Neither Democrats nor Liberal

Friday 1st May: Lord Acton, Regius Professor of Modern History in Cambridge, warned of the tendency of power to corrupt. He might have added that the wish for power can do the same.
That’s the message from the 2015 election campaign, reinforced by the latest ‘scare’ on potential benefit cuts, ‘leaked’ by the chief secretary to the treasury, Danny Alexander. Alexander revealed to The Guardian that the Tories secretly plan to cut £8bn from the benefits bill. It’s hardly surprising that he is resorting to ‘scare’ stories: he and his Lib Dem co-religionists face a wipe out in Scotland and the West Country, with polls suggesting the party’s share of seats will collapse to around 27.

All at Sea on EU Immigration Policy

Friday 24th April: The loss at sea of hundreds of would-be migrants, drowned as they crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy, has prompted a chorus of recrimination against EU failure to support an adequate rescue service. A number of countries, including the UK, have now pledged to help, and at a special a summit yesterday the EU's leaders agreed to increase spending on search and rescue and to the settlement of a limited number of those who are saved.

Utopian Future or Fiscal Reality?

Thursday 16th April: The Economy is now central to the 2015 Election battle, with party leaders lining up against rivals’ pledges. All appear to promise more government/public spending on favoured causes, and a change in tax regime, either higher, or more complex, or both. However, behind the pledges and the party politics are a number of fiscal fallacies, says the economist, David B Smith. He explains the economic flaws behind the political pledges. The consequences could be felt throughout the system in the years to come by  business, by people themselves and the wider economy. Not only is Britain's economy too small to sustain such high proportion of public spending levels, but by ignoring the rules of sound taxation, this country and its people will be all the poorer. As David B Smith writes:

The conceptual sophistication with which the public spending and tax options are being discussed in the pre-election political debate, strikes many economists and tax specialists as pitched at a sub-primary school level. A number of basic but inconvenient truths have been ignored by almost all the political parties currently lobbying voters. Here I set out ten.

Fixing Parliament Shuts Out Voters

Friday 10th April As this election rumbles on, getting increasingly boring by the day, the folly of the new Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 becomes painfully apparent. It is a good example of too much democracy, a constitutional change emanating from the Liberal Democrats and enacted as a term of the coalition deal.

Prior to the passing of the Act the Prime Minister had the power to decide when to dissolve Parliament and call a general election. It was in fact the exercise of the Royal Prerogative on the Prime Minister’s advice to Her Majesty - just the kind of ‘undemocratic’ power to which many Liberal Democrats are opposed. Two consequences flowed from that power: first, the threat of an election was often sufficient to persuade recalcitrant MPs to behave themselves; and secondly, it made the Prime Minister of the day think twice about calling a general election mid-term as he would run the risk of losing it. In 1973 Edward Heath called a snap election on the issue of ‘Who runs Britain the Government or the Trade Unions?’ The electorate gave its answer: it was not Edward Heath. There was further the danger to a Prime Minister who hung on too long until the very end of the five year term.

Real Faith is Bad Politics

Thursday 2nd April 2015: This week David Cameron donned his cassock to deliver his Easter message to the periodical, Premier Christianity. Besides the expected recital of the government’s achievements, Cameron addresses two more philosophical questions. First, he says that it is wrong for people – and he mentions in particular those in the Church – to criticize his government’s policies as ‘amoral’, just because they disagree with them. This is a fair point. There is a stereotype, which has wide appeal not just popularly but also, especially, to intellectuals, according to which socialist-leaning policies stem from altruism and more business and market-friendly ones from self-interest. But supporters of the market can reply, with Cameron, that they too aim to bring the social goods which those on the left value. And their policies, by promoting a flourishing economy, will bring them more swiftly and surely. They also might reply – though it is unlikely that Cameron would either dare, or perhaps even wish to – that there are different visions of a good society. One vision might favour competition, diversity, plenty of freedom to succeed or to fail and even allow luck, good or bad, to play an important role. Another vision might prefer a more equal distribution of wealth, more protection from chance, more restrictions but fewer dangers. Neither vision is more moral than the other (nor, despite what some in the Churches say, more Christian).
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