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Freedom Not Fantasy

Freedom Not Fantasy
 
Friday 24th June: As Britain votes to leave the EU, Politeia’s Director, Sheila Lawlor explains why we should trust the people.
 
This week, with the highest turnout at the polls for decades, British people decided to leave the EU. Despite the threats of dire consequences, the menace over months from a battery of big guns at home and abroad, people in this country did what they have always done. They thought about the issues, they thought about the evidence and, on the biggest decision faced by the country in their lifetime, they made up their own minds. Turning out in their millions to the polling booths, they voted to restore their ancient freedom, the birthright which has marked this country out from others. They voted for the right to make the laws under which they are governed, to hold their rulers to account and get rid of them when they get things wrong.
 
Across the portals of power that decision has not been understood, by many in politics and across Whitehall, by big business and the banks, by conglomerates and international institutions. Indeed, they had not hesitated to use official power, and the resources and bureaucracies of state against the cause championed by those they seek to rule. Instead of recognising this instinct for freedom, which marked this country’s political identity and evolution over the last millenium, there has been incomprehension.
 
It has been alleged that Leave was a ‘protest vote’, of the ‘have-nots’ against the ‘haves’; it is claimed  by many in the Labour Party that their supporters were not voting against the EU but against 'Conservative cuts'; and it is said that those who voted leave were not ‘graduates’, ie the superior beings alleged to be on the side of remain, according to one ‘explanation’ on the BBC during the count . Behind all of this is the mistaken view that those who voted leave cannot be trusted with the vote, that they fail to recognise the ‘truth’ of what their betters or the experts tell them; that as one Guardian columnist put it, they have contributed to a world of ‘post-truth politics’, for which society will pay the price.
 
Of all the places in the world that these things might be said, they cannot be said of Britain. People here have had freedom in their blood for centuries; they have fought for it, and for its great causes – from the right to vote and the cause of free trade to the right to throw their rulers out. They have used that freedom dramatically on occasions changing political direction. It is no coincidence that long before Britain joined the EEC, her 20th century prime ministers referred to freedom as Britain’s ‘birthright’ and to parliament as its guardian. That birthright has brought a rich legacy. It has inculcated amongst voters a scepticism of those who promise a false vision of utopia or for that matter, a false scenario of fear. It has for centuries allowed people to see through the fakes and frauds of electioneering, to judge for themselves the least bad course. In so doing it has strengthened parliamentary government bringing stability, prosperity and security. Freedom and its fruits are precious to Britain’s voters. They have shown that they, above all others, can be trusted with its legacy.
  
*Sheila Lawlor is Director of Politeia and author of Ruling the Ruler: Parliament, the People and Britain’s Political Identity  published this week.
 
 
 

Common Law and Common Sense

Common Law and Common Sense
Legal Dynamics, Prosperity and Britain's Future
 

As the country joins her family in mourning the tragic killing of one of our most likeable and promising Parliamentarians, the proper suspension of the debate upon European Union membership has given all an opportunity to reflect upon the quality and conduct of the argument on one of the great issues of our time. 

When polling eventually takes place on Brexit on June 23rd, most people will be relieved that important issues for the country have been exhaustively considered, though concerned that on some occasions the rules of civilised democratic behaviour and debate forgotten. Like me, some will feel saddened that John Major, in whose administration I served, recently marred his reputation, by resorting to personalised, even vindictive attacks on the Vote Leave Team, in a way out of keeping with his stewardship of Britain's highest office.

As we return our focus to the final week of the Brexit debate, I pose three questions.

First, is the European Union now or in the future, compatible with how we do things in Britain?  In two crucial ways, it plainly isn’t.

Equal Treatment before the Law, Mr Hancock!

Equal Treatment before the Law, Mr Hancock!
Social Engineering has no place in the Labour Market.
 

Treasury Forecasts – Politics or Truth?

Treasury Forecasts – Politics or Truth? 

Giving with One Hand and Taking with Two …

Giving with One Hand and Taking with Two …
 
Friday 20thMay: The proposals in the Queen’s speech are cold comfort for great British universities which owe their excellence to freedom not bureaucratic control, writes John Marenbon.
 
These days legislation about the universities usually comes in a glossy free-market wrapping, but its contents are drably dirigiste. Just five years ago the Coalition transferred much of the financial cost for teaching from the state to students. They are now obliged to pay the full costs of cheaper, mainly humanities, courses and given loans to repay them. But instead of allowing a proper market, one where better universities could charge more for their courses, which may in fact cost more to provide in terms of teaching and other support, the government capped the fees. As a result almost every institution, from the most illustrious to the humblest, charges exactly the same.
 
Although these fees are supposedly private payments from customers (i.e. the students) to the universities, as providers of a service, the government has refused to stand aside. Rather it has used the threefold fee increase to exert greater control, by threatening to reduce the fees a university can charge unless it meets targets in admitting candidates from unprivileged backgrounds.
 
The new White Paper, with its predictably philistine title, Success as a Knowledge Economy, follows the same pattern. It will become easier for private institutions to gain university status and these new universities will be allowed to compete with existing ones, perhaps putting some of them out of business. But what appears to be a move to free up the market is accompanied by another extension of bureaucratic power. Universities will be assessed, not just on their research, but on their teaching, and those found wanting will be punished financially. 
 
Despite the wrapping, the government does not merely seem to lack faith in the free market which it claims to be enabling (no one thinks that we need government checks to ensure Tesco gives value for money: when it doesn’t, the customers desert it for Sainsbury’s or Walmart). It is also half-hearted in promoting that market. A few more private institutions at the edges, probably geared to providing profitable vocational courses, will do no harm.  What the real aim should be for a government which values freedom - both in the market, and in teaching and research - is to release the great universities from their bondage: Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, LSE, and others in the Russell Group.
 
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