A friend of mine has announced his intention of voting Liberal Democrat at the next election. As I respect his take on politics it prompted me to consider how I feel about that party (I haven’t given it any serious thought for years), so I scuttled off to find the Lib Dems’ policies and see what I thought.
The William Gazy Overview of the Liberal Democrat Pocket Manifesto, 2009.
1 – The Bits I Like
2 – The Bad News, the Cant and the Doublethink
3 – Conclusion
1. The Bits I Like.
Though the party is totally committed to the EU, it says it will give British people a referendum on the matter of staying in or leaving. I think this is showboating because it knows by the time it comes to power, if at all, the EU will have bullied everyone into the Lisbon Treaty, Blair will be President of Europe and a referendum will be largely academic.
They plan to cut taxes on low and middle-income families. This is a good idea. The Labour policy of taxing these people to lavish cash on the bureaucratic membrane of the public sector was one of the central – and most disastrous – ideas in Brown’s plans.
They intend to ‘cut red tape from the small businessman’. This, within reason, is also a good idea. They say they will reverse the Thatcho-Blair attack on post offices and the Royal Mail by the Labour Party and reinvigorate it with a huge investment (two billion pounds. Shome mishtake, shurely?). This is a good idea, but, like a lot of the Lib Dems’ proposals, you wonder where this money is going to come from (more on that later).
They promise a no-holds-barred Iraq inquiry. Good, if they can manage it.
They intend to re-link increases in the pension system to increases in people’s earnings, which I think is a good way avoiding what we are heading for at present: millions of future pensioners living in poverty.
They intend to provide more support for people with disabilities. I think this is an excellent and humane idea.
They propose building and sustaining a national railway system. Good, but see section number two.
They intend to help independent pubs with tax relief to fight unfair brewery practices. Good. Ditto affordable housing in rural areas and affordable housing generally (see below).
Council Tax replaced with something closer to the old rates system = big house, pay more. Good.
They intend to stop the shockingly poor management of the armed services’ budgets and provisions that has flourished under Labour.
They have also interesting plans for local democracy: elected boards deciding how money is spent on a range of local issues including policing and health. There is a huge flaw in these plans, see below.
They intend to scrap targets in the NHS. I think this is good. Targets were a prime piece of modern socialist thinking – really flash on the surface, corrupt as a corpse underneath. It is difficult to know where to start on the NHS, because such a noble thing has become a behemoth of corruption, waste and abuse by so many different elements.
2. The Bad News, the Cant and the Doublethink.
The Lib Dems’ propose to ‘give power back to the people’ by having a new constitution. Under the subtitle ‘For the People, By the People’, they go on to say:
We will involve the British people in producing a
written constitution. This would reform and reinvigorate the democratic process,
putting individuals back in control. We will simplify the system for petitioning
Parliament and ensure petitions are considered and acted upon. We will lower the
voting age to 16, establish a fair, proportional voting system or elections to
Westminster and local government, and decentralise decision making. We will
reform the House of Lords, replacing it with an elected second chamber.
This written constitution could only be written within the parameters of EU law, or rather deal with matters outside of the EU’s reach – and there isn’t much that the EU doesn’t touch, so this is doublethink, stupidity, or a lie. Just imagine what Brussels would make of a petition for, say, the reintroduction of the death penality or corporal punishment.
The talk of involving the British people in producing the constitution is interesting and harks back to other similar bones thrown at the public during times of national despair. John Major’s People’s Charter and a many later Blairite charades come to mind.
They claim they wish to ‘decentralise decision making’ while simultaneously planning to create an entire new chamber of elected representatives to sit where the abolished lords once sat doing the same job as MPs (correct me if I am wrong but this will add hundreds of new members to the ranks of the political class, something Mr Cable is appears publicly opposed to). Although they say they will tame the expenses and corruption culture (and with all those new upper house MPs they will have their work cut out), in practice I think this will mean that MPs of both houses will demand and get larger salaries in return for not fiddling their additional cost allowances, or whatever that has been renamed as.
Reducing the voting age to 16 is an empty, eye-catching gesture – they won’t vote and the ones that do will likely vote for stupid and dangerous politicians.
The party also says it will:
Support reform of party political funding with caps
on individual donations and procedures to ensure transparency in party spending.
Unfortunately, this was written just a month before the Lib Dems’ own funding troubles with a dodgy donor emerged in August. However, transparency is good, but the rest of the sentence suggests to me that the party will propose further public funding of political parties to some degree (opposition parties already get money to balance the ruling party’s access to the instruments of government). This would be worse than the current unsatisfactory system, not least because in the near future it will inevitably mean statutory payments for the political activities of the totalitarian organisations of all political and religious persuasions that are emerging.
