Liberty versus Multiculturalism — May 21, 2012

Liberty versus Multiculturalism

Well after the success of my last revision piece I’m going to do another. This is indulgence on my behalf, but to be blatantly honest, it beats writing boring past essay answers over and over again, and I got a lot of feedback and comments on Twitter because of my last post. Honestly, I didn’t expect my revision to fall into a Liberty versus. series, but hey ho!

Today, I’ll take a look at liberal principles and the problems of multiculturalism. As ever, any feedback (and it can be good!) is wanted.

Firstly, let me start with a disclaimer – *I think multiculturalism is a good idea* – bare that in mind, it may get a bit liberal ranty.

“Multiculturalism is a body of thought in political philosophy about the proper way to respond to cultural and religious diversity.” The response of many is that we must give people of a cultural or religious minority “group rights” which protect them from the tyranny of the majority. Will Kymlicka is one such proponent of group rights and takes a “liberal egalitarian” approach to the matter. He argues that by the accident of birth, people are born into minority cultural or religious groups, they make no choice and it is luck that places them in society. As a result, because they fall within a minority it is legitimate to grant them special protections and even to support affirmative action.

Yet this is completely ILLIBERAL. It is illiberal to grant minority groups affirmative action or special conditions solely because they are in the minority, in fact it is illiberal to grant them special rights for any reason. For example, to grant women group rights in selection quotas resulting in all women short-lists; or A-Lists for ethnic minorities adopted by the Conservative Party in the UK are illiberal. It denies the majority, who have done nothing wrong (except be born into the majority) the chance to participate, flying in the face of democracy and liberalism. It also denies voters the chance to actively participate, they are presented with an artificial choice. You simply cannot stick the word positive in front of discrimination and think that everything is rosy.

So where do we go from there?

Iris Young argues that universal citizenship cannot be sustained in a plural society. Plurality means that people are going to be different, therefore giving everybody equal rights undermines the rights of some groups.

Universality means:

i)                    Equal participation

ii)                  Leaves behind particularity and denies differences

iii)                 Indifferent treatment, law denies the needs of certain groups

Treating people who are different exactly the same is intolerant. Equality (wrongly) dominates difference. Surely we don’t want to live in an intolerant society whereby we treat people of different cultures exactly the same? Or do we…

We can break society down into the public and the private sphere. The public sphere is where Government operates, it tells you how much tax to pay, how long you have to go to school for etc. The private sphere is where the Government should have no control, for example what you wear, who you marry etc. Would we be a liberal society if we treated everybody the same in the public sphere? I think so. Chandran Kukathas suggests that groups suffer because of the primacy of autonomy under liberalism, but we shouldn’t abandon liberalism. Groups should instead simply remain in the private realm. We should grant the same basic liberties to everybody, no more to some, and no less to others. People should be allowed the freedom of speech, even if you disagree with it. People should be allowed to practice a religion of their choosing, and be allowed to wear religious accessories as they see fit. The ban in France on religious clothing is as illiberal as affirmative action.

We should be happy to celebrate the differences between people, from different opinions we evolve as a society. Multiculturalism is to be encouraged, but we should not be granting special privileges to any group. The Government should act solely in the public sphere and remain outside of the private sphere, and to suggest this is not intolerant as suggested by Iris Young.

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Liberty versus Democracy — May 18, 2012

Liberty versus Democracy

Okay guys, a more philosophical post than usual. Definitely more philosophical than my last post about Football! I’m going to use this post as a revision tool for myself more than anything, but as ever I welcome, and want your feedback on my ideas. So here we go…

The title of the post refers to the fact that liberty and democracy are seemingly incompatible.

The two always seemingly go hand in hand, I am a member of the Liberal Democrats, and we in the UK would argue that we live in a Liberal Democracy. So how can the two ideas be so juxtaposed?

“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

While democracy has to do with the selection of rulers or policies, liberty refers to the freedom to engage in certain behaviours or to hold and express views without governmental interference. For example, the freedom to travel, to practice one’s religious faith, to look at pornography, and to buy and own property are measures of liberty rather than democracy. Democracy is about the ability to participate and have regular, free and open elections. Democracy in the minds of many almost presupposes liberty. We (wrongly) always assume democratic countries to be liberal countries. We have liberal checks and balances on our democratic institutions, based on the liberal thinking of people like John Locke. It is seemingly impossible to separate the two. But it is crucial that we do.

