Worth jotting down a few comments on the events I was at today.
Morning: Vince and Sharon Bowles MEP at an invitation-only breakfast with ICAEW. Chatham House, so I won’t go mad on details (besides, I’m hoping to go to Harry’s Bar and see what all these bloggers look like).
But V was excellent, looking relaxed – it was a free-flowing conversation – some of the questioners asking hard about the pledge to cut the public pay bill. I asked Sharon whether the ideal they were aiming at was “no banks ever fail” (too much capital) or “banks fail, no-one gives a stuff” (living wills). The latter pleases the Austrian liquidationists – the former, the liberal realists.
There’s a lot of fuss about the abandonment of Tuition Fees Scrappage. I think Charles K has shown some poor colours here:
“I think that’s served us well but I think those are also defining features, if you like, of a Liberal Democrat society,” he told Andrew Marr. “And I think in addition if you simply look at the parliamentary reality, those age groups were very important to us at the last election, some of the gains that we made, not least against Labour.”
So it suits US. Not the country, not the public finances, not education. US. Not good.
I don’t love the idea that our conference is also obsessing on whether people can be airbrushed in magazines.
The ALTER event I chaired at lunchtime was good: a passionate speech from Chris Huhne, giving the reasons of justice, stability and efficiency for LT. The audience were fairly knowledgeable, already sold on the issue – and mystified about why it was not in proper party policy. One of the most striking facts/examples I was told: that in Hong Kong virtually all the land is leasehold, and the central authority is able to use such low income taxes precisely because a quarter of all its revenues come from auctioning off the leases. Vince Cable, later in the day, argued that we should be doing far more in terms of auctioning landing rights to airlines, which seems like an excellent point.
But the political special interests ranged against LVT would be fearsome – millions of worried owner-occupiers, to add to the usual Ducal villains. The way the Express is able to organise such a coalition against the Death Tax ought to given anyone pause – hardly anyone is badly affected by IHT. CH is right – this needs to be done with granny-steps, so as not to alarm the grannies.
Then Can the G20 save Globalisation in the evening. Ed Davey, Lord Newby and Steve from ACCA. I think the answer was yes . . . And I greatly admired Dick’s stand against the pointless diversion of bonuses – especially in front of this crowd.
In other news, Lord Skidelsky is trying to educate George Osborne about not understanding economics at all.
Now, off for a beer.