Talking of which, there are five lines about the policy that has caused and continues to cause huge problems and controversy in British society: mass immigration, or ‘migration’ as the political class has taken to calling it. They are tucked away at the bottom of the page on government and civil liberties:
Firm but fair on immigration and refugees – We will create an integrated border
police force bringing back entry and exit controls to monitor movement in and out
of Britain. By running immigration and asylum services fairly and efficiently, we
will ensure that all migrants pay their way through taxes and we will cut the
number who work illegally.
Firm but fair rather reminds me of the infamous ‘Tough on Crime, Tough on the Causes of Crime’, from 1997. Note the ‘integrated’ that prefixes the border police. Integrated with what? Europe, of course; the very same EU that will control immigration to Britain from Europe and eventually dictate terms; the very same EU that the Lib Dems want to grow closer to. As there is no mention of any commitment to a reduction of immigrants or a coordinated deportation policy for the huge amount of illegal immigrants (the Europhilia of the party would mitigate against this in any case on account of Mr and Mrs Blair’s Human Rights Act*), the final sentence of the paragraph strongly suggests to me that a migrant amnesty will be unveiled early in any Lib Dem government ‘we will cut the number who work illegally’ suggests they will change the law as opposed to applying it. Like Boris Johnson with his proposed illegal immigrant amnesty, the eye is on the main chance of revenue possibilities and no other considerations, such as social cohesion, impact on the poor, overstretched public services.
One would like to believe the party about transport. They claim they can build an efficient national railway network, with new lines and new stations. This should be a flagship policy. Having kept a close eye on transport stories in the media over the past few years I have to ask, where is the money coming from? The other main parties cannot make this commitment because they know there simply isn’t the money for it in their projections – in the case of Labour it has been diverted and wasted on other things; and the Tories destroyed a huge chance to build up the railways when it sent the Thatcherite asset-strippers in and sold it all off to speculators who effectively embezzled a national asset. The Conservatives will continue that policy when elected.
On the subject of crime the Lib Dems say they intend to put 10,000 policemen on the streets, using the budget of the scrapped ID cards scheme. I’m inclined to think that we don’t need more police we just need them to start doing what they used to do before Labour began their wholesale Marxoid interference in law and order. There is nothing in the Lib Dem manifesto that suggests this will be the case.
On prisons, they talk about a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and ‘drug, alcohol and mental health treatment’. I’m curious to know where the money will come from for this in a country where even this spendthrift government is admitting, albeit largely in code, that the money’s all gone and the cupboards are bare. I also predict that this approach to crime will come to be seen by criminals as one more ‘get out of jail free’ card – ‘yur, I kicked his head till his eye popped out but, well, you know, I need treatment for my alcholism, don’t I, your honour?’ Expect a thousand variations on that, with the taxpayer coughing up for it.
On terrorism, this was interesting:
Tackle terrorism – We will reform our courts to prosecute terror suspects more
effectively. Restrictions imposed on people without trial risks increasing support
or extremists. Our reforms - intercept evidence in court, and questioning a terror
charge – will be effective and fair. We will improve co-operation between UK anti-terror bodies and reach out to young men in Muslim communities.
I don’t see how this reform will be able to take place to any great degree if the Lib Dems also desire deeper EU integration. I’m curious to know what they mean by ‘reaching out to young men in Muslim communities’. It sounds like the high cant of the Blair years. What form would this take? More diversity officers, presumably.
In their Culture and Media section they show strong support towards maintaining the BBC as it is now, without actually naming it. No mention is made of reform.
It pledges to boost the Arts Council budget. This will mean a great deal more of the sort of public art we have seen under Labour: dire, lib/left-wing brit art/social engineering ‘urban art projects’, box-ticking, political correctness, coded misandry etc. The project of Cultural Marxism throughout the British art and cultural scene will be safe in the hands of a Lib Dem government.
On green issues, they reject nuclear power and want wave, tidal and wind power. I have yet to read anything about these forms of power that say that they can provide anything but a fraction of what is needed. Of course, like so many idealistic policies in British history, it will only be after a huge amount of money, time and land is wasted and ruined that common sense will prevail. As matters stand, a Lib Dem vote is a vote for an English landscape smothered with wind propellers and a vast new membrane of green public sector jobs. More domestic green bullying – there is no indication of any rethink on recycling, slop buckets, wheelie bins, rubbish limits etc.
