05 May 2010

Last UK papers declare their hands

The Daily Telegraph stuns the nation by calling for a vote for the Conservatives. The editorial for Wednesday rightly says "Tony Blair's "project" was undermined from the start by two fundamental flaws. The first was the conviction that only big-government solutions can bring about lasting change; the second was the belief that to throw money at a problem is to solve it. The consequence was a spending binge of unparalleled profligacy conducted by an ever-expanding state machine – almost a million people have been added to the government payroll since 1997. When Labour came to power, public spending accounted for 40 per cent of GDP. Last year, the figure was 52 per cent."

Yes, of course, and largely right (although exaggerated) to say "Britain has become the most spied upon, regulated, nannied society in the Western world. Virtually our every move is caught on camera, ever more of our personal details are kept by agents of the state (and frequently lost by them, too). The state dictates where we can smoke and tries to tell us what we should eat and drink. This is not so much big government as Big Brother."

Sadly the Telegraph unwinds itself by saying "The Tory vision of the Big Society plays strongly into these new political realities. Built on the concept that the state should do less, better, and that decisions are best taken as closely as possible to where they impact, it addresses the straitened circumstances of the time. There is a coherent body of policies to support this vision, notably on education, welfare, law and order, and immigration. A smaller state means lower taxes"

There is nothing small government about the Big Society, there is little in the Conservative manifesto about a smaller state and precious less about lower taxes. The instincts and philosophy of the Daily Telegraph has a lot to commend it, sadly the Conservatives are letting them down.

The Independent unsurprisingly calls for a vote for the Liberal Democrats, or if that has no chance of success, a vote for any party to keep the Conservatives out. The key agenda is electoral reform, a rather odd priority at a time of record public debt, budget deficit and the risk of the economy slipping back into recession. However, the Independent hasn't been a successful business for years, so it is hardly surprising that it is incapable of understanding economics.

Finally, the most sane editorial yet comes from Allister Heath in City AM. He is supporting the Conservatives, as the least worst option of the main three. At least philosophically that newspaper has a positive grounding in capitalism. It isn't objectivism, but it is light years away from the rest:

City A.M. is proud to be an independent newspaper; yet that does not mean that we are free of values or devoid of a worldview. We support the City, London’s financial and business community, capitalism, economic growth, hard work, low taxes and a real free-market economy with no corporatism, bailouts or handouts. Good firms should be allowed to make (and keep) vast sums of money; bad ones should go bust. Success as well as failure should be privatised. We stand for meritocracy, where anybody, regardless of background, creed or gender, can get on in life; as well as for a truly compassionate society, whereby the better off have a duty to give the poor a helping hand and support those who cannot look after themselves.

A newspaper that supports capitalism, a free market economy without subsidies is a rare thing. Oh and City AM is free, funny how greedy capitalists can give away something for free isn't it? Herein lies one of the grand myths of the statist self-righteous "we know best" left.

He continues:

"We stand for internationalism, free trade, cultural openness and global engagement but shun unaccountable global bureaucracies and despise totalitarian movements. We like competition and open markets and dislike monopolies, cartels and state-granted privileges; we support knowledge, scholarship, sound science and evidence-based policies and reject irrationality, hysteria and obscurantism. In short, we are classical liberals in the tradition of Adam Smith, David Hume, Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek."

Yes, stone the crows, the UK isn't just about who can compete for the socialist vote, although Heath makes it clear that the choices are not great:

"None of the parties in Britain truly reflect this strand of thought. All have concealed the need to cut spending. All have promoted a simplistic, vote-winning narrative of the crisis which trashes the City indiscriminately, rather than trying to understand the complex and often policy-induced causes of the recession."

So he supports the Conservatives on the basis that most candidates are pro-free market and have the right instincts.

I can only hope he is right.

Meanwhile, as Labour faces accusations of lying about Conservative policies on child tax credits only ONE major national UK newspaper supports a vote for Labour in this election. The Daily Mirror. It's only useful contribution is flooding its working class readers with cries to not support the BNP.

Of the rest, the Guardian and the Independent are supporting the Liberal Democrats, and all of the rest are supporting the Conservatives. As newspapers like to back winners, it is more likely to be wishful thinking than any real influence upon voters. For most papers they back who their readers are likely to back. The Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and the Independent would support the Conservatives and LibDems respectively regardless. The Sun and The Times try to back the winner. The Guardian is the most interesting decision, turning its back on Labour.

None of these means very much, but it DOES mean that the UK papers are full of a diversity of perspectives and columns across the mainstream political spectrum, albeit not as wide as I would like. None of the main parties get away without strident criticism and critiques of their policies (although the perspectives of those critiques are not necessarily that diverse).

Contrast that to the near empty void of the NZ press.

UPDATE: London's Evening Standard is backing the Conservatives, because it fears a hung Parliament and believes change is needed.

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