Tweedledum and Tweedledee


The credit ratings agency Fitch has put the UK on negative outlook (meaning that a downgrade is likely over the next two years).

Said Fitch:

In light of the considerable uncertainty around the economic and fiscal outlook, including the risks posed to economic recovery by ongoing financial tensions in the eurozone and against the backdrop of a still large structural budget deficit and high and rising government debt, the Negative Outlook indicates a slightly greater than 50% chance of a downgrade over a two-year horizon.

In other words, the British government is spending and borrowing too much, and if the eurozone collapses, we are toast.

Ed Balls, who has spent the last couple of years urging the government to spend even more, is worried:

It shows that there’s a growing worry that our economy’s not growing, that unemployment’s rising, that our borrowing’s not coming down as George Osborne had planned.

Mr Balls has called for Mr Osborne to borrow and spend more. His old Brownian nostrums are becoming more ridiculous by the day.

In truth, Mr Osborne and Mr Balls both have the same prescription to get us out of our problems. That is to extract more tax out of us.

Mr Balls thinks that if the government spends even more, it will “stimulate the economy” and the tax receipts will roll in.

Mr Osborne doesn’t agree. He thinks explicit tax rises are needed, and has indeed enacted them, including that VAT rise.

What they both have in common is that they both think the State is sacrosanct. Mr Osborne wants to protect it by whacking the rest of us with higher taxes. Mr Balls wants to protect it – and indeed increase it – by borrowing even more.

Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats – they all believe in the State as a kind of benevolent Big Brother. They don’t see the State as a provider of vital services that should do it at lowest possible cost. Instead they see the State as the solution, as a player, as the planner that will decide how Britain is to prosper.

In short, they are all what used to be called Social Democrats.

No wonder David Cameron is getting on so well with Barack Obama. They are political soul-mates.

So here we are, with the electoral system rigged in favour of the three old parties, who all agree on almost everything. But there is a wind of change coming. Support for parties outside that cosy threesome has been growing for some years now. Even within the old parties, the MPs and especially the activists are increasingly restless. Mr Cameron should enjoy his time basking in the sun, because it won’t last.

If You’re a Liberal Democrat, Bus Lanes take Priority Over Schools


Bus Lane Looking Towards Bristol From the Wells Road
Image by samsaundersleeds via Flickr


Bristol City Council is proposing a new tax on workplace car parking spaces.

The new tax is designed to raise £27 million towards a new scheme for bus routes into the city. There will be three “bus only” routes built, separate from normal traffic.

Obviously everyone is making a massive fuss – quite rightly – about this new local tax in Bristol. The AA, for example, is pretty angry:

These schemes are pure anti-motoring opportunism by a minority of local authorities desperate for funds keen to exploit 12 year old legislation. Once again drivers and business are easy targets yet it is they that keep local economies going.

Well quite. But in fact it is not only local motorists who are getting mugged to pay for this nutcase scheme from the Bristol Liberal Democrats.

First, the total cost of the scheme is not £27 million, but £194 million. The Telegraph says that the government will pick up most of the bill, with the council finding £15 million “itself”.

Wow. The government is finding £152 million “itself” and Bristol Council is finding £15 million “itself”. Obviously the money grew on trees and the government and the council just picked it.

Well really, of course, we are talking about taxpayers generally, and taxpayers in Bristol, picking up these bills. And what do we get for OUR money? Three new roads in Bristol, that can’t be used by cars and therefore won’t do anything to resolve congestion.

To put all this in perspective, £194 million is enough to build a hundred primary schools, or twenty brand new secondary schools. Or, indeed, to build perhaps 4,000 new council houses to alleviate homelessness in Bristol.

Bristol City Council is run by a minority Liberal Democrat administration, after they lost control of the council last May, losing five seats. The result then was:

Liberal Democrats – 33 seats
Labour – 21 seats
Conservatives – 14 seats
Greens – 2 seats.

