The Dissenter's Voice

The ocassional comments, opinions, rambling and rants of a liberal dissenter in New Labour's Britain

Friday, September 29, 2006

Just how low can they go?

This govt just gets more & more absurd, fines for muggers? It's becoming parody of itself.

Just think about it - someone is mugged & the attacker makes off with £100 - they are nabbed by the police and fined on the spot for all the money they have - £100! Mmmmm, surely some mistake?

Though reid has distancd himself from the idea so intense is Labour's mania for populist stunts that it has infected the policy thinkers at the Home Office, so that they are coming up with this rubbish unprompted by Ministers. You just can't make it up.

It used to be that Labour would blame its populist whizzes on the Tories, that they had to be 'tough' because otherwise the Tories would outflank them and whip up hysteria - this week though John Reid abandoned that pretence. As David Cameron (whether sincerely or not), strike an appeal for more tolerance on immigration Labour now since to outflank the Tories on the right by denouncig them as soft on crime & immigration. And this man won a standing ovation at Labour's conference!

I shudder to think of the consequences if Reid succeed in his barely concealed ambition to replace Blair.W hat is the Labour party for? They have become a soulless empty electoral shell. Reid represents them at their worst but as a whole they have surely reached the end of the road. Blairs going makes no difference - we need all of them to go, and go now.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Looking to the future? - Part 1

Party conference season is here again and the LibDems are meeting in Brighton this week for their annual seaside jamboree. On the agenda are 2 key policy papers that will set the tone of the party's campaigning for the rest of this Parliament & the next general election.

One the tax paper is a bold an imaginative attempt to recast the party's tired tax & spend thinking. The other what was billed as a overarching policy review has turned into a damp squib that missees the chance to think new thoughts and instead settles for a tweaking of old policy positions.

There's been much coverage of the details of the tax paper, with its 'green switch' - cutting income tax while raising environmental taxation. The paper is far from perfect but it represents the party's first serious attempt to fund its liberal policies without stinging the middle class and therefore guaranteeing it will never have a chance to implement them.

Argument has mostly concentrated on the proposal to scrap the party's longstanding commitment to introducing a new 50% wealth tax on incomes over £100,000pa. This has been met with howls of dismay from some of those on the party's so called 'left'. Indeed the party's Science Spokesman, Dr Evan Harris, reprising his regular role as a poor man's Tony Benn, is proposing an amendment - keeping the tax and raising the threshold to £150,000.

This amendment represents a low point in the already threadbare intellectual arsenal deployed by the defenders of high taxation. The main argument used is that the party has to show that it remains committed to the cause of social justice. Well, of course no self respecting liberal could argue with that. However the amendment is completely redundant in achieving that end. It doesn't add anything to policy,it wouldn't raise significant amounts of extra funds (certainly not more than could be achieved by a reform & extension of Capital Gains Tax for instance), it's passage would drown out all coverage of the 'geen switch', it is simply being proposed so that we use our tax policy as a signal about what sort of party we are.

Well, it certainly would do that at least, but what sort of signal would it send? Not one about redistribution because tax paper's proposals are already more redistributive than the wealth tax policy, not one about the environment as it is obviously less environmentally friendly than the current proposals and clearly not one about finding new ideas for new challenges as this is a throw back to the failed formuals of the 1970s.

No the passage of this amendment would signal that the Lib Dems are simply not serious about ever attaining the power we need in order to implement our principles. This amendment is gesture politics of the worst sort, because it would be emntirely counter productive, by passing it it would make it less likely that we can win the seats we need in order to ever actually to anything in the first place.

Passing it would send a signal that we are more concerned with parading our consciences even though it means that we would be far less likely to ever have a chance to act on them.

Wealth is not just income but assets as well, and that a progessive 21st Century liberal party should be concerned about how those assts are used. The tax system should reflect that - the tax paper begins that progress the amendment tries to reverse it. I'll be in the conference hall on Tuesday voting for the LibDems to look to the future not the past and I hope the majority of other delegates will be too.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The return of eugenics

Mr Blair has finally lost the plot, in a last desperate effort to find a populist drum to beat before he is finally run out of town he has hit on the ultimate scapegoats - unborn children.

In his latest madcap rant on anti-social behaviour we are told that you can spot 'menace' kids before they are even born. By identifying problem families you can work out who are 'unsuitable' parents and provide them with 'help & assistance' in bringing up their children.

Who wouldn't be against help for people struggling to raise their children, put like that it sounds almost reasonable. Almost, but then you need to ask a few questions – who will do the identifying? Perhaps the local authority social services departments dominated by our old friends those Guardian reading, Labour voting, middle class lefties with bad 2:2 in Sociology who have been ruining lives for poor people for the last quarter of a century? What about the help, what shape will that take? Already we have dark threats that the state will take away the children of families that don’t control them properly, because we all know how well Council run children homes have served those children who managed to survive their tender care. And who will be the sort of people who get targeted? Well they won't be white, middle class barristers from Islington will they....

This is the same sort of wrong-headed nanny state mumbo-jumbo that we have come to expect from Blair & his tabloid army of collectivists, authoritarians & populists. We’ve gone from on the spot fines, to teen curfews and now we’ve reached ASBOs for the unborn - has anyone told SPUC? Even King Herod waited till the sprogs were actually born!

I’m afraid I have no confidence in the idea that the state will be a better parent than people. Instead of blaming the poor and means-testing them into penury why doesn’t this ‘Government’ give them the power to run their own lives, with control over the services they rely on, the financial means to make real choices and the responsibility for making their own choices about their lives and their family.

Blair has finally gone beyond parody – the Labour Party is a hollow rightwing election machine. It is devoid of principle, bereft of ideas, and needs to be put out of its, and our, misery. It is time to kiss nanny goodnight, say good bye Tony, Gordon & John and the rest of this increasingly appalling, wretched and clapped out shambles masquerading as a government.