

I am forwarding your letter to the editors at the AP. If they offer a correction, we will be certain to run it on our Web site.
Steve Bromberg Executive Editor

Even if he didn't email me himself, it's great that such a senior figure is taking some direct & personal interest in editorial accuracy. Let's hope they get it sorted out!

However, this is yet further damnation of the relative insignificance of our elections across the wider world. Even the sporadic coverage received from FOX News doesn't even involve them writing their own stories on it!

Shock, horror

Recent news that the public find boring news stories about how Edna Greaves, a 51 year old undecided voter from Southend, finds the coverage boring has prompted a radical rethink amongst media circles. The new strategy focuses on boring coverage about how boring statistics show how boring the coverage is (rather than how boring "real people" find it), and poses the radical question about what politicians can do to halt this slide into boredom.

Hugh Dullard, deputy assistant interactivity producer at BBC News 24 told us that " we need to find new ways to connect with people in order to make things even more boring and seem even more distant except to those few who are interacting (surely "reconnect people with the political process"? Ed.). People have had enough with the bad old days of politics when we used to broadcast serious debate on issues of high policy between the people who could be deciding on that policy in a few weeks time. What they want are really dull interviews with really dull people on how dull programmes has nothing to do with their dull lives. That way we can stop thinking about real, quality programmes and knock off early to get down the pub."

Michael Buerk said "Zzzzzzzzzzzzz...."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Dumb America?

I've normally been quite annoyed at the sneering against Fox News which goes on in some quarters who see it as Bush's puppet. Their coverage of the UK General Election today strikes new lows, however, with this gem:

"British voters vote not for individual candidates, but for political parties. Several prime ministers have stepped down in "mid-term" to be replaced by other leaders from their parties."

Really? News to me... Surely an even cursory glance at some wiki on the web could have made it clear to the numbskulls on their foreign affairs desk that this is complete rubbish.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The power of the family

Now, the last thing I want to do is sound like a right-wing evangelist or nutjob, but I actually found this story most heartening. In fact, in an odd sort of way, it made my day. It is about a Peruvian girl, Gracia, with a seriously ill mother, who offered to sell her virginity in order to raise money. Her mother is too sick to work and she does not want her 12-year-old brother to miss school. She felt the burning need to help provide for them and resolved to try to do it in the only way she could see. So far, so horrendous. What cheered me was not this sad tale of deprivation, or the bleeding heart lines which follow it on the link, but the two events which stopped her, in the end, surrendering her virginity for money.

A Canadian man offered her $1.5 million, but Gracia recalled him saying "He said he'd prefer I didn't do it, but if I was going to do it with anyone, it should be with someone who treated me right and I think he knew his bid wasn't going to be topped. He was really happy when I said No."

Then, her mother's counsel persuaded her otherwise. "Mum lives with me 24 hours a day, and respects my decision because I am an adult. But she was giving me advice, and explaining how my life might be if I did this: What example would I give my children, what kind of man would accept me with this past, would it make me happy, this money? Obviously it's a necessity, but it's not everything, it's a bad necessity and it made me realise that this money wasn't going to make me happy, I could make myself happy with my own merits."

Absolutely. This just shows the power of living in an open, honest and respectful family. This girl was a woman in her own right, able to make her own decisions, but her mother counselled and she listened. Who said that power was all corrupting? At least it's not when we have people and structures like this still.

Democracy - EU style

A fascinating piece put together by Richard North and Christopher Booker (with whom I have the privilege of being acquainted) on democracy and transparency EU-style. No wonder those accounts ain't got audited...

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Happy Saint George's Day

The Paxman interviews

Just a quick thought having watched Howard-Paxman on the internet. If you compare the end of the interviews of all the three party leaders, it is only Michael Howard who visibly chats with Jeremy Paxman in a relaxed way. The other two seem to sit there fairly awkwardly and silently while the credits roll, although there is a debonaire flick of the neck from our Prime Minister. Could it be Mr Howard is actually a fairly pleasant chap in person?

Overall I thought it was a pretty good performance from Michael Howard. He seemed confident, able to defend his policies and position in a competent way, and able to defuse the Paxman bile charismatically. Meanwhile, I am pondering the possibility of a backlash-backlash, against the people propelled into trying to lynch the Tories over immigration...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Universal free NHS care my foot.