Bristol Liberal Democrats lost a further seat in a by-election in September, going from first to third place. What this means is that even with the Greens presumably supporting the bus routes scheme, they will need the support of either Labour or the Tories to get it though.

It looks like they won’t get it.

Local Tories “object most strongly” to the scheme. They want to spend our money on new railways in Bristol instead, they say.

Local Labour say the plans are “potentially toxic to Bristol’s economic health”. A bit like Gordon Brown’s government, I guess.

The future of the scheme will therefore depend on the results of the local elections in May. If the Liberal Democrats, as expected, lose a large number of seats, the scheme is dead.

Regardless of their opposition to this particular scheme, however, the others cannot escape their share of responsibility.

Labour haven’t been averse to smash and grab raids on motorists. The Labour government invented the whole idea of workplace parking levies in the first place. It is laws passed by the last Labour government that are being used by Bristol Liberal Democrats to propose this scheme.

And what about the Tories? The Coalition government promised in 2010 to make it harder for councils to introduce such levies. The Telegraph reported then:

Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, is planning new rules which would make it harder for councils to impose a new stealth tax on motorists and businesses without full consultation.

Obviously he didn’t made it hard enough. Not only are the Transport Department not stopping this scheme, but they are themselves providing £152 million of our money towards it.

In short, the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives and Labour all share some responsibility for this proposed smash and grab raid on taxpayers. But it is the Bristol Liberal Democrats who will bear the brunt of the anger about it. After all, this immediate scheme is their proposal, even if it is to be financially supported by the Conservative-led government. They will be lucky if they do not emerge from the local elections in May as the smallest of the three parties on Bristol Council.

Right across Britain, in fact, the Liberal Democrats are facing electoral meltdown, with their opinion poll ratings languishing well below 10% (compared with 23% at the general election). The elections in May will be interesting.

Nick Clegg – a Socialist Posing as the Taxpayer’s Friend

Nick Clegg has been posing posing as the taxpayer’s friend.

In just 3 years, real household incomes have fallen by some 5 per cent – one of the biggest squeezes since the 1950’s, since the records began. Household budgets are approaching a state of emergency and the government needs a rapid response.

If that wasn’t so shabby, it would be funny. Mr Clegg is a member of the government that deliberately decided to close the deficit by raising taxes rather than by spending less. He cannot escape responsibility by pretending to be in opposition.

We need the government – of which Mr Clegg is deputy leader – to start tackling Britain’s bloated State.

Since the Liberal Democrats are way off to the Left in British politics, presumably he doesn’t want that.

The proposed tax cuts … would be funded by new levies on the wealthy.

Ah yes, by tax increases then.

Mr Clegg is not the taxpayer’s friend. He is an old-fashioned Socialist who believes the government should grab more from the successful and give more to the idle.

But this is a Tory-led government after all. So it seems they too believe in raising taxes to pay for protecting the public sector.

They really are all the same. Only UKIP believe in low taxes and small government.

The Liberal Democrats Are the European Extremists

Nick Clegg Q&A Lib Dem Spring Conference
Image by Liberal Democrats via Flickr

Nick Clegg, On the Political Extreme

Nick Clegg, arch Europhile and former European Commission employee, has been meeting the Dutch Prime Minister.

He told a press conference that the EU should put jobs and growth before an EU Treaty change.

In a fatuous parody of the Liberal Democrats normal position of being “neither one side or the other, but somewhere in the middle”

he said the debate had become polarised between those rushing to negotiate new treaties and those wanting to unravel the whole thing – neither side had their priorities right he said.

The implication being that the Liberal Democrats are the moderates between these two extremes.

The fact is, they are not. The political centre ground has shifted far towards the Eurosceptic position in recent months. The debate now is between those, like UKIP and some Conservatives, who want Britain to leave the EU, and those, like the Conservative leadership, who think it is possible to reform it.

This shift in the terms of the political debate has left the Conservative leadership scrambling to catch up. But it has completely floored the Liberal Democrats, who were always the most pro-EU of the three Establishment parties.

