Tag Archive: coalition agreement
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Following discussion with Mark on this post I was reminded of the section in the coalition agreement covering “red tape”.
We will cut red tape by introducing a ‘one-in, one-out’ rule whereby no new regulation is brought in without other regulation being cut by a greater amount.
Sounds reasonable on the surface doesn’t it? No one wants too much regulation. We all want organisations to be able to focus on their primary purpose and not take more time than is necessary over paperwork.
But the key point there is “necessary”. Because if the coalition believe there is any regulation that is unnecessary why aren’t they abolishing it immediately. I may disagree with them over it’s necessity (I suspect that half the things they will abolish around health and safety will lead to a far greater threat to workforces and so would fight them on the abolition) but that’s not the point. I’m not in Government, and sadly don’t get to set the agenda. They do.
So , will we see an immediate abolition of all “unnecessary” regulation? Or will this wait until other regulation is introduced? If all the “unnecessary” regulation is abolished, what then will be abolished when new regulation is brought in?
This kind of political rhetoric is the kind of thing that looks sensible on the surface, but just completely falls apart under any reasonable scrutiny. Sadly, too much of our politics is now about crowd pleasing rhetoric, and not about having policies that will stick once the more difficult job of governing takes over.
I think anyone reading this blog will know that I’m no great fan of the Liberal Democrats and wasn’t before the coalition. I’ve had to campaign against either their right flank or their spiteful and misleading campaign tactics too often.
But they do have a few policies I agree with, and while voting reform wouldn’t be top of my priority list, on balance I think it’s probably a good thing. AV is a terrible reform, and they should have got more out of the negotiations, but it’s where we are.
One thing the Lib Dems always was good at was political calculation. The coalition seems to have rather sent them out of whack.
One of the recurring tropes from Lib Dem commentators around the coalition and it’s forming was that it was their one chance to enact some of their policies – not least to get a referendum on AV. One presumes that the Lib Dems want this referendum to actually pass.
So articles like this and this actually baffle me. Don’t get me wrong; I am very used to and of course expect articles from the Lib Dems attacking Labour. Particularly since going into coalition, their hatred of Labour has intensified and without the Tories to rail against equally, Labour is now the only political target for negative attacks – a long term component of all political blogs. But attacking Labour furiously on this issue is simply counter-productive to achieving your actual aim of a successful referendum.
Let’s break it down clearly: The Tories do not want voting reform. At all. Labour are mostly committed to it (a few backbenchers have dissented, but it was in our manifesto and all our leadership candidates are signed up to at least AV). The Lib Dems are cratering in the polls, and the referendum will be a really easy time for their disaffected voters to give them a bit of a kicking. To avoid this, they will need one of the larger parties campaigning vigorously with them, and t0 make it look really “new politics” it would be great if that were the party of the opposition. Either way it won’t be the Tories.
So here’s my question to the Lib Dems, and I really, really don’t mean this in a negative fashion:
Do you want to win the referendum, or do you want to better cement coalition relations?
Because at the moment there seems to be a whole lot of attention on the latter, at obvious risk to jeopardising the former.
If you do want to pass AV, then I cannot advise you strongly enough to split the bill. It will free labour to vote for the referendum, which will in turn ensure a vigorous Labour presence in the campaign. And for all this week’s talk of “Toxic brand” we are considerably higher in the polls than we were at the election. You need us. Try to remember that before you continue to slag us off just to impress the big boys!
In my last post I expressed a desire to move on from the hardnut policies on crime, security and justice. Because it is political expedient, because the timing is right and simply because it’s the right thing to do, we need to move away from the knee jerk reactions we have seen from Jack Straw and Alan Johnson on prison reform and the dropping of Section 44. I am however encouraged by Ed Miliband’s view that we shouldn’t “try to out-right the right on crime”. I hope other leadership contenders will start to think in the same way, and support reforms where they could make a real difference, while continuing to push and scrutinise to ensure these aren’t just budget cuts that forget the more important rehabilitation role in the rush to reduce spending and state involvement in people’s lives. he’s right that it’s electoral advantageous to us to do so too – win/win!
So I applaud Ken Clarkes moves to reform the justice system in favour of better rehabilitiation and will push for this to be done in the best possible way.
However, other reforms I find both deeply insulting and upsettingly baffling. The most obvious is the granting of anonymity to rape defendants.
I accept that there are liberal arguments about the anonymity of all defendants, but this is not that (There are also good societal arguments that we need to bring forward corroborative evidence which can only be done without anonymity). This is one crime, a crime with an already appalling conviction rate – largely because the burden of proof and distrust already falls disproportionately on the victim. There are many excellent arguments against this here.
This proposal was in neither coalition party manifesto, and therefore has no democratic legitimacy. It singles our a group of victims already significantly less likely to report the crime and adds an additional sense of belief that they are lying. It also makes it harder for victims to come forward to support each other.
Were the coalition interested in strengthening the protection of all accused of crimes I would listen, but this is not that. It’s a nasty small-minded attack on the rights of women. In the words of Tory MP Louise Bagshawe “singling out rape in this way ministers are sending a negative signal about women and those who accuse men of rape”.
Well if this government want to ride roughshod over the rights of women, maybe it’s time we started to play dirty too? So here’s my question: What’s the urgency, and who has what to hide?
