Monday, April 19, 2010

UK election - Liberal Democrats, the naive protest vote

For a very brief period I thought about voting for the Liberal Democrats. Why? Because I want Labour out, and the Lib Dems came second in my constituency last time. Removing a seat from Labour is rational, but a moment of scrutiny shows the Liberal Democrats for what they are, a mediocre muddle of conflicting, contradictions, which at best is naively optimistic and at worst is peddling envy and big government.

The whole manifesto is here, but you'll fall asleep reading it. So I've compiled the highlights, it shows a party that is pulled in three different directions, socialism, environmentalism and liberalism. The result looks like a left wing more liberal version of the Labour Party.

On tax it starts looking good. The first £10,000 would be tax free for everyone. I can't oppose that, except that it isn't about cutting taxes overall. No. Capital gains tax would be increased, as would taxes on aviation (why tax aviation? Part of the environmentalist religious mantra, and helps to price the poor out of overseas holidays), and a new tax on owning a big home. The tax policy essentially benefits the middle class voters it wants to attract, while penalising the wealthier and the poorer (as the tax on aviation hurts the poorest who want to fly).

It then claims to look sensible on deficit reduction, but when you look at the detail it isn't much different from the weasel words of the other two, about more efficient procurement, reforming state sector pensions. The exception is the Liberal Democrat view on defence, which is for the UK to withdraw from the world somewhat. Scrapping Trident means phasing out Britain's nuclear deterrent over time.

However, the real danger is in the policy on banking. A new Banking Levy on all banks, would penalise the prudent as well as those bailed out, and it is a precursor to splitting up the banks. It also wants to drastically cut bank bonuses, effectively chasing the most talented in finance to Geneva, New York and Hong Kong. In other words a wholesale attack on one of Britain's leading industries, presumably to pander to middle class anger and envy about it. How can this be taken seriously? Why the hell aren't the Conservatives warning of how devastating this would be, except the fact that George Osborne hasn't a clue about the banking sector either?

Meanwhile, it might say it wants to cut the deficit, but then it seeks to made the Ponzi style state pension MORE generous. Surely not another vote bribe of the elderly paid for by more borrowing? It also extends the absurd Winter Fuel Benefit to the disabled and would give money to homeowners with homes that aren't used so they can be used for public housing. It also wants to eliminate child poverty by 2020, presumably by not leaving it to parents to look after their own kids. Increasing the welfare state at a time when it says the economy is in tatters?

It wants to expand corporate welfare by the state paying shipyards to make wind turbines? What sort of nonsense is that to put out of business existing manufacturers? It is illegal under EU competition law for the state to do that, you'd have thought since the LibDems love the EU, they might have known that.

It would set up an Infrastructure Bank to waste taxpayers' money. It sees it like a sovereign fund, except you don't establish those until you have low or no net public debt. Silliness again.

Then there is part privatisation of the Royal Mail, a sudden rush of blood to the head of common sense, rare as it may be.

Liberal? My arse. What liberal party would make it compulsory for job application forms to have NO NAMES, so people are not discriminated against for their sex or ethnic background? How the hell are you meant to interview Applicant X, or approach referees? How does that combat the suspected discrimination?

Education is largely tinkering, except for promising to abolish university tuition fees over six years. Again, the cutting the deficit idea is shown up to be bullshit.

Health is tinkering as well, although it is curious the LibDems are the only major party to not promote continued above inflation spending rises on the NHS. Although the quackery of the policy can be seen when included in health policy is opposing the 3rd runway at Heathrow Airport because it will reduce pollution and health costs. Yes, seriously.

Free speech? Well not really, not when you want to ban airbrushed images in advertising, for example. Requiring Facebook to have an online reporting function for perverts and bullies. See the trails of Nanny Statism all over the manifesto. You see it in setting maximum interest rates for credit cards, forcing rail fares to be reduced (even on overcrowded lines) and in wanting to set up a PostBank! Border exit checks add to this.

It wants to regulate supermarkets, so that they are forced to pay higher prices to farmers for food (as will everyone). Liberal? Just mercantilist protectionism.

