Monday, September 13, 2004

Liberal Democrat News

Sometimes reading Liberal Democrat News depresses me. Even the bits I write.

Come to think of it, especially the bits I write.

Three examples from Friday's issue (10 September).

First, in his back page column Jim Wallace tells us that in our negotiations with the labour Party and during the passage of the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill at Hollyrood we were concerned to "strike a proper balance with the rights of the individual".

It happens (for various philosophical reasons that I ought to go into one day) I am not the greatest believer in the usefulness of talk about human rights. But surely, if you do believe in such rights, the essence of them is that they are not something you strike a balance with but absolute?

Second, in an article about The Orange Book Paul Holmes complains that some of the ideas it contains were looked at by Chris Huhne's commission on public services. "It is this careful, deliberative process that makes Liberal Democrat policy - not the private thoughts of any individual."

Yes, it the party has a formal process for making its policy, and I am assure that David Laws is just as aware of this as Paul is. Nowhere do the writers of The Orange Book claim that there ideas are party policy - though it is hard to see how their thoughts can be called "private" when they have just written a book about them.

But I do hope that Paul Holmes is not implying that people should not advance ideas unless they are in accord with existing party policy. If that were the case, we would still be banging on about Chinese Labour.

Finally, a letter from Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who is now the leader of Portsmouth City Council. He suggests that, rather than being the party of choice, we should be the party of high quality services.

It sounds appealing, but none of those who put forward views like this ever stop to wonder what incentive public authorities will have to provide high quality services if people have no choice but to use them?

Gerald also reports meeting a lady who was "one of the 37 per cent of Britons who want to emigrate":
"She told me that she wanted to go somewhere where things were simple. One gas company, one electricity company, one phone company. She just wanted not to have to think or worry about choice."
Now the Berlin Wall has come down she is a bit limited in where she can move to. Off the top of my head I can suggest Cuba or North Korea.

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