I was going to discuss an excellent piece by Laban Tall on the levity of the UK "criminal justice system" but was distracted by a much more worthwhile and harrowing tale linked to here. Baby Charlotte Wyatt was deemed by the court not to be deserving of medical treatment, despite her parents' desperate desire for her to continue to live. This really makes a mockery of Labour's supposition that we have a genuinely free NHS which offers universal treatment solely on the basis of need. The NHS clearly doesn't. It makes Gordon Brown's weak assertion that "all our children are precious" seem like a slighty vile comic irony. They clearly aren't.

"Because she would likely never have the chance to run and play like other children, doctors decided that it was in her best interest to let her die.It is chilling to read thier words in last year's trial. Her quality of life was judged "terrible and permanent" and she was written down as blind and deaf, with no feeling other than pain. The doctors said she had no hope for a future, and would never live beyond infancy. The sooner the end came, the better, for she was best off dead.Her parents disagreed. They knew their little girl like no one else could, and in the words of Darren, her father: "you can't just throw [her] away like a bad egg and say you will have a different egg." "

What an horrendous parody of our health system. Those who most need the care are deemed to be undeserving. All our children are precious, apart from those deemed to be substandard.

Most harrowing of all is the story of somebody who was in the same position but who is know living well. Baroness Chapman of Leeds may not be alive today if this approach had always been the case. That ought to put things in perspective - and maybe knock Gordon Brown and Tony Blair off their assumed moral high ground.

Oborne's thinking what I was blogging

Peter Oborne is spot on in the latest Spectator:

“[B]eyond 5 May, the Tory Party needs to make the case for what it believes. There is a long intellectual battle to be fought, and great arguments to be had about the nature of the state, about the future of public services, and about British identity. None of those arguments is being heard in this general election because British politicians are ashamed to make them. If the Tories could learn to campaign with passion, they might not just save themselves; they could even save British democracy”

This is very true, but they need to be careful not to do so in a foaming-at-the-mouth, let-us-keep-our-money way. They need to passionately set out how everyone can and should benefit from Conservatism and show some heart towards people and towards the fight.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

To spin or not to spin...

From Tony Blair's campaign diary (not a spoof!):

I could tell the minute I arrived at our hotel in Birmingham yesterday that I was not exactly the star attraction. The autograph hunters were there for Kylie who is currently on tour in Britain. It meant I was struggling to get the best out of my team who kept wandering off to join the groupies hanging around for a glimpse of Kylie. My press team were all singing “I'm spinning around.” Only they weren't.

No, Alastair Campbell was nowhere to be seen...

For the love of God, no!

Now the last thing I want to do during an election campaign is dredge up a storm of speculation about what happens to the Conservative leader after the results are out, but I found these comments today by Derek Conway somewhat unnerving.

"While Mr Conway's remarks indicate that he is not holding his breath for a Tory victory, he is happy with the direction of the campaign. A strong believer in lower taxes, he said the Tory right was prepared to accept the party's election pledge to cut taxes by a modest £4bn.
"It is like 1974 and 1979. The electorate weren't ready for trade union reform in 1974. By God, they were gagging for it by 1979. Howard's calculation is right: that the electorate is not ready yet for a radical tax cutting agenda. But I think they will be by 2009.""

Mr Conway is seen by many as David Davis' sidekick, saying the things Mr Davis would like to say but daren't. Now I am far from a Davis fan, but find these noises deeply unnerving. It is a clear sign Davis wishes to take over before the next election, but I find it worrying such noises are being made now, because I believe by far the best way forward is for Howard to see out at least 18 months and manage a smooth handover to the next leader (and preferably not Mr Davis). My big fear is that we see David Davis, who so intelligently kept out of the leadership wrangling in 2003, stimulate another bout of internecine warfare the day of the general election.

What the Tories need to do for power

This article in the Guardian today really wound me up. The headline was "Labour contrasts family-friendly policies with Tory subsidies for private schooling". Let's get a few things straight. That is a lie. There is not "subsidies for private schooling". There is payment for education provision in the same way that state schools get paid. After the downright duplicitous and false "Tories want charges for the NHS" campaign (they don't) they are trying to paint Conservative education plans as an offensively elitist policy focussed only on the wealthy. Now, you may not like the plan, you may not think it will work well or improve schools. You might think it will be a disaster. Nevertheless Labour seems to be succeeding in painting it as motivated by the worst possible desires, as they have done with Conservative plans since '97.

