Federalism Is Not A Dirty Word Simply Because It Is Associated With The EU

Towards a Federal Europe

If political and social cohesion is fraying even in the United States, where citizens share a strong common American bond, what chance is there for successful European government?

In her latest Telegraph column, Janet Daley makes an interesting comparison between the prospects of European federal union and those of the United States (currently experiencing its own political turmoil with Donald Trump’s successful insurgency on the Right and a nearly-successful  insurgency on the Left in the form of Bernie Sanders).

Daley writes:

That ideal of the European continent as a unified entity, presenting an alternative presence in the world to the overweening superpower across the Atlantic was once the whole point – wasn’t it?

[..] But, as I say, nobody who favours remaining in the EU is talking up that idea these days. In fact, it’s the other guys – the ones who want to leave – who are most inclined to remind us of it, to the clear embarrassment of the Remainers. Could this be because the political model itself – the American success story of a federation of states joined together under a central government – seems to be going badly wrong? The nation that appeared to have found the ultimate solution to conjoining separate states, each with its own semi-autonomous authority, under one set of national governing institutions is now apparently facing an electoral choice between the demagogic and the disreputable.

I get what Daley is trying to do here, but she makes a leap too far in suggesting that the nature of federal government itself is responsible for American political woes. The federal model has served the United States well for nearly 250 years; today’s problems are indeed mirrored in Europe and America, but they are not the result of federalism, tempting as it might be to discredit federalism in order to prevent its unwelcome imposition on the countries of Europe.

On the contrary, the current political disillusionment and the rise of the insurgent outsider candidates is largely the inevitable consequence of corporatism, an unhealthy perversion of capitalism in which unaccountable and undistinguishable elites from all major parties leech off the state to unfairly consolidate their hold on power, which is common among many Western governments. And tellingly, Daley provides no evidence to back up her assertion that federalism is to blame for this.

Daley then goes on to discredit her argument further with this highly inaccurate portrayal of conservatism in America:

Most disturbingly, the US seems to be prey to the same excesses which are so worrying n the European scene. American federal elections both at the presidential and the congressional level, used to be predictably, boringly moderate. For generations, both the major parties (and there were no others worth considering) could have fit within what was, in European terms, a narrow spectrum of political possibility: roughly the middle ground of the British Conservative party. Capitalism under reasonable controls and a strong defence of individual liberty were the basic tenets of a consensus which underpinned every plausible candidacy, allowing only for differences of emphasis and intonation.

This is wrong on several counts. Firstly, it is a wholly wrong to suggest that the entire spectrum of American political thought would miraculously fit within the British Tory party. To make this claim is to overlook the numerous areas of social policy (gay rights, abortion and religion in public life are just the first which spring to mind) where the British Conservative Party has more or less completely moved on and abandoned its past conservative stances, while the Republican Party continues to exploit the culture wars as a vote-winning wedge issue.

It is also to overlook the fact that in terms of economic policy, the Tories are often comfortably to the left of even the US Democratic Party in terms of their tolerance for state involvement in political life, the scope and depth of the welfare state and – how can one forget – the British worship of nationalised healthcare. True, there are isolated Democrats who openly support a “public option”, but almost nobody in American political life thinks that the NHS is a great model to emulate, or would be caught dead suggesting its adoption by the United States.

In almost every way, the British political spectrum sits (at least) a few points to the left of America’s, with our dreary post-war collectivism standing in marked contrast to the individualism of the United States. To suggest that both Republicans and Democrats would find a comfortable home within the Conservative Party is simply false – even the most Thatcherite of Tory MPs would be laughed out of the GOP as a ludicrous socialist.

Secondly, while recoiling in horror from Trump (admittedly a demagogue) and Bernie Sanders (who this blog admires for bringing genuinely left wing conviction to the debate, if only so that it can be exposed as flawed) Daley seems almost approving when she writes of “predictably, boringly moderate” government which allowed only for slight “differences of emphasis and intonation”. But this is exactly the problem – it is when the major political parties begin to look and sound indistinguishable from one another that a void opens which is often filled by glib and unsavoury types like Trump. In many ways, Britain has been fortunate in this regard – going into the 2015 general election, Labour and the Conservatives could hardly have been more depressingly alike, and yet the worst we have to show for it is a diminished UKIP and Jeremy Corbyn.

