The day after the night before — May 8, 2015

The day after the night before

So, where do we go from here? Nobody saw that coming, nobody! A shock, Tory Majority victory that confounded pollsters and commentators alike, David Cameron must have been the happiest man on the planet yesterday. But, I was left confused, confused as to where to go next.

For those who know me and for those that don’t, I would describe myself as a “classic liberal.” I believe in a small state, low taxes, competition, the free market and hold individual freedom and choice paramount.

Over the last Parliament the country took significant steps forward introducing a raft of progressive, liberal policies, including (but not limited to), a higher personal allowance and equal marriage.

As a country, we are the most socially liberal we have ever been and Generation Y is set to continue this trend. Young people have abandoned the traditional/religious constraints of our parents, but now where do we turn? Let’s consider the options.

The Conservatives will piggy-back on key Liberal Democrat pledges, such as the personal allowance and the pupil premium and call themselves liberals. But there are key Conservative policies that are fundamentally illiberal – the so called “Snooper’s Charter” would allow the Government too much access to private communications, the repeal of the Human Rights Act in favour of a British version to suit public opinion again, illiberal. Core Tory voters were opposed to equal marriage, introducing plain-cigarette packets and entertaining minimum pricing on alcohol, all are an affront of individual choice – this isn’t a Party that can declare itself “the natural home of the liberal.”

The Labour Party remains in denial it spent too much. A Party addicted to spending and borrowing, its economic illiteracy had to play a part in the 2015 General Election. With an addiction to spending comes an addiction to public expenditure and a bloated public service. A large state, must mean higher taxes.

UKIP who famously declared they were a “libertarian party”, unless you were gay, Eastern European or voted Labour is again another Party in ruin. Nigel Farage played a significant role in the rise of UKIP, to some extent he is/was a cult of personality. They aren’t a liberal party, but again, where to do they go now?

I’m not ashamed to admit yesterday I voted for the Liberal Democrats. In a reality where you should vote for the Party nearest your own views, the Liberal Democrats won my vote for valuing and promoting liberalism over the past 5 years. But what now for the Liberal Democrats? In Blackley they secured a pithy 874 votes, they were wiped out in my new constituency and they were wiped out in terms of seats across the nation. The Liberal Democrats lost some of their best including Jeremy Browne (who had already resigned) and David Laws. With Tim Farron likely to take over from Nick Clegg, the left-of-centre will claim the Liberal Democrat voice once again. With 8 MP’s they have lost their platform and now they risk losing their liberal voice.

With no major party representing the classical liberals voice, what do I do now?

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!

Time to legalise drugs? — January 24, 2012

Time to legalise drugs?

Is it time to legalise drugs? Yes, and I mean all drugs. Not just cannabis or other “soft drugs”, all drugs.

Today Sir Richard Branson told the Home Affairs Select Committee that he believed cannabis should be legalised, regulated and taxed. He described the idea as a “win-win” scenario. The police would spend less time dealing with the issue of cannabis and the government would collect a tax revenue from its sale.

As a Liberal I completely agree with the idea, and I’d extend it to all drugs. What a person chooses to consume is their own choice. David Laws hit the nail on the head in the Orange Book:

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.

As a Liberal I don’t think its anybody’s right to define what is good or bad for somebody to put in their body. The Conservatives and Labour have been too afraid to even discuss such a radical proposal and always will be it seems. It’s time that we stop paying lip-service liberalism and embrace it fully.

It isn’t just personal choice that I feel is important. The quality of drugs would be regulated, meaning that those who opt to use drugs wouldn’t have to worry about bad mixes or cuts. I’m talking about safer drugs. Meaning that there would likely be less deaths.

Another positive side of legalising drugs would be the effect on crime. Now of course there will always be drug related crime, such as theft etc. But legalising drugs would partly eliminate small time drug dealers and smuggling within the UK. There would be less profit in it and therefore less incentives.

Just because you legalise something doesn’t mean that everybody will suddenly start doing it either. Portugal are pioneers in drug legalisation in Europe and there has been no staggering increase in the percentage of people using drugs. And for teenagers the number has in fact fallen.

So, active liberalism, a reduction in crime, an increase in active policing, safer drugs and an extra economic benefit for the Government. What exactly are we waiting for?