Blogging is a strange occupation - a solitary writer in search of the sort of communion with others that used to happen in the pub, on the corner, on the bus is now engaging with others electronically instead. So much for progress.

THIS blog is about ideas - big and small - connected with one of the things I care about with a passion, namely the future of liberal thought in this country. I am instinctively a radical liberal, with a grudging belief in the value of markets but an abhorrence of statism and indifference, and a strong belief in social justice. I find Labour bankrupt of ideas, and the Tories intellectually flacid. This is my response.

I am intending always to stick to the point: there will be no rabble-rousing talk, and no wasted jibes at other parties and political philosophies.

Comments will be moderated, but anyone can leave one.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

'I have an announcement to make...'

Alistair Darling may, or may not, announce a stamp duty holiday, or pause, or redefinition...or none of the above. As a result, house sellers are up in arms, estate agents are crying foul and the government is, again, in hot water for - in this case - actually doing nothing, and still making life worse for many people.

Is there ever a case for announcing that you will do something before you do it? Well, liberals would I think argue that the pre-emption can protect in some instances. Announce today that you intend to tax immoral earnings at 20% above the standard rate and you can reduce exploitation now. The problem with it is, of course, that pre-emption is a bit like having your cake and eating it if you are a cynical political calculator. I announce that I will impose the super-tax, there is no reduction in the tax take, but I gain political kudos from the announcement. Something of this thinking must have been behind the then Chancellor's announcement ('the then Chancellor' being one Mr. G. Brown) to trail most of the budget in an earlier 'budget statement'. The Chancellor gained kudos, looked in control and open at the same time, and lost nothing. A perfect solution for a canny politician.

Let's try to avoid the cynical thought that this is the only mode of 'announcement' that has political viability. I'd like to see a whole lot more stick being used instead of expensive carrots as far as industry policy is concerned for example. If a government were really serious about fairness and equity, as well as encouraging the use of public transport, would it not announce the steps it would take if rail fares were to rise above the rate of inflation, for example? Would it not in fact have a duty to make that threat very public? Recently, in Britain, governments of all persuasions have been too timid to do this. But it is a clear, honest, and I think liberal tactic.

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