This, then, is the real challenge for any election-winning Conservative party. They need education and health policies which they can and will defend as motivated for helping all, but, most importantly, for helping all achieve their potential. They need to have eloquent spokesmen in the key portfolios who can come out as soon as a smear attempt such as this is launched and deliver clear rhetoric about what they will actually do. Until that time then public perception of the party is going to, largely, remain as a group of self-interested, wealthy bastards. I just do not believe that is the case, but so long as Labour can marginalise the Conservatives as self-interested they won't be able to appeal sufficiently to the voters they need for power. The great question for me though is why they haven't been more assertive about this now? The policy isn't fantastic (as Blimpish said yesterday its features are great, but they need to sell on benefits) but can be framed in terms of clear benefits.

Quite simply, the education policy will tackle the current situation whereby good education is ensured by wealth more than anything else. If you can afford private school fees, you get a good education. If you can afford to move house to a good catchment area, you get a good education. If you can afford private tutoring from teachers who teach during the day at top or private schools then you get a good education. Who doesn't get a good education? Those bright children, those children with distinctive skills from poor backgrounds whose parents cannot afford private fees and who cannot afford to move house or to move away from their job. They are stuck in sink schools which are propped up. The Conservative plan would allow these children the opportunities which at the moment only money can buy - the opportunity to go to the best school possible. All children will have opportunities which at the moment are not open to the best, merely to the wealthy. That is an expansion of opportunity greater than anything Labour, who abolished the assisted place fund, has put on the table for education in eight whole years.

But do the country know this? Have the Conservatives advertised and pushed this? Here is their great failing. Yes, it would allow Labour to paint them as allowing rich people not to pay for private schooling, but Labour are doing this anyway. Isn't it madness to take the hits without punching back? Until the Tories can stand up and defend their policies in terms which all can surely, at least, find superficially attractive then they won't regain power. This is the change which must take place post-2005 for them to win. What it requires first, however, is that the party rediscovers its self-belief. I believe that is the one most important thing which the Howard campaign is achieving.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Hold tight Howard; the road is long and you've seen the next winding turn

The Conservative campaign, according to the polls at least, seems to be faltering. Many may panic at this, but I don't see it as a major cause for concern. A clear win is out of the question. The challenge is getting into the position whereby 2009/10 is a serious shot. Whatever happens, I believe that Howard's professionalism and the institutional changes he has affected within the party give the Conservatives a real shot at winning that one outright. What's more I also believe that a lot of "under the radar" campaigning in key areas will reap dividends come this election day. As such Howard must hold his nerve and stay the race. The, already planned, announcements on tax will help and the television appearances coming up will help convey the image of competency the party needs. I am still standing by the betting market predictions of an 80-90 seat Labour majority.

Most importantly what I hope this result will offer is a time for genuine thematic renewal within the Party. That hasn't happened and cannot happen mid-campaign. The guerilla tactics must continue, even though Mark Steyn's analysis is correct. A reassessment and restatement to the public of what the values of the Party are and what a Tory Britain will really look like. They can do this, and they will have the personnel for a new era to really connect with Britain. The challenge is to change people's perceptions. The first barrier is to seem competitive. If Howard keeps his nerve, and maintains the smell of fear which currently exudes from the Labour camp, then he will have achieved this. The next stage is to prepare the ground for that renewal and the leader/team who can best communicate it.

We know they promise black will be white...but now negative is positive

As I blogged yesterday, the "hohnest pohlitics" rubbish of 'Champagne Charlie' is just that - rubbish.

Here is a small sample of press releases from the two days around their manifesto launch to show just how negative can be positive in a world that is yellow! Their claim to be above the fray and uniquely positive really is laughable. Rubbish. Absolute tripe.

“It is frankly bizarre for the Conservatives to be complaining about Council Tax revaluation when they are committed to carrying out a revaluation themselves. “The Conservatives invented Council Tax, they still believe it is fair, and they have no plans to reform it. It is deceitful to pretend otherwise. “They are deliberately misleading the voters about the Liberal Democrat position.