Let me be very clear, as I said in my post about why we should vote Labour, I don’t look forward to a stint out of office because vulnerable people are going to suffer under this Government. But we are where we are, and now we have to take this situation and run with it.
Long term, this situation has tremendous strategic advantages. We have a chance to renew the Labour Party and we can once again be the natural home of Left of Centre voters, who now know that in most places (more on the Green Vote at a later date) Labour really is the only alternative to Tory Government.
The Liberal Democrats will have a hard time for a very, very long time – possibly ever again – making the case that they are to the left of Labour. They aren’t, and never have been. Their version “fairness” was always a raising of the middle at the expense of the Top leaving the poor ever further behind. They have agreed to early, damaging cuts in areas like the Child Trust Fund and Tax Credits. There will be tax cuts for the middle, paid for at the expense of the services on which the most vulnerable in our society rely.
Another meme the Lib Dems ran with, was that they aren’t “politics as usual”. Well it’s true that this is an unusual set up, but I don’t think that’s going to be enough to detract from the fact that they are in Government – with ministers in every department – and so will be held to account for all the decisions of that Government, whether they be ones they actively vote for, or those they just facilitate by abstaining on (a very cowardly deal indeed on the insidious – and deeply illiberal Marriage Tax Allowance).
Frankly, for the next few years Labour’s campaign materials write themselves. And the Lib Dems will never again be able to use the line “only the Lib Dems can stop the Tories in XXX”. God alone knows what they’ll put on their leaflets now. Certainly the one I got through my door during this election has proved to be a laughable lie.
The Lib Dems seem to have gained so much from this coalition. As they did from the debates. As with the debates, I think these gains will be fleeting. Unlike the debates I think they will do serious long term damage to their prospects. The Lib Dems have to make this work – the Tories do not. The Tories can push their agenda far, far harder than the Lib Dems currently realise, and – particularly this side of any referendum on AV – the Lib Dems will have to go along with them. They need to prove that coalition government works, the Tories – who will campaign against voting reform – do not. Look at how close the Tories are hugging the Lib Dems – full coalition and a seat in every department. The Lib Dems underperformed in the election (as did the Tories) and weren’t in a strong enough position to earn all that, and their obvious bluff of “talks” with Labour wouldn’t have earned them alone. The Tories aren’t unastute politically, and must realise that the closer they tie the Lib Dems into this Government, the harder it will be to break that stranglehold, or that image int eh minds of the electorate.
So how do Labour respond? Well one fo the reasons I have focused more on the Lib Dems in this post than the Tories, is because I believe this election has shown Labour the way forward, and the gift of the Lib Dems going in with the Tories make this easier. Our future is not in fighting the Tories for third of the electorate who support them no matter how bad, but attracting progressive voters from all constituencies.
Labour must keep fighting for it’s poverty reduction policies. They are the best of all that we have done. We must continue to fight for union and workers rights – they are a part of what defines us . But we need to completely revisit our attitude to civil liberties. We should not oppose any attempt to remove compulsory ID cards, extended detention etc. and should attack the ConDem Government on their vicious and arbitrary immigration cap and their Marriage Tax .
We need to not just rely on those who left Labour for the Lib Dems over issues like Iraq to come back because they have no other place to go, but give them a positive reason to come back to Labour. We also need to attract Lib Dem voters who never voted Labour before, but who are dismayed at the direction their party has taken. We can do this by stopping trying to woo floating Tory voters with misguided post 9/11 security measures and playing a weak hand on regulation. We are no longer in a post 9/11 world – or a post 1992 world for that matter, but a Post Credit Crunch world where regulation is no longer seen by a majority of the public as intrusive.We have the opportunity to be “New Labour” no longer, but become the progressive liberal Labour movement some foolishly dreamed would be possible with Clegg and his Liberal Tories. If we do so, we can create the strong progressive movement the 21st Century deserves.
I haven’t posted since the election as I haven’t really known what to say. There’s so much sound and fury about all the negotiations, and frankly, no one knows a damn thing, I didn’t want to add my lack of knowledge into that swirling pot, and was waiting for cooler times to prevail to write what I thought about it all.
But now something has happened that does deserve comment.
Gordon Brown has announced that he will step down as leader of the Labour Party and make way for an orderly transition. His speech was dignified and statesmanlike and warmly received from all party members – those who supported him and those who felt it was time – or past time – for him to step down.
Gordon Brown has not bee a popular Prime Minister, at least not in the UK. He is far better liked and respected on the international stage, where the work he put in to rescuing us from the abyss of financial meltdown is often recognised. He’s a serious man, perhaps too serious for our times, and he over thought strategic decisions, which often only work when they come quickly and naturally. His instincts were so often right, but his lack of belief in them let him – and us down too often. However, I strongly believe history will be far kinder to Gordon than we are now, and while he has absolutely made the right decision today, he will in time come to be recognised as one of the great politicians of our age, both as Chancellor and as PM. I credit Labour’s focus on poverty reduction – here and abroad – to Gordon, and I believe that he will continue this work in some form or another for the rest of his life.
So for child tax credits, for debt relief, for transforming public services, for the Climate Change Act, for the Marine Act, for making Britain world leader in off-shore wind energy, for the Equalities Act, for Sure Start and the minimum wage and for countless other things that have made our nation so much better and so much fairer, I thank you Gordon from the bottom of my heart.