Charlotte Gore, blogger extraordinaire, seemed to go all gooey about Nick in the car back from Conference. At first reading I thought that Nick had actually been in the car. On his Wedding anniversary. Not good, I thought . . .
Ashley Seager likes the Mansion Tax. He was a little warm towards our attempt at this, so no surprises – I think he may even have been due to address ALTER. So long as the message is always this simple:
“The dividing line between us and George Osborne is that he wants to tax millionaires less and we want to tax them more,” the Lib Dems’ Lord Oakeshott said on Monday, referring to Conservative plans to raise the threshold for inheritance tax.
Simon Jenkins calls them the IKEA party.
The party is nowhere on the classic libertarian agenda, let alone an anarchist one. It does not oppose seat belt and helmet laws, or support risk thresholds, naked streets and shared space. I can find no sign of opposition to stringent planning. The party appears in favour of enforcing wind turbines. It cheers on each health scare, from foot-and-mouth to swine flu, as if it were a slave to the beef lobby or the pharmaceuticals industry. It never pleads the cause of letting people look after themselves. To Nick Clegg, “something” must always be done
I suspect that Liberal Vision may have some sympathy with that (see airbrushing). In our office, the total proliferation of views and policies is a bit offputting. Lower TV licence fees for women’s refuges, for example.
John Harris thinks it was a good conference for the assertive FPC, reminding Nick that he doesn’t really lead the party on little matters like policy. So does Anne Perkins (same link). Martin Kettle, on the other hand, found their assertiveness dismaying, as do I. Muffled messages.
Mark Reckons’ view on spending cuts is that pay freezes are better than redundancies. That was Vince’s too. But I personally doubt that the right analogy is the business going through a 2-year downturn. We’re talking 10 years for the public sector, I’m afraid.
Finally, respect to Oxford Based Stephen Tall for reminding people of his liking for Tuition Fees. His take on the conference: the leadership were indisciplined, not the activists.
UPDATE: And Liberal Vision/Mark seem to agree with a poster on the raucous (i.e. too comment-ful) Political Betting that the Lib Dems don’t have a message. I agree with Mark about the shopping list (see above about microinitiatives and nannystateishness). But I don’t think you can generalise like this:
Third parties trying to sound like governments end up sounding deluded (because no-one expects them to win) and / or irrelevant (because the bigger parties are likely to be saying something similar).
What about the Freedom party in Germany? I have always got the impression that they are quite focussed and quite successful. I would love Nick to focus the Party on a straightforward message: progressive aims via liberal, individualistic means. So the ‘no tax under £10k’ aspiration is a good one. Pro tuition fees would be another (“Improve yourself, and pay for it with your success. Your choice”). Earn your money don’t inherit it. Whereas soggy social democracy has no such clarity – “we’ll intervene where we think right, trust us not to do it wrong like Labour”.