Government, and therefore democracy exists to limit a person’s liberty. Without Government we would exist in the infamous State of Nature. Whichever understanding of the State of Nature you take, be it Hobbesian, Lockean or Rousseau’s, life eventually sucks. Government is formed to protect the lives of its citizens, be it absolute government (a la Hobbes) or representative (a la Locke). The point is, people have to give up some of their liberty to have protection by the state. Which leads me straight into (brilliant) quote #1

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither” – Benjamin Franklin.

We see a worrying trend of this happening in the UK and the USA. Be it the Patriot Act across the pond, or Terrorist Laws and snooping here in the UK. Democracy is curtailing liberty. It is the empirical slippery slope argument, will we ever get these rights back? Hell no. The Government will only further creep into our lives and erode our civil liberties in the name of security.

“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” – Thomas Jefferson

Here’s an explanation on what we mean, from a great article on the subject by Christina Annsley:

Democracy actively contradicts liberty. If 51% of the population voted to ban alcohol that is dictating to 49% what they can or can’t do with their own body. Likewise if 51% voted for more taxation; the 49% are forced to comply under a democratic system. Democracy is preferable to dictatorship purely because it is less likely that a significant mass of people will vote for insane policies; however, to those not in the majority, it is dictatorship all the same. For those who object to their legal right to do what they will with their own body and property being taken away from them, it won’t matter WHO banned alcohol or raised taxation, be it a majority of the population, a hereditary monarch, or an authoritarian dictator. It is essentially a collectivist system, ignoring the rights of the individual and prioritising the “public good”.

Democracy flies totally in the face of Mill’s Liberty Principle.

“In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence, is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

Government and democracy take a paternalistic role over its citizens. They claim to know what is best for their citizens, be it compulsory education, mandatory bank holidays, plain packaging of cigarettes or minimum pricing on alcohol. Paternalism as Mill understands it involves coercing someone against his will or without his consent, but any constitutional provisions, democratic or otherwise, will set the procedures within which consent operates and so will be to a large extent imposed on the citizenry without their consent. As Kant argued: “Paternalism is the greatest despotism imaginable.” Why? Because paternalism presupposes an Aristotelian good life. It presupposes that the State does in fact know what is best for its citizens. How can this be true? There are no universal rights and wrongs, the idea of right is subjective. Just because I believe X doesn’t mean that another person has to agree that X is also right. Paternalism makes people lazy and docile, they accept what they are told, without ever challenging what they are being told.

This gives me a great chance to use my favourite quote:

“If freedom means anything it must surely include the freedom to engage in activities which others may consider unwise. This includes smoking, overeating, not exercising, driving “off road” cars in cities, even winning goldfish. A Liberal society is one where people should be free to make their own mistakes.” – David Laws

I’m no fan of Ayn Rand, but this sums up the argument superbly:

“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities – and the smallest minority on earth is the individual.”

It is high time that we stand up for liberty, and ensure that no further rights are curtailed in the name of democracy.

It is time to bring back David Laws? — May 10, 2012

It is time to bring back David Laws?

Where to begin? David Laws is almost a cult of personality to many in the Liberal Democrats, and nearly as many in the Conservatives. For me his political beliefs are exactly what the Liberal Democrats should stand for. His beliefs are the reason I joined the Liberal Democrats. He is a classic liberal who wants small government and free trade. Described by a fellow Liberal Democrat as:

“An unreconstructed 19th century Liberal. He believes in free trade and small government. Government should do only the jobs only government can do. There’s no point in having a large public sector if the users of the public services are getting poorer.”

Laws is an unequivocal Liberal with a voting record to match.

Nick Clegg today in his web seminar with Liberal Democrat member said that he would love David Laws to return to the front benches of Government, something David Cameron has been on record saying previously. For me, it cannot come quick enough.

Before becoming the MP for Yeovil in 2001, Laws graduated from Cambridge with a Double First in Economics and had a successful career in the City. He became involved as an economic advisor for the Liberal Democrats and later became the Director of Policy and Research.