Daley appears to be defending consensus politics and railing against demagoguery at the same time, while failing to understand that an excess of the former all but guarantees the latter. Her column also forms part of an unwelcome trend of unnecessarily problematising issues around the EU referendum. Both sides are guilty – mostly desperate Remainers, who in their desperation to win are prone to suggesting that the smallest of bureaucratic or diplomatic hurdles to Brexit is an immovable showstopper, but also many on the Leave side who are apt to grasp at any problem with the EU or any world event and seek to fashion it into a weapon to be fired at Brussels.

In this case, holding Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders up as evidence suggesting that the American federal model itself is broken may help to land a solitary punch on the European Union this once, because the EU’s inexorable direction of travel is toward federal union. But by slandering an entire mode of governance in this way, we limit ourselves when it comes time to think about how we may wish to be governed if and when we leave the European Union. Some – including this blog – actually believe that moving towards a federal United Kingdom following a constitutional convention to be held after Brexit would be a great outcome.

So a plea to everyone on both sides (but in reality, only to those on the Brexit side – for we know that the Remain camp will tell any lie and stoke any fear in their desperation to win): there are sufficient real problems with the European Union as it is now and is soon likely to become without attacking every single word or concept associated with Brussels. So let’s debate where we can win – not getting into a mud slinging contest with trumped up economic figures, and not disparaging every single thing associated with the European Union, but by focusing on democracy and sovereignty, and building a positive vision of how Brexit can be the first step in Britain’s re-emergence as a global player.

The Brexit side is already accused of being alarmist. Let’s not live up to the hype by slandering federalism – a mode of government which has worked exceedingly well for many countries, including the most powerful and prosperous on Earth – in our desperation to slander everything which is also connected with the European project.

 

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What Conservative Government? – Part 4, Iain Duncan Smith Resignation

Iain Duncan Smith - IDS - Resignation

How many more ideologically principled, Thatcher-style conservatives can David Cameron’s centrist political machine afford to alienate?

There is a telling line in James Kirkup’s excellent, fair assessment of the full context behind Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation:

The Prime Minister has already done things that will underpin his eventual legacy: winning the Scottish independence referendum and the general election.

Kirkup probably meant this as praise, but in reality it is the most damning indictment of the current conservative government imaginable – far worse than anything that Iain Duncan Smith said in his resignation letter.

Because it is quite true – some of the greatest accomplishments of David Cameron and his core team of loyalists since 2010 are avoiding having the country disintegrate on their watch, and managing to win a second general election against a historically weak Labour leader pursuing a transparently flawed strategy. If the bar for success in British government has truly been set so low then we are in real trouble.

But David Cameron is not a visionary leader. He came to power in 2010 promising to get Britain through difficult economic times, and was re-elected in 2015 promising to be a reasonably competent Comptroller of Public Services. And to be fair to the man, he never really promised to be a great statesman or a formidable world leader.

Being a doggedly centrist technocrat is all well and good, but eventually people quite rightly start to ask what your government is for, besides acquiring the reins of power and then keeping hold of them for as long as possible. David Cameron’s best answer – the main headline from the Conservative Party’s 2015 general election manifesto – was that we should vote Tory because they have a “plan for every stage of your life“.

Nobody within the Conservative Party seemed to care that this sounded alarmingly socialist and suggestive of the Nanny State – people craved security above freedom, it was believed, and so that’s what would be promised and delivered. More of the status quo, whether the status quo worked well or not.

In other words, as this blog has long been saying and my Conservatives for Liberty colleague Paul Nizinskyj has now eloquently written, David Cameron’s role model is far more the steady pair of hands in tough times rather than the visionary, bloody minded reformer – more Ted Heath than Margaret Thatcher.

I won’t lie: my first reaction on hearing the news that Iain Duncan Smith – who together with Michael Gove is one of the few Conservative heavyweights left with any discernible core conviction – had finally snapped and told George Osborne exactly what to do to himself was “great – anything to make the smug little cretin sweat”.

Because George Osborne is David Cameron with less charisma. And since David Cameron has almost no charisma of his own, that puts George Osborne well into negative territory. Given the fact that his blunders (the Omnishambles Budget, tax credits, PIPs) have done as much to colour the political landscape as his “victories”, I also find his reputation as a master political strategist to be hugely overinflated.

If running to the political centre by jettisoning core conservative principle by adopting left-of-Labour policies like a £9 minimum wage counts as political genius then sure – anybody who can successfully cross-dress as a politician from a different party to pick off some extra votes is a master strategist. But it makes George Osborne a lousy conservative.

