You may recall that I asked how the Lib Dems would tackle an awkward question about their new Mansion Tax. I asked it because I had heard that someone in the crowd at a Radio 5 recording was going to launch an ambush with his own situation: unemployed, worked hard for 40 years to own his £1.5m house, and now disgusted to hear that those stealth wealth stealing Liberals were after the lot.
Chris came up with a harsh answer, which at the time I thought was politically unpalatable. Turns out it was the right one . . .
Liberal Vision tell the story much better. To cut it short, the guy was some kind of set up – a Tory councillor from Bournemouth, with TWO houses worth millions, and in no way unable to pay what for him would have been a trifling bill. Luckily, the godlike Ed Fordham, future MP for Hampstead, recognised the guy and utterly unmasked him before the audience, live on the radio.
What a scumbag. This is presumably not Tory policy – is it? Then I have heard that this sort of audience-priming is why politicians are not out there more often, talking to the punters – they would have to spend their whole time preparing for planted questions from other politicians. Which is precisely what we are trying to avoid.
In other news, the Social and Liberal Democrats have announced a tie-up with Compass. I find it hard to be surprised: there is definitely a strand in the LD party that is more comfortable with a straightforward, pessimistic socialism: one that doubts the abilities of people to make decisions for themselves (or condemns this as ‘individualist’ – a damning word, apparently). Chairing an excellent event sponsored by Help the Aged, Care UK and others, there was sense in some of the audience that decentralising the care-budget to the cared for would be a terrible thing – that what we needed was the comforting bosom of a perfectly operating state, not autonomy.
Such a state is a distant goal. The stories offered from the audience were genuinely wrenching: people left helpless in bed waiting all day for care. When people, Conservative or Liberal, go talking of the ease with which spending can be cut, they must never make the mistake of thinking that what they are cutting is frivolous, bureaucratic and worthless: in many cases, it will be what some helpless human being has been waiting for, all day.
Some of my colleagues were talking on a related topic with some Guardian journalists about the various noises being made about “reshaping the Left”, for example the partnership between Philip Collins and Richard Reeves to make a left liberalism. The New Statesman’s taxonomy of approaches is a good starting point. A good quote about this was “it’s like invading on private grief”. Labour and the Left are in pieces, and the discussions are going to be painful for a long while – the rather predictable discovery of Compass by the SLF and vice versa is part of this.