Laws co-edited and contributed to the fantastic Orange Book which became the blueprint for Liberal Democrat policy running up to 2010. Within it he wrote a brilliant chapter on introducing a National Health Insurance Scheme. The merits of which I have written about previously. Laws has argued that Gordon Brown’s tax credit system had created a dependency culture in which there were too few incentives to work. Then, as now, he wanted cuts in the cost of public sector pensions, housing benefit and incapacity benefit. (via Guardian)

In 2010 he acted as one of the chief negotiators when forming the Coalition. He wrote a fantastic and informative book entitled 22 Days in May on the matter.

On Ed Balls he wrote: “And I guessed that he would be difficult, perhaps even impossible, to work with in government – certainly if he was in any position of power.”

On joining the Euro: “Hurrah!, as I have never been a big fan of Britain joining the euro, and have never thought that there was the slightest chance of the British people supporting the euro in a referendum.”

On a coalition with Labour: “It was clear that if we went into coalition with Labour, we would not be establishing a new government, we would be chaining ourselves to a decaying corpse.”

I cannot recommend the book enough for an insight into what happened during those crucial days for Britain.

The book ends on a sad note for Laws, and for the Country. On the 29th May 2010 he resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Laws had been caught up in the Expenses Scandal, claiming over £40,000 for a second home owned by his long term partner James Lundie. Prior to this Laws had kept his sexuality a secret. Laws immediately paid back his expenses in full with a full apology. Laws claimed that he did not intentionally break any rules and claimed that the rules he broke were open to interpretation. He was suspended from the House of Commons for 7 days.

The inquiry found that if he had attempted to profit from claiming expenses he could have claimed £30,000 more. here was claimed to be no loss to the taxpayer from the various breaches of the rules. The commissioner stated “I have no evidence that Mr Laws made his claims with the intention of benefiting himself or his partner in conscious breach of the rules.

The inquiry clearly found that Laws had not intentionally misled the Commission. He has served his “time” for his mistakes. There are some on the Left who are fearful of Laws’ return, he is a master debater and impressive intellectual. He is a huge supporter of the Coalition and their policies. They hide behind snarks about him “being a crook.” He would be a huge asset to the Treasury or any department he is placed in. It is a matter of when, and not if it is time for David Laws to return to the front benches of Government. Now come on Dave – give us a real reshuffle.

If anybody doubts that he has support in the Conservatives – George Osborne once attempted to convince him to join the Conservatives. Laws rebuffed him: “I am not a Tory, and if I merely wanted a fast track to a top job, I would have acted on this instinct a long time ago.”

Vote below:

Where do the Liberal Democrats go from here? — May 9, 2012

Where do the Liberal Democrats go from here?

It’s hard to avoid the kicking the Liberal Democrats once again received in the Local Elections last week. Lots of hard working Liberal Democrat councillors sadly lost their jobs. Many in Labour and UKIP are rejoicing and predicting (hoping) that the Liberal Democrats will be all but wiped out in the 2015 General Election.

Since switching from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats last week I have been asked to explain why I feel jumping to a sinking ship is a good idea. So here we go…

Firstly, it is silly to assume that the Liberal Democrats are a sinking ship. Anti-Government sentiment is a regular occurrence, this types of voting patterns are nothing new, nor were they exclusive to the Liberal Democrats. I firmly believe that in 2015 the Liberal Democrats will increase the number of seats they have in the House of Commons. David Laws succinctly summarises why in the Financial Times.

“The coalition still has the potential to be one of the great reforming governments of the postwar era. The changes we are making in education, welfare and pensions are radical and right. The country will judge us over our full term and not on the basis of a turbulent few weeks of “here today, gone tomorrow” headlines. But after five years, we must show we have made the right decisions on the economy and got Britain back on track. That must be the coalition’s overriding obsession in the year ahead.” ~ David Laws

As I mentioned in my last post the Liberal Democrats have a LOT to shout about come 2015. Policies such as reducing the tax burden for the poorest in society. Increasing pensions by inflation, earnings or 2.5% (dependent on which is the highest). The £2.5bn Pupil Premium. Ensured that costly and illiberal ID cards were scrapped. Today in the Queen’s Speech their policy to break up the retail and investment arms of banks was announced. If you want more then head to: http://www.whatthehellhavethelibdemsdone.com/ which shows the huge number of pre-election promises the Liberal Democrats have ALREADY met.

