With the main protagonists having now had their last main conference before the General Election, there are some thoughts which occurred during those conferences.
1) The Lib Dems have taken the first step to re-distribution of wealth re-appearing on the political agenda.
Roundly criticised by many at the time, there is still some bemusement at Vince Cable’s balls up, but his announcement of a tax on properties worth £1 million is the first stirrings of a return to the political charts of re-distribution of wealth. Oh and actually it is a good idea, even if it does look like a Blue Peter toiletry set of an idea. The idea of taxing those people with wealth disappeared when Thatch swept to power, and seems to be returning essentially because no one else has any money at the moment.
Cable’s idea seems to have been influenced by this and by not appearing to signal a possible re-assessment of Council Tax rates, which despite being favoured by every council up and down the country would be a massive vote loser. Thus an idea with solid principles ends up looking rather cobbled together.
This was a great pity as Cable could have taken the baton from the TUC, who were calling for tax loopholes to be closed and tax avoidance to be pursued with more rigour as an alternative to the massive cuts to our public services.
2) The gap between the political classes and everyone else in the UK is growing.
Nick Clegg started his conference talking about “Savage Cuts”, Brown talked about cuts, while the Tories struggled to hide their relish at the prospect of cuts (only the SNP talked of defending Scotland’s position, while talking up the hard choices they have made). Everywhere you looked politicians were talking about cuts to public services.
Missing from the conversation amongst themselves were the cuts people were really interested in, cuts to bonuses in The City, cuts to expenses for MP’s and cuts in MP’s only interested in themselves (there are a lot of them out there). Also missing from politician’s lips was any talk of prosecutions being brought against any of those bankers whose criminal negligence brought about the current recession. Not surprising when you realise that New Labour ennobled 3 of the four Horsemen of the Economic Apocalypse.
3) New Labour have still to acknowledge the problems they have caused to this country.
This might be a recession which came from America, but it is also a recession brewed and exacerbated by the UK’s approach, or lack of, approach to financial regulation. However listening to the various New Labour politicians, they honestly do not think that they have anything to apologise for, or for that matter do not think that there are any further actions to take regarding regulation. They are already trying to fudge tax avoidance laws which were agreed at the G20 conferences, and Brown seems to be intent in re-writing the past 13 years. Browns speech was classic I wasn’t there, it wasn’t really me, as he unveiled a set of policies which had they been properly thought out would have been ok, had Brown not been a key architect in New Labour since 1994.
4) The Conservatives have not “sealed the deal”
This conference was billed as the conference where the Conservatives would show that they are ready for government, and hopefully (for them) win the trust of the British public. That this has not happened is probably down to the talk of cuts emanating from the conference, and details of which cuts they would make while in government. I’m sure many of our senior citizens are looking forward to working to 66, and a 25% cut in the budget for the MOD is still a cut, whichever spin you want to put on it. The appointment of the former army chief Richard Danett also looked like the worst kind of political opportunism (Cameron should have appointed him when in government) that you only thought Mandelson/Campbell would have been responsible for. For whatever reason, the Tories poll rating seems to have dipped slightly, with an average lead down to 12 from 15 before the conference season.
One cut not discussed at the Conservative conference were plans to scrap the broadcasting regulator OFCOM. Strange really as I’m sure the Conservatives, being the upstanding honest politicians that they are would have gone to great pains to rebut any suggestion that this had anything to do with the change in the S*n’s political allegiance. What do you mean you didn’t know the Tories had a policy.
5) Salmond really has to reign in his ego, or it could all end in tears.
Fortune favours the brave, and if Alex Salmond is nothing else he is rather bold with his predictions and statements. His goal of 20 SNP seats is a bold target, but not necessarily an un-gettable one. The problem is that it would require a spectacular set of circumstances for this to come about, everything would have to go the SNP’s way. A more realistic target would be double figures or trying to beat the 11 seats won in the election of October 1974.
This example of Salmond’s mouth running away with itself pales into insignificance compared to his comparison of Kenny MacAskil to the principles of Mahatma Ghandi over the release of the Lockerbie Bomber Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi. Unlike many critic’s, it’s not the release of the convicted Lockerbie Bomber which sticks in my throat, but his continued, and frankly embarrassing, support of the Scottish legal system which, despite the evidence, convicted Megrahi. The trial was one of the biggest injustices the world has ever seen, according to the UN observer Dr Hans Kochler, a “disservice has been done to the important cause of international criminal justice”. Yet MacAskil thinks that Scottish justice did a good job.
These two quotes had overshadowed a conference which did not focus on cuts. Their poll figures in the coming weeks will be interesting.