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, 4 June 2009

A republic at any price?

Seen the Republic website? It's a strange campaign, working to "support a republican constitution in place of the monarchy". But what kind of republic?

It seems that for the folk at Republic anything will do. They say that after a successful campaign to replace the monarch with an elected head of state they will "facilitate a debate on the best model for a future republic" - but only AFTER?

The problem with Republic - and the reason that even as quintessential Roundhead I can't support their campaign - is that they seem to want to end the monarchy at any cost. Even at the cost of a unchecked Presidency that allows dictatorship to grow in its midst? Even if the reserved Presidential emergency powers allow immediate and unconditional suspension of the constitution? Even at the cost of forced coalitions to avoid Presidential intervention?

We need a grown up political dialogue in this country which isn't about not liking the Civil List, Prince Andrew's views on helicopter usage or Prince Charles' views on architecture as a reason for preferring a republic, but a solid case for a TYPE of republic that suits us. Not a borrowed form (whether American or European) but one that is made for the UK. Surely that is not beyond us?

Monday, 25 May 2009

The hard life of an MP....

It must be a very onerous job being an MP. The House of Commons sits at odd hours still, rises for recess and reassembles with the tides and seasons, and the processes and procedures for daily business are still bafflingly arcane.

Hang on, though. If MPs wanted to do so, they could change all of that. For example, the House will sit for a mere 128 days in the 2008/09 session and, on most days of the four day attending week, begins its work at 2pm. How about (radical idea this) the House sitting for 220 days, from 0900 to 1600, abandoning the fripperies (prayers, Westminster Hall debates, even adjournment debates), allowing MPs to return to their constituency homes if within 2 hours commute of London? Huge numbers of MPs wouldn't need the much vaunted 'second home', they'd get the chance for a closer and more detailed scrutiny of the executive and legislation, and moreover Parliament would actually be sitting for more hours than it does currently.

In all of the recent discussion of expenses and parliamentary reform I had hoped to see some recognition of this simple fact: that our MPs could make their life easier, and raise our respect for them, simply by changing the arcane hours of sitting of the House. The rest of it (expenses reform, House of Lords reform to a fully elected chamber, deselections and primaries...) can wait. Let's insist on a more rational pattern of work for those we elect, and pay for, in Parliament first so we SEE them working when we are working too.

Monday, 2 February 2009

The liberal prescription

How do you get out of a recession? Well, first - as Keynes taught us all if we had the wit to notice - you can't expect to do more than stimulate recovery, possibly at the cost of inflation. The liberal prescription for a recession ought to be, modestly, along the same lines. Whilst Gordon 'Batman' Brown claims he is saving the planet, liberals should be saving our sanity and hope by making it clear that old fashioned deep recessions like this (not the stagflation of the 1980s) are not easily remedied by fiscal or monetary policy alone - that governments can stimulate but can't cure, even if confidence in the financial system were miraculously restored. Liberals know that recessions require a mix of policies, to protect the most vulnerable on the one hand from the effects and to stimulate a macroeconomic response on the other. In this recession, a truly liberal response is to claim less, hope more. We don't only have to fear fear itself, we have to fear the mad machine politics of the Tories and Labour for whom the prescription is driven more by polls than by reason.