These policies are Liberal Democrat policies, inevitably the Conservatives will attempt to hijack them and call them “Coalition policies” but Liberal Democrat politicians and door-steppers must stress that these were Liberal Democrat policies.

The Liberal Democrats haven’t had the same type of ministerial experience that Labour and the Conservatives have had and we must seek to build on that. We have some fantastic politicians waiting in the wings for some real big positions. Obviously I’m a huge fan of David Laws, but there is also Jeremy Browne who is a similar, classic liberal who is one to watch. I am of course new to the Party and not as well educated about the beliefs of each MP – but this I look forward to finding out more about my new Party.

Come 2015 I hotly anticipate another round of Clegg-mania when he finally gets a chance to really stand up for the Liberal Democrats successes in this Government. When the electorate are given a chance to distinguish between Liberal Democrat and Coalition policy, I fully expect the Liberal Democrats to come out on top.

Goodbye Tories. Hello Liberal Democrats! — May 4, 2012

Goodbye Tories. Hello Liberal Democrats!

Well, its been coming. Another insignificant Twitter defection. I won’t pretend that me jumping across to the Coalition’s junior Party means anything will change, or that anybody even cares about me doing so. But, I do write here often. Surprisingly, and thankfully a couple of hundred of you give me a read every now and then. So here’s my explanation on why I’ll be joining the Liberal Democrats.

I’ve always classed myself as a Liberal, but thought myself to be too Right-wing for the Liberal Democrats. But this definition of right and left is far too simplistic, and deeply confuses the matter. I’ve always been a huge fan of David Laws (ignoring his expenses fiasco) he is a superb politician and a great thinker. His work in the Orange Book along with Nick Clegg et al. is to be admired. I fully consider myself to be an Orange Booker. I have a liberal approach not only to social issues, but to economics. I am pro-business, pro-wealth and pro-growth and it is these economic believes have kept me in the Conservatives. Recent tax cuts are taking a step towards this. But I want more than that, I want lower taxes – for everybody. I understand, and support the Laffer curve principle for why the Coalition cut the top rate of tax from 50% to 45%, but just because the rich can avoid tax doesn’t mean they should be the only people to benefit from a tax cut in these difficult times. We should be cutting taxes across the board and encouraging people to spend and start up businesses.

Now this has been coming for a while, and it takes a lot of honesty and self-assessment to really admit this…

What is it about the Coalition that I like? Liberal Democrat policies. It was the Liberal Democrats who have taken millions out of income tax all together, not the Conservatives. They at least attempted to push for political reform.They are pushing for House of Lords reform, something I have argued for. I was a keen supporter of Yes2AV, putting me once more against the Conservatives. They introduced the pension reform which re-introduced the triple lock. The pupil premium helps gives kids from disadvantaged backgrounds a real chance in education. The Lib Dems have consistently pushed for more accountable democracy and are truly concerned about every member of society, not just big business, the unions, the rich or the Murdochs.

More concerning for me, what is it about the Coalition I don’t like? They are ALL Conservative politics. Tax breaks for married couples, equating to social engineering.  The NHS reform was a shambles, badly communicated, it will more than likely be badly administered. It offered top down reform, breaking a pre-election pledge. It increased the bureaucracy and pissed off everybody within the NHS.  Authoritarian extensions of Labour’s snooping laws, something they opposed in Opposition. Minimum alcohol pricing is deeply illiberal. Now they are talking about banning porn on the internet and blocking certain websites. North Korea must be thinking they are going to have some buddies in Europe soon. It turns out this Conservative government only pays lip service to liberalism, something I can no longer be a party to.

