Monday, September 15, 2008

How "Make It Happen" should have happened

I have just attended the end of the debate on the new Lib Dem policy document or mini manifesto Make it Happen.

The motion approving it went through unamended as the amendment calling for the party to prioritise public spending over tax cuts was defeated by a two to one majority.

I think this was right, as I am sure there are plenty areas in which public spending can be without a detrimental effect on the poor or anyone else. It's just that it would be nice to be told what they are.

Last time I wrote about Nick Clegg's presentation of Make It Happen I said:

What he should have done was to emphasise the Lib Dem war on surveillance, centralisation and state control - in short, large chunks of the New Labour project. Then he could have said something like: "Look if we scrap ID cards and all these quangos and databases, we will save billions of pounds and be able to cut your taxes."

That, I think, would have proved popular. By announcing the tax cuts first and then saying we shall hunt for spending cuts to fund them, he makes it easier for our Labour opponents to paint us as a hard-faced party that wants to run down public services.

I still think that holds good.

What Nick and the Liberal Democrats desperately need now is a list of popular spending cuts that would be popular and stem from Liberal principles. Scrapping ID cards would be one if it had not already been snaffled as part of the funding package for Chris Huhne's policing reforms.

Another could be slaughtering the quangos. Tim Farron hinted at this, and his was the best of the speeches I heard this afternoon. It's approach should have been the one used all along.

As it is, we have a headline figure of £20bn, but no explanation as to where it will come from. And Nick Clegg varies between saying he will cut tax, reassign it to different spending priorities and that it is far too soon to say, depending on whom he is speaking to.

1 comment:

dreamingspire said...

Agree. It would be a very good move to set up a national network of local rapporteurs to feed into a central group looking for a pattern of waste and then developing specific ways forward. Then start to work out how to, at the same time, improve performance and cut waste. Ask for information about both local and national level inefficiencies and failures.