As Mr Clegg made clear in that speech, the Liberal Democrats do not want fundamental change in the EU. In the debate between those who want Britain to leave the EU, and those who think it is possible to reform it, Mr Clegg stands on the extreme, wanting it to stay as it is, thank you very much.

Even the Dutch Prime Minister sounded a very different tone:

Europe first of all should be about free trade, more jobs, more prosperity, more growth.

It may be a treaty change is necessary. If so, then we have to debate it and it should be very limited and it should take as little time away from the main debate on jobs and growth as possible.

So Mr Rutte wants to reform rather than leave the EU.

Mr Clegg, by contrast

said only populists and demagogues would benefit if EU leaders disappeared “into a windowless room” to discuss things that no-one understood, at a time when people were worried about their jobs.

The elitist and arrogant tone of that remark will not have been lost on people. “Populists and demagogues”. I suppose he meant UKIP. Let’s be clear though – being in touch with the people’s opinions and wishes on the major issue of the day is not demagoguery. Being out of touch and extreme, like the Liberal Democrats, is nothing to be proud of.

In any case, it is the European Union itself, and especially the Euro currency, that is destroying jobs and prosperity. Anyone – and certainly the Dutch Prime Minister in those remarks – can see that. Therefore the alternatives are to reform it or leave it. But Mr Clegg and his friends, who want to leave it as it is, think the EU itself is more important than jobs or prosperity.

Mr Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are the extremists on this issue. The tide of history has left them stranded high and dry, and far from the terms of the public debate that is currently under way about how to deal with the EU problem.

People would have a lot more respect for Mr Clegg if he acknowledged that, and argued for what he believes in, rather than pretending he is a moderate on the issue.

Low Taxes and Small Government

Pig at the Minnesota Tax Cut Rally 2011

Photo by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr

Several commenters on recent posts have said that I should support the Tories because only they could stop Labour, and supporting UKIP might damage the Tories.

Well, watching the antics of the unreformed Socialists of the Labour Party at their conference this week, set me thinking about the differences between the Tories and Labour.

Labour, as we all know, believe in a bigger State, higher government spending and higher taxes, and generally that problems in the country should be addressed by State action. Here was Andrew Adonis, their former Transport Secretary, for example, at a fringe event:

We need a much more active, much more hands-on, much more professional state acting on behalf of the consumer and profound public interest.

The Tories disagree. They point out that big government means big taxes. They suggest that high taxes damage incentives and destroy business and jobs. They talk about competitiveness and companies moving overseas if taxes are too high. Sometimes they even recognise that taxes are immoral if they are higher than they need to be.

Big difference, of course.

But can you see the absolute agreement between the two on one thing? They both think government spending is a good thing. Their only disagreement is on how high spending can be before taxes get too high.

Even the Tories want higher spending – they just realise that if it is too high, then taxes will need to go up. Even the Tories believe that spending should only be constrained by the State’s ability to raise taxes.

So where are the people who actually believe in a small State? Which party actually thinks that government spending beyond a certain point is a bad thing in itself?

Which party believes that a State that seizes nearly 50% of economic output and spends it, is much too big?

The Tories and Labour both talk about cutting waste and improving efficiency. But lack of efficiency is not the only reason for cutting back State spending.

Are “five-a-day co-ordinators”, paid for out of taxes, OK if they are provided efficiently? Are secret family courts ripping apart families just fine as long as they don’t spend too much on administration? Are politicians who want to “create the world’s first Green Investment Bank, spending three billion pounds to create green jobs” heroes, as long as they don’t fiddle their expenses?

All this is why there is no real difference between Labour and the Tories, or even the Liberal Democrats.

They all believe in government spending – really believe in it. They disagree only on how high they can get it before they are constrained by tax revenues.

So who will speak up for a small State? Who, since the “Liberal” Democrats also believe in big government, will speak up for “liberalism”? Who will tell the Tories that closing a deficit by taxing more is not the right way?