“The James Report is implausible in key areas and therefore undeliverable. As a result the Conservative spending commitments cannot be taken seriously by anyone. "The Conservatives have a hidden agenda for Government

“The Tories pretend they’re going to solve the Council Tax crisis, but the truth is they're going to make it worse. “Michael Howard brought in Council Tax, and now his Party wants to increase it. It’s time to scrap the unfair Council Tax and replace it with a fair system based on ability to pay.”

"The Tories do not deserve to run Britain’s economic policy. Tory spending plans are simply not credible. They are based on the James Review, which has time after time been proven to be implausible and unachievable.”Then come the insults: all positive campaigning without fearmongering though....

“This is the economics of the madhouse and would destabilise our entire education system.

“Using public money to subsidise private schools is a chilling reminder of the Tory party’s utter disregard for the state education system and should remind all voters where their priorities truly lie, with the privileged few rather than the average British family.”

"International Affairs specialists will dismiss this part of the Tory programme as risible.

"The Tories are trying to disguise their hidden agenda on Council Tax [which justifies massive and unjustified scaremongering...]the truth is they are planning Council Tax hikes of 10% to fill their spending black hole and a nationwide revaluation that would land up to 7 million families with higher bills. The Tories invented Council Tax, and now they're going to make it worse.”

What positive stuff! I hope they enjoyed p***ing from that moral high ground...but there's more:

“The Tories clearly don't want to talk about transport, incredible given that it is one of the policy areas where Labour have clearly failed to deliver. Their record means they have every right to be embarrassed, so no wonder that their main proposal in this area, on speed cameras, panders to their boy racer instincts.”

Calling Tories boy racers; that's what the country wants from its politicians.

"When it comes to the environment there’s nothing more toxic than a Tory.”

If only all politicians were as refreshingly positive as this... Given that this is two days worth of "positive" and "honest" politics doesn't it make this latest tripe from Kennedy make you want to puke?

Charles Kennedy:
"We're going to address people's hopes, not play on their fears. We're going to be the positive force for good in this general election"

Can any Liberal sympathisers out there honestly put their hand on their heart and say that the stuff I've quoted here, from just two days worth of press releases, makes the Liberals above the fray?

DISCLAIMER: I know at least one regular reader who will be annoyed by this. Nevertheless, I do feel that if the Liberals believe their own hype about "three party politics", then this sort of stuff has to be flagged up.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Kennedy's foibles

Over at Militant Moderate there has been a big debate raging between the two contributors over Charles Kennedy's gaffes at the Liberal Manifesto launch. Whatever the impact of that cock-up my opinion of Mr Kennedy and, indeed, the LibDems has taken another plummet this week. Simply put, Charles Kennedy is not a serious political player. He may pick up votes through the Liberals' typical "cuddly but fake" tactics but I think he has an inherent glass ceiling. The key is how the others can woo support back.

A prime example is Jeremy Paxman's interview with Charles Kennedy in which he took apart the many contradictions of the Lib Dem platform and their hypocrisy whenever they have a scent of power. I think you can catch it through this link. He fantastically shows up their hypocrisy in "power" and the inherent contradiction between their proper-Liberal noises and their social democratic action. Perhaps they should come clean!

My greatest bug bear is and has always been the horrifically irritating assertion that they are the only party who are concerned with "hohnest pohlitics" and the only ones who will strive for "positive campaigning". The fact is they are just as negative as the other parties but just spin it by banging on about how they are holier than everyone else. It's time that this pissing from the assumed moral high ground was shut down for good. Again, the challenge is how the others can show the unsuspecting voter how false it all is.

More to follow on this tomorrow...

Back again, New Orleans this time

Hi - I'm back after a trip to New Orleans. I had a truly fantastic time, had a great photo of me holding an alligator and loved the jazz. Whilst sorting out postcards I decided the extent to which the US is much more geared up to internet/electronic use than at home in the UK is one of the great pleasures of living over here. I've had my problems with the US Postal Service over the last twelve months (not least in the Tour de France) but it is so easy to print labels online, find out costs online and do no end of tasks which we end up driving or walking to a post office for!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The rapid rebuttal unit over at Militant Moderate swung into action almost as soon as I'd posted yesterday - so a hat tip to them.

Laban has a thought-provoking piece on Longbridge and the Rover administration. I hope to come back to this shortly but, I do have sympathies with him about what happens to the people who are left on the scrap heap, so as to speak. Whatever happens we must do more to ensure those who lose out of this are offered new opportunities.