On Defence they have this to say:
Play a leading role in European Defence Cooperation – If Britain is to continue to
have the capability to be a force or good in the world that will require far greater
cooperation and collaboration with NATO and EU partners. Through joint
procurement, sharing of equipment and better competition in defence markets,
Britain can still be a force for good and get better value or the tax payer.
This is the thin end of the wedge for a European Army. This is a bad and dangerous idea as it will destroy the character and nature of the British Army as a highly effective defence institution. This will happen through EU diktats and general interference. Ditto the RAF and the Navy. The Liberal Democrats don’t seem to have grasped that you cannot have free and autonomous institutions within a framework of a heavily intrusive socialist supersate. It sounds good but it won’t actually work.
The sentence about ‘being a force for good in the world’ could be read as coded support for Blair’s vanity wars.
While we are on that subject, the Lib Dems appear to have no policy, at least not in the pocket guide, to the war in Afghanistan; a fact I find extraordinary.
On Education they are going big for the youth vote: free tuition at universities. If we had an excellent education system this would be a noble policy; since we have a huge university system in which intellectual and moral standards are in rapid and precipitous decline I think it will be a huge waste of money and further cultivate and licence the culture of mass ignorance in contemporary society and rubber stamp the death warrant for any chance of retaining a real intellectual elite.
3 – Conclusion.
Since the credit crunch, the Lib Dems have managed to raise their profile as a sort of ‘common sense party’ on economic affairs. Vince Cable even got himself a gig writing about economics for the Daily Mail, quite a coup for a small s socialist. However, notwithstanding Cable’s Phd in Economics, it doesn’t take an economic or moral mastermind to observe that the City was out of control and that the Labour government encouraged them to be out of control because the revenue from City excesses well suited Labour’s spending plans for public sector bureaucracy: raw economics financing fake economics. Everyone in politics should now recognise that credit booms are not the way forward for healthy societies.
City reform is dwarfed by the two biggest obsessions of this party: green politics and further integration into the EU, in other words more New Labour than New Labour, Miliband with knobs on. They say they want to ‘reinvigorate the democratic process’, but this is in total contradiction to their commitment to Europe: they have completely misunderstood the European superstate project if they think it will allow any genuinely independent decision-making power by ordinary, non-political class people. In any important aspects this will always be overridden by EU law (it will drive a coach and horses through their ideas of local people deciding policing policy, for example); I guess the party thinks it can bypass the situation of ideologically unsuitable people being elected by operating the big trick of proportional representation: closed list systems – in other words you control the outcome by controlling the entries – a bit like the handicap rating system of the British Horseracing Authority: supposedly very fair but often wide open to artful tacticians.
Climate change and green initiatives recur heavily in the Lib Dems’ policies. Apart from the green lobbyists in the party and the usual across-party PR strategy that climate change is the surest way to colonise media time, it’s obvious why they are so heavily in favour of these green measures: it will be an open sesame to EU subsidies for non-jobs and environmental schemes, which are a central plank in the Lib Dem vision of how the British economy might function in the lean years ahead. In other words, a further expansion of the public sector ponzi scheme thinking of New Labour.
This, then, is the real objection. The Lib Dems remain pretty much what they have always been, a sort of maiden aunt compromise on Tory greed and the sweaty socialism of the Labour Party:’ seventy-five per cent of the same thinking, with a few modifications based on Labour’s glaring mistakes and incompetence and without the union and public sector blackmail. The proposed abandonment of top-down Islington government is eye-catching, but a futile gesture by a party totally committed to the EU, an organisation whose laws grow from the totalitarian Napoleonic law and not the English common law; an organisation not just committed to big government but monster sized multi big government with all its attendent bullying, arrogance and money burning élan.
There is a tendency among young urban liberals to view those who object to the EU as being 'fogies who can't stand change' or are 'clinging to an England that never was' etc. That may apply to some old colonels and cab drivers but the real point is this: you either believe in self-governance or you don't. Even Tony Benn thinks it undemocratic, and when a man who loves Mao says something is undemocratic, well... The Blairite moonshine that you can have it both ways on Europe has been exposed for what it is in the past ten years. Evidently the Lib Dems still believe it.
I dare say the party's leaders have finally got their economic story straight after years of embarrassment when Charles Kennedy simply had no idea of how the figures added up; but the answer to the hard question of where the money will come from seems to be: the EU. In other words, New Labour in funky new threads.
*There is no mention of any plans to overturn this most destructive law, which has aided Islamic extremists to remain in this country.