Daily Archives: 9 January 2006

Laws unto himself

I don’t know if it was David Laws himself, or an enthusiastic sub-editor with a sense of humour, but it did somewhat strike an odd chord for the title of his article in the Guardian today to echo Margaret Thatcher’s famous “There is no alternative!”.

But I’m here to praise David Laws, not to bury him! Well, kinda. I do find it rather daft that Tory commentators are falling over themselves to claim that “Orange Bookers” like Laws will now consider defecting to them. Laws may be to the right of the Lib Dems, but Cameron has emphatically ruled out the policy that got Laws into so much heat in the first place.

It’s telling though that senior Tory commentators consider their own party so week at the top that they need Lib Dem brains to make them electable.

Hughes could win; Oaten has a duty to stand

According to the Guardian today, Simon Hughes is wavering on whether to stand for Lib Dem leader on the basis that he doesn’t want to fight a contest he doesn’t think he can win.

Now, I suspect that is a bit of spin designed to increase his underdog status, but if true he needn’t worry. The fact that this bloke has come out against him today, despite the convention that ex-leaders don’t get involved in such mucky things, suggests that the Campbell camp is really, very scared that once Hughes gets moving his natural charisma, combined with the blood on Ming’s hands and the label of “caretaker” will melt the Scot’s support away.

In the circles I gravitate within, there is a saying that Simon Hughes is someone you really like if you don’t know him very well. Broadly, that is true. He has been a very disappointing President and a great many of people I know who were inclined to support him before he took up that post would not dream of doing so now. But I do respect that he represents a large body of opinion within the party and it would be a crime if he doesn’t stand.

The same, to a lesser extent, applies to Mark Oaten. Although he doesn’t have a chance of winning, Mark has the added incentive that it can only help his profile and he is in for a shot next time around. He has spent years building up a leadership campaign, first via Liberal Future and latterly more secretly (the fact that he has had someone in place running his leadership campaign for the past three months, not to mention that ridiculous Telegraph interview before Christmas, makes a nonsense of his protestations of loyalty. Nick Barlow is right to compare him to Mark Anthony). To not stand now will simply demonstrate to his detractors (hello!) that he is the waste of space we have always said he is.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned the phone calls I was getting yesterday wondering about constitutional ways to exclude Hughes on the grounds that he is Party President (no dice; as soon as the election is handed over to a returning officer – presumably Lord Rennard – then he’s free) – make no mistake, the Campbell camp are not at all confident. At 9/2, a punt on Hughes looks seriously good value at the moment.

Meanwhile… the Grand Coalition builds momentum

David Willetts’ pledge that the Tories no longer support Grammar Schools, combined with Cameron’s pledge to oppose health insurance-style reforms of the NHS, means that the prospect of a Grand Coalition after the next General Election is looking increasingly possible, and the idea that the Lib Dems should some how try rush into increasingly small gap between the other two parties seem increasingly fruity.

UPDATE: Whoops, there goes another one! Blink and you miss it.

Back to business

The holiday season, followed by the events of the last few days, has meant that I haven’t blogged about my regular preoccupations for quite a while now.

Happily however, there is news. ALTER has just published Prof Iain McLean’s submission to the Lib Dem Tax Commission on their website, while the Centre for Um have launched a new section on their Free Think website dedicated to land value taxation, kickstarted by a 50 page pamphlet by ALTER Chair Tony Vickers.

I haven’t had a chance to digest either paper yet, but one statistic from Prof McLean’s saubmission did scream out: going on the government’s official definition of poverty (admittedly something which Andy Mayer here brings into question with some good cause), only 2% of the population can be described as cash-poor asset-rich, the intended beneficiaries of switching from council tax to local income tax. Everyone else is either cash-poor asset-poor (who should be our main target for social justice measures) or cash-rich asset-rich. What ever else you may say about local income tax, basing an election campaign around a policy that either doesn’t help or actually hurts 98% of the population is a little daft.

I get a sense from the blogosphere that there is a real groundswell here, not so much to abandon local income tax (personally I favour quite radical localisation of income tax), but to move away from the commitment to abandon domestic property taxation altogether. Can we convince the rest of the party?