For now though, you may enjoy this triumphant jingoism fresh from the US of A! Then again, you may well not...

Friday, April 08, 2005

Welcome to Wonderland

Richard, a good friend of mine seeks to attack the notion of opposing ever greater funding for public services over at Militant Moderate after my post yesterday suggesting it wasn't a sensible panacea for all ills.

"Here are my two 'leftist' (I would say 'non-rightist') assertions:
More money = better public services = tax cutting intrinsically undesireable
Good reform = better public services = identifying good reform desireable

Finding the balance of taxation so that our free market economy functions handily is the essential brake on the first, but I really don't think the current levels of taxation are economically oppressive. Certainly, the idea that once you improve a service's practices, you can slash its budget, rather than reinvest that budget in more nurses, more police officers, more teachers, seems ridiculous to me.

In waving the flag of reform as a key to tax-cutting, Ed is sugaring the bill of Tory service cuts very intelligently. However, I simply cannot see his base assumption that you can reform as an alternative to spending, rather than as a way of making every pound more efficient. I consider myself a liberal, in the British sense, so I am all in favour of retrenchment of the state in functions it should not be doing. But when the state, rightly, takes up the burden of health care, surely it should do it well- and that requires both efficiency (via reform to find best value) and proper funding for staff. Every pound you save through reform should be plowed into those extra public servants, not my tax bill, when we're doing fine as it is.

A 'leftist' ideological commitment to unlimited increases in taxation and public expenditure is naive doctrinal blinkeredness. Yet I see little different in a 'rightist' ideological commitment to reduce expenditure. Surely the first job is to define what the state should do; work out what it will cost to do it well, and the best practice for delivering it; and then temper it with efficacy of taxation (e.g: that 90% tax rate will actually be economically stupid). To begin from the point of 'find £x billion cuts' is ridiculous, when the money saved from reforms needs to be shifted to more frontline public servants."

Now there are a number of problems with this basic position, and I shall try to refrain from minor snipes at the slips in the piece. What matters is quality and level of service. The raw money which is spent is quite irrelevant to how well one is running public services. More money doesn't automatically mean better services, nor is it a sensible plan for the future of the service, with the depressing effect of a greater tax take on the economy and future tax revenues. Obviously, however, you need sufficient money to pay for the requisite number of personnel and requisite infrastructure.

The problem comes when the service isn't performing as well as one might like. Too often the "left", or the "not right", or whatever you want to call them, assume that the only thing holding back improvements must be that there is not enough money and that money can solve all the problems. Before you go to get more money, however, it must be necessary to ensure that all the money you currently have is being spent wisely. You have to ensure that you have accountability, efficiency and value for money in a system which is best designed to deliver the goals you want. Arsene Wenger is not going to be given a windfall for new players unless he shows that he really cannot work within the current wage structure and that David Bergkamp et al are in no way deadweight.

What Richard fails to highlight is that reform is spending. It is spending more taxpayers money on frontline processes which will deliver them what the taxpayers want. It is spending more money on things the country want money spent on rather than things bureaucrats and civil servants want money spent on or decide to spend money on.

The great problem with anything other than great caution in relation to increasing government expenditure through increased tax take is that it quickly erodes any responsibility to be thrifty, wise and cautious with spending taxpayers' money. It is easier to reach for more of somebody else's money than to take tough operational decisions about your department. Taking more money through tax becomes a panacea for solving everything - and one which seems not to have a limit either. Where do we stop? The fact is that before we take somebody else's money - which is, after all, what taxation is - we must be sure we will spend it properly and wisely and give the country that value back. You can be sure that when people spend their own pound they make damn certain they get at least a pound of value back. People don't give away value freely in their everyday lives - why should they be forced to through the tax system?

In order to believe in this though you need to have concern at dipping into that bottomless pot which is the taxpayers' money. You need to appreciate that taxation is actually taking other peoples' money and saying you know better than them how to spend it. Yes, it is necessary to carry out this undesirable act to ensure we live in the moral and just society we all want. It is also necessary to be cautious about the idea and to do so only where necessary. Where it is not necessary to spend money for the current service and where the country doesn't get £1 in value back for £1 taken then to take peoples' money is truly immoral. To take peoples' money under threat of imprisonment endows one with a serious responsibility.