Things that worry me about both Parties? Further encroachment towards the EU. Yet, the Liberal Democrats support a referendum. I’m not a fan of referendums on the whole (I think those with vested interests can pour too much money into the debate – see AV referendum) but on remaining members of the European Union I feel that it is vital for the people of the UK to have their say. Increased borrowing – I can barely tolerate it, but if we simply cut away at the state in the manner some libertarians and UKIPers wanted, I honestly think there would be anarchy. You cannot simply cut, cut and cut public spending, sadly we are too reliant on it. To pull the rug from underneath the public sector would leave a sorry mess. We should continue to cut at the pace we are doing now, any further and we could be guilty of going “too far, too fast.” The Coalition is held together by a paper-thin promise to cut the deficit, and they are on track to do so by 2016. This has to remain the economic priority.

The Conservatives have taken a battering in the Local Elections, and already they cry for more “conservatism.” This is the tipping point for me, I want less conservatism and more liberalism. And that my friends, is why I will be joining the Liberal Democrats.

I have some friends in the Conservatives who will be reading this and I honestly think they will agree with me on a lot of what I’ve said, it’ll  be interesting if they take the leap with me. I’ll be looking to join up with the people at Liberal Reform and I hope they’ll join me!

Come 2015 I will be campaigning for the Liberal Democrats. Oh, and somebody owes me a meeting with David Laws!

I agree with Ed — May 1, 2012

I agree with Ed

Yes, believe it or not – I agree with Ed Miliband. Trust me, I was as surprised as you are. You are in the right place I promise you. A Conservative is openly agreeing with Ed Miliband. Worse yet, its yet another Tory policy I disagree with. Maybe I am in the wrong Party after all

This week’s horror show policy idea (baring in mind its only Tuesday!) is the idea to give married couples a tax break. To many, on the face of it this doesn’t seem like such a bad policy, but trust me – it is.

“A High Court judge is launching a campaign to champion the institution of marriage as “the most stable family structure” for raising children.” What a load of garbage. I don’t know what reality this judge is living in, but there are plenty of people who are brought up by single parents, step-parents and same-sex parents. The idea that children are better off simply because their parents remain married is bogus, its a sweeping generalisation. Children are individuals, whose cases will differ from child to child.

As Ed Miliband so succinctly put it (never thought I’d write that here!)

“But in the end what matters most is the strength of your commitment and whether you provide a good and loving home to your children. That comes in different forms. It’s really important to say that.”

But there is a more philosophical point behind this policy idea. To give married couples any form of tax break suggests to the public that being married is better than cohabiting. The Government is encouraging people to get married with a tax incentive, it is clearly stating that marriage is the better option for couples and that people should be rewarded for remaining married. It is social engineering in its most blatant form.

The state should remain neutral in social issues such as this, it shouldn’t be showing a preference to one party over another.

Beyond the sorry mess of the idea, how would they go about implementing the policy? Would it be for all married couples? Couples married after the tax break is introduced? How much would it cost? How would they cut it off? Would it be a flat tax break, or progressive? Would it encourage more “sham” marriages? Would same-sex couples receive it? (I highly doubt this by the way, this is a policy being pushed by the Right of the Party, who are against “marriage” for same-sex couples – making the policy even more repugnant).

Overall, tax breaks are a shambolic idea being suggested by the Right wing of a Party who wants less state intervention, but is paradoxically suggesting the complete opposite.

Ed Miliband is completely right to oppose the policy and for that, I congratulate him.

Is is time for me to leave the Conservatives? — April 25, 2012

Is is time for me to leave the Conservatives?

Well, well, well. Omnishambles indeed. Where to start? The Conservatives have had an absolute disastrous month or so. I might as well start with the biggest of all screw ups. The UK is back in recession. There’s no spinning the fact, back to back quarters of negative growth is a disaster, it puts the UK in real danger, the Eurozone is a mess and the UK could lose its credit rating and the markets confidence, which was crucial to George Osborne’s Plan A.

Recent news this past week offered the UK some “good news” the Government was borrowing less than before, a fall in real terms of approximately 10% to (wait for it)… £126bn. It’s not a fall in borrowing at all, its a fall in the rate. Conservatives and Cameron especially are quick to remind Labour that you don’t get out of a debt crises by piling on more debt. But that is EXACTLY what the Coalition is doing. Austerity hasn’t even kicked in yet, with estimates that 15% of the spending cuts have actually occurred as of this month. There is a lot more to come, and sadly Plan A isn’t working right now.

