Monday, December 10, 2007

The FT's advice to the Lib Dems

And good advice it is too:

the party should emphasise its commitment to localism in one of the most suffocatingly centralised states in the developed world. The two big parties both nod earnestly in support of devolved decision-making – and then promote policies that hoard power in Whitehall.

The government’s decade-long refusal to reform local government finance speaks eloquently to its determination that city, town and parish councils do nothing but what they are told by the Treasury. Mr Cameron’s response is to pretend that the best way to reinvigorate local decision-making is to encourage referendums to cap the council tax.

There is similar space in the clash between civil liberties and an increasingly authoritarian state. This is not just about opposing the extension of pre-charge detention limits for suspected terrorists or dangerously illiberal identity cards. As important is a sustained assault on the ethos that says the state can gather more and more data on every citizen – and use that information as it pleases. The mislaid personal details of 25m taxpayers represents the tip of a very big iceberg.

Finally, the Liberal Democrats should promote the idea that pluralism can be the natural ally of fairness. With Mr Blair gone, Labour is slipping back into its default prejudice in favour of monolithic mediocrity in the provision of public services. The Conservatives still leave the suspicion that their preference for market-based disciplines is careless of the need for equity. There is room here for what Mr Blair would have called a third way: choice and diversity harnessed to the cause of fairness as well as excellence in publicly funded schools and hospitals.

All in all, this adds up to a distinctive, liberal manifesto. For all that the two main parties have been monopolising the headlines, there is still a large pool of uncommitted voters. The Liberal Democrats should keep it simple. They might learn, though, to be more careful with their leaders.


Left Lib said...

It is funny how there is a hint that the Liberal Democrats will have a different approach funding public services, but nothing specific is detailed.
The loss of the discs with child benefit records was a great issue for opposition attack, but how do we know it won't happen under a Lib Dem government? I would feel more confident if the Lib Dems say they would not only reallocate (stopping the ID cards scheme will only save so much), but also spend more. However will they? We have concerns about inflation, increasing the national debt and/or increasing taxes like everyone else.

dreamingspire said...

"...and then promote policies that hoard power in Whitehall" Hoard power without responsibility... The leadership contest has been disappointing, what with Vince Cable not standing. But lots of the power is in the Home Office area, and there I was disappointed with Nick Clegg as Home Office spokesperson, and with his predecessor - but Lynne Feather was 2nd string to Nick's predecessor as HO shadow, and very good, too.