Not everything in Osborne’s budget was wrong. Should the thresholds for tax brackets move upwards with inflation? Ideally yes, they should do so every year to neutralise the effect of fiscal drag. But to package measures such as this with reductions in the Personal Independence Payments to hundreds of thousands of disabled people is frankly idiotic.

In some ways, this is emblematic of the ridiculous nature of the Budget spectacle, a choreographed event which encourages the Chancellor of the Exchequer to play god with other minister’s departments, either stealing their flagship ideas (as with academies) or otherwise presenting them out of context. But it also speaks to this government’s utter failure to enact a bold, coherent and unapologetically conservative agenda.

Janet Daley sums it up perfectly:

Mr Osborne’s reputation as a tactical political genius has gone south too. Maybe that’s been the problem all along: his understanding of politics was all about tactics – about messaging and grids, presentational gloss and re-branding – and had nothing to do with fundamental, irreconcilable principle. I am prepared to guess that he quite literally does not understand politicians who are prepared to risk everything for an idea, a conviction: a personal moral mission.

He thinks that they are bloody-minded and naive, with no comprehension of the modern science of winning elections. But that, it seems, is not what the people believe: they are beginning to think that their leaders should stand for something, should have a fundamental sense of what they are in politics for. It’s what they call “authenticity”, and it could turn out to be more of a winner than all the clever marketing techniques in the world. Imagine that.

I understood what Michael Gove was trying to accomplish at Education. And I get what Iain Duncan Smith was wrestling with at the Department for Work and Pensions, and admire his semi-successful efforts to get people into work, and to make that work pay more than dependency on the state. Unlike many others who write sanctimoniously but ignorantly about the issue, I have witnessed the welfare state up close, and seen exactly what our “compassionate” system is capable of doing to people when the dead-eyed state machine is responsible for their lives.

I get all of that. But I have no idea what David Cameron is trying to accomplish as prime minister, or what George Osborne thinks he is doing at the Treasury. Because it certainly isn’t paying down Britain’s debts, as they both like to claim. Nor is it guarding Britain’s sovereignty and place in the world – Cameron has gutted Defence, and is in the process of tricking the British people into voting to remain in what he falsely claims to be a “reformed” European Union.

Neither Cameron or Osborne are motivated by the desire to roll back the state and make the British people more free – their heavy-handed government is all for ever-greater restrictions on both ancient and recent hard-won civil liberties, and is seemingly anxious to sacrifice what freedom we have left upon the altar of “national security”.

There is almost nothing about shrinking the state and expanding personal liberty in this government. But there are lots of policies – cutting state spending on the poorest and weakest in society while continuing to lavish stage largesse on wealthy older people (through non-means tested benefits and the lack of a housing supply policy to benefit the young) – which play right into Labour’s hands, making the Tories (and those who support them) look like nothing more than selfish, grubby opportunists, lining the pockets of the already wealthy while others suffer.

In short, I don’t know what this Conservative government is for, besides trying to stay in power and preventing Labour from stealing it. And apart from the work he was doing in his own department, I suspect that Iain Duncan Smith didn’t know either, no matter how much obligatory praise he heaped on Cameron in his resignation letter.

So I cannot do anything but endorse Iain Duncan Smith’s decision to quit. The final straw was no doubt Downing Street’s insistence that Duncan Smith come out all guns blazing in defence of the welfare cuts in the Budget, while simultaneously planning to walk back the proposals themselves – making IDS look like the crazed ideologue and Cameron / Osborne as the calm voices of reason. Who would want to stick around to be treated in that way?

And if Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation destabilises the government – so what? We currently have a nominally conservative prime minister who is busily enacting Tony Blair’s fourth term of office. We effectively already have a Labour prime minister – or a New Labour one, at least.

Maybe an improbable defeat to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party – or a good scare, at least – is the shock the Tories need to dig deep and find a real conservative leader.

 

Postscript: Iain Duncan Smith’s full resignation letter – which this blog believes was far too generous and courteous – is shown below.

I am incredibly proud of the welfare reforms that the government has delivered over the last five years. Those reforms have helped to generate record rates of employment and in particular a substantial reduction in workless households.

As you know, the advancement of social justice was my driving reason for becoming part of your ministerial team and I continue to be grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to serve. You have appointed good colleagues to my department who I have enjoyed working with. It has been a particular privilege to work with excellent civil servants and the outstanding Lord Freud and other ministers including my present team, throughout all of my time at the Department of Work and Pensions.