Worryingly for the people of Britain, the alternative to Plan A offered up by Labour seems to be a mix between taxing bankers and spending the same money, a number of times over and a Keynesian borrowing scheme. In reality they have no costed, credible alternative, and as Ed Miliband and his followers will tell you, its all part of the electoral game. The Coalition’s plan clearly isn’t working, but, and we can only play counterfactuals here, the Labour borrowing plan would be far worse.

Moving on to Yesterday’s fiasco. Jeremy Hunt is being hounded to resign (at the time of writing his Special Advisor has just resigned) because of his role in News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB. Hunt is accused of essentially pushing the deal through for News Corp. and not remaining impartial in his role. Another blow for the Conservatives. But guess what, once again Labour are guilty of hypocrisy. Ed Miliband called on Vince Cable to be sacked for standing up to the Murdochs, now wants Hunt sacked for rolling over for them? Its hardly like the Labour Party were never close to the Murdoch’s, or gave them access to their highest ministers. I’m sure Tony Blair never spoke to Rupert Murdoch – despite being a Godfather to one of his children.

So where does a disgruntled Conservative turn? Certainly not to Labour. They lack credibility on the economy, they are an opportunistic Party, too concerned with playing the electoral game and are stuck with a weak leader propped up by the Unions. If you think I’m wrong to say that – check out Ed Miliband last night. When pushed on what cuts he’d reverse he merely replied that he would “tell you at the next election.” It is utterly deplorable that in such tough times Labour politicians and supporters are more concerned about seeing a Labour majority in 2015 than working constructively with the Coalition.

What about to the Liberal Democrats? Well its certainly not a huge leap across the political spectrum to join the junior party of the Coalition. But it would be political suicide. The Liberal Democrats have been used as cannon fodder. Come 2015 (if the Coalition lasts that long) the British public will be reminded of the Tuition Fee betrayal, a failed attempt at political reform with AV and most likely the House of Lords and frequently backing reform they originally opposed. Worse yet for the Liberal Democrats, their successes will be stolen. It will be COALITION policy that took millions out of income tax all together, COALITION policy that re-introduced the triple lock for pensioners and COALITION policy that tackled tax avoidance. With all the apathy aimed at the Liberal Democrats, I fully expect them (wrongly) to struggle in the Local Elections and subsequently the General Election in 2015.

What about UKIP? Farage Fever took over last week when UKIP polled above the Liberal Democrats. This surge lasted all of a week and ICM/Guardian had them back at 3% shortly after. UKIP have a lot of good policies, there is no mistaking that, but how many of them are feasible? It is easy to promise the World when you have no chance of being asked to deliver. We aren’t going to leave the EU any time soon, we can see that by Osborne sending the IMF another £10bn (a policy Labour aren’t sure if they support or not!) Whilst this is unlikely UKIP will forever remain a one issue Party in the eyes of the electorate. Their welcoming of Roger Helmer, whose views on rape and homosexuality are abhorrent has really put me of UKIP lately. There are a large number of their members who are xenophobic, you only have to ask them about immigration and their desire for a cap. It is not a libertarian party, far from it, it simply has a handful of libertarian members. Crushingly for UKIP, the big two, Labour and the Conservatives destroyed the Yes2AV campaign enshrining a two-party system in the UK for the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t even back UKIP to pick up a single seat in 2015.

The UK political scene is in a dire mess, we have no credible alternatives. Is it time for me, and the country to ditch the Conservative Party just yet? Maybe not, but we’re very close.

House of Lords Reform — April 20, 2012

House of Lords Reform

It is a bit early for Turkey’s to be voting for Christmas, after all it is only April. But yet, here we are once again debating reform to the House of Lords.

Reform in the Lords is a Lib Dem policy, one which I partly support, but many Conservatives do not. In fact, they are already lining up threatening to quit positions over the plans. Any suggestion to remove hereditary peers seemingly doesn’t sit well with the old stalwart Tories, or the far-right back-benchers.

Sadly for them, they are wrong. The House of Lords is in desperate need for reform. As a republican, it will come as no surprise to you that I don’t agree with undemocratic, land owning, hereditary seats in the House of Lords. We still have nearly 100 of these Peers.