Yes, some on the right become obsessed with reducing tax for the sake of it and for any cost. They are wrong. There is a role for taxation. Nevertheless, despite that minority, I know that many of those who Richard seeks to tag as "ideologically blinkered" are not committed to reducing taxation come what may. They are committed, quite rightly, to taking as little as possible for those goals we want to achieve, and for ensuring before it is taken that it is spent wisely. This is the only way the public can get value for money.

Richard asks when should the flag of reform be waved as a key to tax cutting? It should be waved when the same service can be provided, post reform, for less tax than the other party would take. It should be waved when the public have a clear choice to have less of their own money taken for no loss. Then lower tax can and most certainly should be promoted. Then it becomes a choice between which of the plans for management is most convincing.

At the root of this all lies a key question, however. Do you think that where possible Government should not take peoples' money? Or do you think that the Government has a right to peoples' money so therefore ought to take more while it can? Despite his rhetoric about being a liberal I see very little desire from Richard for the state only acting where necessary. Any real liberal must surely ask whether any given level or type of public expenditure is good enough to exhaust the duty of trust owed to the person from whom it was taken, to outweigh the wrong of taking what belongs to someone else. Useless public expenditure, or public expenditure which returns no gain or has a negative effect cannot ever justify money being taken by threat of coercion. For this reason we must exercise caution and be certain that greater taxation is the only way. So where reform can be carried out and savings can be made we have a moral duty to return those savings to the people from whom the money was taken unless there is a clear and sufficient return from alternative investments which can be made to justify its retention. We should also be entitled to ask why money wasn't being spent on that previously.

I should also point out that the Conservatives will spend just as much on healthcare and education as Labour. In key services there will be no difference or lesser expenditure. Money from reform will be ploughed back in. Richard's straw man does not stand. The problem is that too often the left, with little regard for the immorality of frivolous taxation, see more money as a solution to problems - with reform coming a close second. Let the Conservatives be proud to say they will only take other peoples' money through coercion when it is completely necessary. This was the point of my brief post. The first step is to show why the extra money is not needed. The second is to return it to its rightful owners.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Fight over for Flight's successor

I am delighted that Nick Herbert has been selected as the Tory candidate for Arundel. I have met him on a number of occasions and been hugely impressed. In fact, I was most impressed when he appeared in a debate on the motion "This House would Pay More Tax to Improve Public Services" at the Cambridge Union in 2003 - alongside both Michael Howard and John Redwood. I would hate to suggest any sort of conspiracy theory, but I do find it amusing that Mr Howard's leadership has seen Mr Redwood return to the front bench and now a way made for Mr Herbert to stand! I find it intriguing how prescient that debate was for the important issue which will resolve this election.

At the debate itself the three were consummate and hugely impressive - they really took the proposition apart. Key were two ideas though. Reform was vital before more spending; you do not "buy" improvements you make them. Second, that not throwing more money at a problem didn't necessarily involve slashing spending or taxation or having regressive standards in public service. I am hoping that we can see such engaging rhetoric and such a convincing performance in the next few weeks.

As I said below, the key will be how assertive the Tories can be about their economic plans. They have to confront and defeat the leftist assertion that more money alone = better public services = higher tax being intrinsically more desirable. Too often, however, those on the right bring a smaller state and lower tax to the table as a pre-requisite, before identifying how public services can be made better with less cash. Fortunately, Mr Howard has offered the leadership required on preventing this happening. Indeed, prior to the debate at the Cambridge Union he was loathe to agree to the motion due to the fears he could be misrepresented as opposing any extra expenditure - what was needed, of course, was reform first. To help achieve the change in perception which the Conservatives have to bring about having people like the Director of Reform in Parliament can only help.

IKEA or Camilla?

Princess Victoria of Sweden has snubbed Charles & Camilla's wedding - instead she is opening an IKEA in Japan! Ooh-err!

And they're off!

So the election has been called and the polls show the Tories threatening. At least we may have an interesting campaign now. The key will be, I believe, how assertive the Tories can be about their plans. They risk sounding too much like a Government, in terms of the detail of their proposals, yet lacking the automatic gravitas and extra trust which comes with being in power. Although I do have exams looming over the next few weeks I hope to be covering it as much as possible.

I was almost recruited as a blogger for the Today programme on Radio 4 - I got down to the final shortlist but heard just before the election was announced that I hadn't quite made it....that means my more limited readers here will get more personal feeback!

Back after a brief hiatus!