Daily Archives: 23 May 2006

Chris Davies: a Letter to Lib Dem News

LDN didn’t print my letter last week, but the letters they did publish went some way to redress the “Davies love fest” of the week before.

For the record though, I thought I’d publish what I wrote here:

Since you published Chris Davies’ self-righteous non-apology last week and apparently received many other letters supporting him, allow me to add a note of dissent.

In the article that got Davies in such hot water, he states: “I visited Auschwitz last year, and it is very difficult to understand why those whose history is one of such terrible oppression appear not to care that they have themselves become oppressors.” To draw parallels between the extermination of 5 million Jews and the Palestinian situation, let alone to imply that the Holocaust contains a moral instruction that Jews should heed, Israeli or not, is grotesquely offensive. Would you hector a rape victim about the need for them to learn their lesson?

Referring to the situation in Palestine as “apartheid” is fatuous in the extreme. Anyone who advocates a two-state solution – including Israel, Palestine and the Quartet – is advocating what could be simplistically described as an “apartheid” solution, partition wall or not. And let’s not forget that 19% of Israelis are Arabs who have citizenship and voting rights.

The use of such inflammatory language on such a complex issue always causes more heat than light. It means that an opportunity to highlight the very real plight of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government is lost.

Initially, I assumed that Chris Davies was simply being uncharacteristically naive. I’m no longer so sure. Is it really too much to expect our politicians to use responsible language?

Getting the ball rolling

I’ve been sitting on the url handsoffourfuture.org.uk for a couple of months now, but work pressures have made it very difficult to get things moving.

I’ve been finally spurred into action for two reasons: firstly, Andrew Rawnsley’s article in the Observer this Sunday on the subject of Generational Equity is a clear sign that this issue is increasingly hitting its head against the mainstream. Rawnsley’s namecheck of Tory MP David Willetts suggests that at least he is starting to take these issues on board.Secondly, rumours have been circulating that my own party, the Lib Dems, are on the verge of missing a golden opportunity of taking the initiative on this area with its latest Tax Commission. The Commission is apparently set to water down its proposals for a “Progressive Property Tax” which was to signal a major shift in the burden of taxation away from low income earners and onto property owners.

Frankly, no major party in the UK is tacklingly generational equity in a meaningful way, and why should they when the over-50s are more likely to vote and are more numerous than ever before? What’s more, the old are organised in a way that the young are not. They have their own lobbying groups – Help the Aged, Age Concern, Saga, et al – and they have perfected the whine of the perpetual underdog. For a more perfect example of this, look no further than the campaign against Council Tax. Fixed income pensioners don’t even pay it, and yet it is presented as a social justice issue.

The young are predominently creating the wealth in the UK, and yet they are being stung by the quadruple-whammy of graduate debt, sky-high property values, pensions and income tax. And that’s not counting an uncertain future due to climate change and the fact that the under-20s have been institutionally demonised by a state which has invented the term “anti-social behaviour” as a new tool for keeping the public in a constant state of anxiety. It is time to get our shit together.

This website is intended as a contribution to the debate and as a catalyst for organisation. Although, as editor, I’m a Lib Dem, I’m hoping it will evolve into a truly cross-party initiative (while I’d like to see my own party take a lead on this issue, I’m not convinced it will until the issue is more high profile). If you’re interested then bookmark this page and pay a visit to the accompanying forum.