The House of Lords is supposed to be a scrutinising body, filled with experts who can look deeply into the details of the bills presented to them. But again, sadly it is not. In one of the biggest debates in years, the introduction of the benefit cap, just under 500 peers voted, out of 788. Some members don’t turn up at all for debates, and many make rare appearances when it suits them. We cannot continue to allow the second House to be missing in key debates. Thankfully, this is one policy suggested by the reform, “lazy” peers will be the first to be booted out.

It is time we move on from the days of filibustering and peerage scandals and have a partly democratic second chamber.

So what do I suggest? I would have a partly elected and partly selected House of Lords. I would start the whole system again, allowing members of the House to stand. For simplicity I’d argue 25%/75%. But this could easily be tweaked in either direction. Anybody elected should serve a 8/12 year term to ensure that they are not worrying about constant re-election, but still allowing them to be democratically replaced. The other 75% I would have specially selected, consistent with the manner that occurs now. The idea of the Lords is to scrutinise legislature and we cannot expect that to happen without a specialised House.

The Lib Dem policy is to have it the other way round, with 80% elected. This would be disastrous in my opinion. The House of Lords has to remain a specialised body, and with 80% of its members elected, I sincerely doubt that we would keep such a high quality standard that we deserve.

Trying to second guess Ed Balls’ logic — April 18, 2012

Trying to second guess Ed Balls’ logic

I might be being overly generous here, but perhaps Ed Balls is playing a political master-stroke today.

He and the ever grating Rachel Reeves have tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill which will be debated today. His proposal which you can read here will remove the 45p tax band from 2013. Leaving the top rate of tax officially undecided, or 40p, the next highest band.

But maybe, just maybe it’s a clever move by Balls. Surely the Conservative’s will have to oppose the move, because they have just published a budget calling for a 45p tax band. If they could have afforded to cut the band to 40p, surely they would have done so? So, by calling out the Tories to back a 40p band and then them backing higher taxes, can Balls and Miliband spin their cock up against Osborne and Cameron. Tories voting in favour for higher taxes (as opposed to Labour’s scrapping off it) won’t sit well if it comes out in the media with grass root voters.

As I said, maybe I’m just being kind, maybe its yet another cock up by the ever incompetent Keynesian. After all, they did technically abstain on the bill in the past.

Don’t Be Fooled – Big Money Is Here To Stay — April 16, 2012

Don’t Be Fooled – Big Money Is Here To Stay

Ed Miliband this weekend attempted to con the British Public into believing that he is the man who is finally going to take “big money” out of British politics. He is lying!

Ed took to the Andrew Marr show and proposed that there should be a cap on personal donations to political parties of £5,000. Now there are many reasons why such a cap would be good news for the Labour Party.

Firstly, their finances are in disarray. We can see the effects of this with the Labour Party threatening to block Liam Byrne MP from standing for mayor in Birmingham, primarily because of the cost of a future by-election. If they could drag everybody else down to their level, they wouldn’t have to worry as much about the cost of by-elections and other party spending.

Secondly, the number of “big” donors to the Labour Party in comparison the the Conservatives is paltry. They simply do not inspire they same level of donations.

Finally, suggesting such a low cap (in comparison to the Conservative £50,000) allows them to take the moral high ground on the debate. They can portray the Conservatives as the Party of the Rich. Something they are desperate to “remind” people off as the cuts start to hurt.

And yet, would you believe it. In reality, it’s all a load of codswallop anyway. The cap would have nearly NO effect on financing the Labour Party. The cap would only affect “additional donations” from the trade unions, NOT affiliation fees which is the driving force of the Labour Party. In 2011, the cap would have affected £100,000 worth of donations, which is less than 1% of the £10,056,682 the Labour Party received from trade unions.

Ed Miliband’s latest attempt at political genius is to bankrupt the other political parties whilst still allowing the Labour Party to be run by the trade unions. Sadly Ed, you aren’t fooling anybody.

There is of course an issue with private donations and the influence that it has on British politics. We need only be reminded of the “Cash for Cameron” scandal only a few weeks ago. But is Ed Miliband’s latest attempt sincere? Not in the slightest.