Who will actually make the case that the State is too big and too powerful, that it is interfering far too much in our everyday lives and in our economy? Who will cut that over-mighty State down to size?

Who will cut government spending, not in order to cut the deficit, nor even to get taxes down, but simply because the State is too big and too powerful?

Certainly not the Tories.

The politicians tell us to mistrust “big business”. Well, I mistrust the State. It is much bigger than any big business, and much more powerful. And its motives, far from being purer than those of business, are generally far murkier.

The State needs to be cut down to size. By a lot. Like a third, or even a half.

And that is why I belong to UKIP – because only UKIP believes in

low taxes and small government.

The Liberal Democrats Get One Over on David Cameron Again – For Now

Nick Clegg Q&A 3

Nick Clegg – Smiling For Now – Photo by Alex Folkes/Fishnik Photography via Flickr

The Government’s “Fixed Term Parliaments Bill” has passed its final hurdle. The House of Lords agreed to back it after the Government agreed to insert a clause that subjects the provision to review in 2020.

The Prime Minister of the day currently has the power to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament and call an election, whenever he or she sees fit. This new Bill will create fixed five year parliamentary terms. (Parliament could, however, be dissolved if the Government lost a No Confidence motion.)

This clearly takes away from David Cameron the ability to call an election. In turn, this removes an enormous bargaining chip from his hand. At the moment, he can threaten the Liberal Democrats that if they don’t agree to something or other, he will call an election. With the Lib Dems languishing on under 10% in the opinion polls, and likely to lose a swathe of seats in any early election, that is a situation they want to avoid at all costs.

Once this Bill becomes law, that threat will no longer be available to Mr Cameron. In future, the only way he could call an election would be to ask for a vote of “No Confidence” in his own Government – and even then, Labour could hoist his petard by joining the Liberal Democrats in voting against!

Mr Cameron and the Tories, therefore, have lost the power to insist on any policy in their own Government. The Liberal Democrats now effectively have a complete veto over all areas of policy.

What is even worse for the Tories is that they cannot even give it all up and go for an election. They are now forced on the Liberal Democrats’ pleasure to stagger on for the full term until 2015, all the while unable to do anything the Lib Dems don’t like. It is going to be a long three and a half years for the Tories.

By contrast, the Lib Dems still have the power to have an election whenever they like, simply by walking out of the Coalition and precipitating a “No Confidence” motion. They therefore have the power to blackmail the Tories with this threat, to ensure they get what they want out of the Coalition.

For the next couple of years, this gives the Liberal Democrats enormous power, more than they have had for around a century.

In the long run, however, it is likely to do them little good. As the downward drift in their fortunes continues, the later the election comes, the worse their battering is likely to be. With their opinion poll ratings at their current levels, and continuing to drift down, and with UKIP ratings on the rise, there is every prospect of UKIP overtaking them as Britain’s third party at the next general election when it finally comes.

The Lib Dems should enjoy their power while it lasts.

Julia Neuberger Claims to be a Liberal. Yeah, Right.

David Lloyd George
Image via Wikipedia

David Lloyd George Would Not Have Approved

Julia Neuberger is the “Chair” of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee. She is currently a Liberal Democrat. (I say “currently” because she is about to resign from the Party after becoming the Senior Rabbi to the West London Synagogue.)

On 19th July, Julia Neuberger wrote on the BBC website that “nudging” is not enough.

Her article starts thus:

Much of what all governments do concerns trying to change our behaviour – but what is the best way to do that?

Great start, Julia. Spoken like a true Stalinist.

So we have urged the government to base agreements on the evidence about what will work to change behaviour, rather than what the businesses are happy to accept.

If government can’t achieve these changes through voluntary agreement, they should use regulation instead, or as well.

And this is a “Liberal” Democrat writing this. Lloyd George must be turning in his grave. The Liberals once stood for freedom, not for solemn discussions about the best way for the government to control us.


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