I truly believe that we have made changes that will greatly improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged people in this country and increase their opportunities to thrive. A nation’s commitment to the least advantaged should include the provision of a generous safety-net but it should also include incentive structures and practical assistance programmes to help them live independently of the state. Together, we’ve made enormous strides towards building a system of social security that gets the balance right between state help and self help.

Throughout these years, because of the perilous public finances we inherited from the last Labour administration, difficult cuts have been necessary. I have found some of these cuts easier to justify than others but aware of the economic situation and determined to be a team player I have accepted their necessity.

You are aware that I believe the cuts would have been even fairer to younger families and people of working age if we had been willing to reduce some of the benefits given to better-off pensioners but I have attempted to work within the constraints that you and the chancellor set.

I have for some time and rather reluctantly come to believe that the latest changes to benefits to the disabled and the context in which they’ve been made are a compromise too far. While they are defensible in narrow terms, given the continuing deficit, they are not defensible in the way they were placed within a Budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers. They should have instead been part of a wider process to engage others in finding the best way to better focus resources on those most in need.

I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest.

Too often my team and I have been pressured in the immediate run up to a budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working age benefit bill. There has been too much emphasis on money saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government’s vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced.

It is therefore with enormous regret that I have decided to resign. You should be very proud of what this government has done on deficit reduction, corporate competitiveness, education reforms and devolution of power. I hope as the government goes forward you can look again, however, at the balance of the cuts you have insisted upon and wonder if enough has been done to ensure “we are all in this together”.

 

Iain Duncan Smith

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What Does The Conservative Party Stand For In The Era Of Jeremy Corbyn?

David Cameron - What Do The Conservatives Tories Stand For In The Age Of Jeremy Corbyn

With Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party consumed by infighting and discredited with the public, David Cameron’s Conservative government could do almost anything it desires. So why is it treading water?

What does the Conservative Party stand for in the era of Jeremy Corbyn?

What do the Tories stand for when they are barely opposed in Parliament, and consequently have virtual carte blanche to do anything they please?

The answer, apparently, is not much of anything. And it’s good to see that more people on the Right are finally starting to get impatient with the lack of conservative conviction flowing from Number 10 Downing Street.

Janet Daley gets straight to the point in her latest Telegraph column, asking what is the point of the Tories if they refuse to radically shrink the size of the state:

It is fairly clear what use the Tories have decided to make of the current lack of opposition. They will become not just the accepted party of government but the only political party that anybody would ever need. Instead of putting forward a specific, identifiable view of what government should be and how it should relate to the people, which they can offer up for debate, they will occupy all the ground, cover all the bases, be everywhere on the political spectrum at once. They will incorporate centre-Left and centre-Right, and make economic intervention live alongside the free market. They will even, as Mr Osborne did in his Autumn Statement, filch the language of enforced equality (“social justice”).

In short, if Labour is not fit to carry on a debate, then the Tories will scrap the idea of debate altogether. They will be all things to all men: the all-purpose, all-embracing, totally inclusive permanent party of government. This new single-party monopoly will incorporate every popular measure, however inconsistent or contradictory, into its amorphous programme. By the time Labour is ready to engage in election-winning argument, there will be nothing to argue about.

Instead of being emboldened by the lack of serious opposition and seeing it as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do necessary radical things, the Tories have decided to play it for short-term political advantage. The real problems will not be addressed. They will just be fudged – and bought off with fistfuls of money.

The depressing truth is that the Tories in government have made a decision to solidify their grip on power by effectively ceasing to be a small-C conservative party at all, instead rebranding themselves as the only sane choice when the alternative is the Corbyn/McDonnell socialist double act.

This worrying lack of ideological commitment has been reinforced over and over, whether it’s the Autumn Statement that sounded more like a Gordon Brown-style moneybomb than a fiscally conservative blueprint for government, or David Cameron’s triumphal party conference speech – which even the Independent thought was shockingly centrist.

But not everybody sees it like this. Iain Martin, writing in CapX, sees opportunity in the fact that the Conservatives now essentially govern unopposed:

Corbyn’s leadership does gift the British Conservatives an historic opportunity. Not one of those “they might they win the next general election” opportunities, but the chance to capitalise on Labour’s existential crisis and create a broad-based coalition of interests that dominates the coming decades and turns the UK into an even more dynamic, market-based, technologically advanced, prosperous society.

No. The government can either lead Britain kicking and screaming towards a more dynamic, free and market-based future, or it can create a broad-based coalition of special interests, each with their own collection of whiny, selfish demands and veto rights over national policy. But it cannot do both.