It is in cuckoo land on energy policy to make 40% of energy renewable by 2020, which would mean a huge increase in energy bills. It would scrap nuclear power as well, and have an Australian style nationwide home insulation programme. Why? Because the LibDems are vehement about cutting CO2 emissions. It wants to spend more money on UN agencies, and to support wiping third world debt - seems bonehead Bono has got to them too. It is quiet on the EU, because it knows so many loathe the waste there, but it would strengthen European defence co-operation.

However, one policy on defence says it all about naivete. The LibDems rule out military action against Iran. It may not be a wise or a desirable move, but to completely rule it out tells Iran that Britain, at least, would not stand in its way of being a nuclear power. Why this policy even needs to be here (how many Iranians are voting?) is beyond me.

Transport isn't too important, but again it shows a childlike foolishness. It would seriously cut road spending (which isn't big anyway) to reopen closed railway lines, which would mean no road improvements and possibly more potholes and other serious deterioration of already underfunded roads. Along with banning new airport runways, and it is the typical Green "rail good, road baaad, planes baaad" religion.

Anything liberal? Well scrapping the ID card scheme is about all i can get enthused about, but the Tories say the same thing. There is an implied policy of not being so draconian on drugs, with policy based on harm, but that is barely scratching the surface. Libel laws would be reformed, innocent people's DNA removed from state databases and stop storing people's email and phone records without good cause. This is it on freedom, at the same time as regulating business and individual behaviour more, and changing taxes, but not reducing the size of the state.

Finally, it would reform the electoral system to introduce STV, and give the young and naive the vote at 16 (both would benefit the Lib Dems enormously). It would also empower local government to introduce local income tax, yes small government isn't to be found here.

It's atrocious. It is a mix of old fashioned socialist envy about banking and property ownership, lots of anti-capitalist environmentalism and hatred of certain technologies (aviation and nuclear power are notable), and a lot of tinkering, with a smidgeon of reducing state surveillance in some areas.

It could be the Labour Party without it's embracing of state surveillance, and its commitment to the defence status quo. However, it reforms very little, and in fact would cause immense damage to British business and industry, whilst gaining nothing for social services, and reducing Britain's influence in the world.

There is nothing here to excite, and quite a bit to fear. However, all the public are thinking is that Nick Clegg is a vote against both Brown and Cameron. Yet, he has enough seats and could win enough to hold a significant influence after the election.

What's next?

Well there is another debate next Thursday between the three leaders, so things may go a little different.

More importantly, Monday morning is only hours away from having the markets open and react to the high chance of a Liberal Democrat determined hung Parliament. I suspect that will tell a lot about what business thinks of the public's flirtation with the Socialist Democratic barely Liberals.



5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scott, am wondering how the Tories can get 35%, LibDems 31% and Labour 26%.....yet Labour get 232 seats.

Is this because Labour still is getting 40-50% in its core seats (e.g. Scotland) but about 15% in all others?

AshC

jarbury said...

They sound great. Would definitely get my vote if I lived in the UK.

Anonymous said...

Jarbury, did you see the earlier post where Liberty claimed the the car was responsible for the improved lot of women? Not a word about the womens movement or feminist politics. What next? Cars cure cancer? Ian.

libertyscott said...

AshC - The constituencies Labour wins are with smaller majorities than those of the Tories. The Tories have some safe seats with huge majorities, so while total share of the vote is higher, the vote isn't spread geographically to win more constituencies.

Ian: Don't misrepresent me, I did not say the car was responsible for the improved lot of women. I said it contributed to it, the article was about how the private car has enabled people to have more choices, women in particular. Don't misrepresent. Jarbury is welcome because even if I disagree with him, he doesn't come in to be a coprolaliac like you.

However, I can both criticise you view in that it seems odd that one can obsess so much about railways, that it is ok for roads to be potholed to the extent that cyclists complain about how unsafe they are - but then I'm amazed at how socialists think that charging government owned roads at a 300% profit margin is ok, but the private sector are such rogues if they get rates of return at a tiny fraction of that. If only railways could sustain such profit margins that could be spent on something else. I wish they could, but then I like transport, not just one mode.

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