Radical policies of the kind needed to cure Britain’s productivity gap and vastly improve our competitiveness are not borne out of consensual, hand-holding workshops where all of the public service unions and taxpayer funded charities lounge around together brainstorming new ways to extort taxpayer money. Nor are bold policies borne out of the ingratiating desire to please everybody all the time, and never come face to face with a critical newspaper headline.

The radical conservative/libertarian policies that this country needs in order to roll back the state – and empower the people to shape their own destiny rather than remaining vassals of the state or passive consumers of public services – will not be divined by drawing a line half way between the David Cameron and Ed Miliband election manifestos of 2015 and splitting the difference.

When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 she knew that there could be no appeasement with the dismal establishment belief that the best Britain could then hope for was a smoother, more orderly century of national decline than we witnessed during the Winter of Discontent. She knew that Britain needed harsh medicine if things were to be turned around and the patient saved. That didn’t mean that Thatcher rode to battle against every pillar of the post-war consensus simultaneously – nationalised companies and the NHS remained even after her premiership – but it did mean that she was not terrified of being seen as an ideological, even polarising figure. She stood for something.

What do David Cameron and George Osborne stand for, besides keeping the Conservative Party in power and (hopefully) executing a smooth transition from Dave to George by 2020? What kind of Britain do they want to preserve, protect or change? It is almost impossible to tell, because the key decisions – as with the Autumn Statement – are always so depressingly tactical and reactive, not strategic. I was not yet born when Margaret Thatcher became prime minister, but I could describe in some detail her evolving political philosophy and accomplishments in government. By contrast, David Cameron came to power when my political engagement was very high indeed, and yet I would struggle to fill two paragraphs outlining Cameron’s ideology or aims for this country.

Even the few hints of a long-term strategy from the Conservatives – making us more secure, or paying down the national debt – only serve to highlight how far the government is falling short of these goals. The surveillance state continues to expand while the root causes of the extremist Islamist threat are barely discussed, much less tackled; the Chancellor burbles on about fixing the roof while the sun is shining, and yet the deficit is far from eliminated and the national debt continues to increase every single day.

David Cameron - Centrist

But it does not have to be this way. The Conservative Party leadership may be depressingly void of ambition and tainted with the first blush of scandal, but there are green shoots of a future conservative renaissance visible within the party.

Last week I attended a Westminster lobby event held by Conservatives for Liberty, the right-libertarian campaign group for whom I am proud to write. During the course of the evening, we were addressed by five Conservative MPs, each of whom was able to make a far more convincing case for individual liberty in ten minutes than David Cameron has made for the entirety of his premiership.

Chris Philp described himself as a “proud Thatcherite” and dared to make reference to both “The Road To Serfdom” by Hayek and “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill.

Lucy Allan, the antithesis of a career politician, said “my view is that a real conservative is definitely a libertarian”, and proceeded to speak out against mass surveillance and the rise of authoritarianism in the name of national security.

The irrepressible James Cleverly warned against paternalistic government and the excesses of the public health lobby, saying “I don’t want to live in a world where personal choice is codified. We have a word for that, and that word is fascism”.

John Redwood made a point that the Treasury sorely needs to hear, lamenting that too many MPs “forget they are there to represent taxpayers as well as beneficiaries of state largesse” and describing the state’s overbearing presence in all aspects of life as “a wooden public monopoly that guarantees maximum inconvenience and maximum cost”.

And David Nuttal vowed that he would continue to work tirelessly “to stop the relentless march of the nanny state” and the “massive industry” which supports it.

Of these excellent speakers, Chris Philp, James Cleverly and Lucy Allan (if she stays in politics beyond 2020) are all potential leadership material for the future, particularly in a world where the official opposition is virtually non-existent and the country is crying out for a new, clear sense of direction. Any one of these rising stars have the inspiration and charisma to one day lead the party in a new, more transformational direction.

With the Parliamentary Labour Party seemingly intent on self-administering a near mortal wound with their relentless sniping and bitter briefing against Jeremy Corbyn, a bold new Conservative leader committed to the principles of liberty and a small state (the antithesis of George Osborne, who doesn’t even pay lip service to these ideals) could re-shape the Right and promote a better, more inspiring form of conservatism than the current “Blairism when there’s no money left” status quo.

The fact that David Cameron and George Osborne are watching the slow implosion of the Labour Party and conjuring up plans to woo Ed Miliband voters – rather than capitalise on this once-in-a-century opportunity to execute a real conservative agenda unopposed – reveals their worrying lack of confidence in core conservative principles and values. If the Prime Minister and Chancellor really believed in reducing the tax burden, reforming welfare, building up our armed forces, shrinking the state, promoting localism and devolving decision-making to the lowest level possible (with the individual as the default option), they could do so. They could be building a new, conservative Britain right here, right now. Virtually unopposed.

But Cameron and Osborne are doing no such thing. They simper and equivocate, and talk about fixing the roof and paying down the debt while doing no such thing, and still they attract endless negative headlines for inflicting an austerity which exists primarily in the minds of permanently outraged Guardian readers.

If Britain is not a transformed country in 2020 – with a smaller state, more dynamic private sector and greater presence on the world stage – there will be absolutely nobody to blame other than the party holding the keys to government. The party with the word “conservative” in their name. The Tories will have been in power for ten years and have nearly nothing to show for it, save some weak protestations about having fixed Labour’s prior mismanagement of the economy.

That’s not the kind of party I want to be associated with. That’s not the party I campaigned to elect in 2010, back when it seemed possible that a new Conservative administration might aspire to being something more than a moderate improvement on Gordon Brown.

The Conservatives have a choice. Presented with the golden opportunity of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, the Tories can seize the chance to transform themselves into the party of Allan, Philp or Cleverly. Or they can continue to be the equivocating, triangulating party of Cameron and Osborne.

Yes, of course there’s no point having bold new conservative ideas unless you can stay in power to make those ideas a reality, as the Cameron/Osborne apologists would no doubt respond. But neither is there any point winning and holding power unless you actually have ideas worth implementing.

The Conservatives have the power. And thanks to the Labour Party, they are under no immediate threat of losing that power, no matter what they do in office. So where are the big ideas?

George Osborne - Chancellor of the Exchequer - Budget

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Are You A Populist Simpleton?

Populism - British Politics

 

Ukippers and Jeremy Corbyn supporters have often been steadfast in their political views for years, and as a result have languished in the political wilderness while those willing to bend, flatter and shapeshift their way toward sanitised focus group approval have been richly rewarded with power and success

 

Are you a populist simpleton?

I am, according to the Telegraph’s Janet Daley, because I am guilty of expecting more from politics than two shades of the same old drab consensus.

It’s a shame – I thought I had an ally in Daley, who is absolutely right in identifying the dull managerialism that now defines British politics, where dull technocrats reign supreme and general elections are fought over which party leader would make the best Comptroller of Public Services.

From Daley’s Telegraph piece, in which she attempts to compare the rise of Jeremy Corbyn with Donald Trump’s temporary ascendancy in the Republican Party’s presidential primary race:

There is no doubt that the politics of Western governing has become consensual and centrist. It is now a cliché – but no less important for that – to say that the arguments on which democratic choice revolve are puny and marginal. Parties and their leaders are reduced to debating the detail: a bit more of that, a bit less of this. No basic principles are at stake because they are all pretty much settled. The slogans are quite deliberately boring: recession is to be tackled with a “long-term economic plan”. It doesn’t quite have the ring of “Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.” It often seems as if party strategists are having to thrash around desperately for some semblance of a compelling vision to distinguish themselves from their opponents.

Daley’s analysis of the problem is spot on, echoing what this blog has been saying for over a year. And yet Daley seems to hold in contempt those of us who have also identified the problem, but seek to redress it by supporting politicians who do not conform to the centrist mould.

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There Are Important Priorities Beyond Brexit And The British Bill Of Rights

David Cameron - EU Referendum - Brexit - Human Rights Act

 

Janet Daley has a good piece in the Telegraph today, castigating the Tories for the way in which David Cameron’s government is rapidly turning the serious question of Britain’s future in the European Union into a farcical “pantomime”.

Taking the government to task for letting down those people who ‘kept the faith’ and voted Conservative in May, Daley laments:

But what a dispiriting carry-on it must seem to most voters, especially the ones who were really happy that they had kept their nerve and voted Conservative.

But here’s the money quote:

But our EU membership did not create the non-contributory benefit system in which people who have never paid in receive indefinite support. Nor did it give rise to our unique universal, free at the point of use, rationed health care system. And it certainly was not responsible for the poor educational achievements of so many young British people that companies prefer to import labour rather than cope with the shortcomings of our school standards.

This hits at an important question. Why is it that we want Britain to leave the European Union in the first place? And why do we actually want to unshackle ourselves from an international “human rights” mechanism that has been hijacked and turned into little more than a guarantor of social democratic dogma?

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