Thursday, December 15, 2005
I think there are 3 main reasons for keeping Charles Kennedy as leader - in reverse order:
1) Coups produce long term wounds which do not easily heal. Much of the Tories problems can be traced to the manner in which Thatcher was removed & the hatreds it inspired. In retrospect it would probably have been better to have lost the next election, had the bloodletting when out of office & relied on Kinnock to mess it up.
2) There is no alternative who would be better. Simon Hughes is a very good campaigner but is clearly of the socially inclusive side of the party rather than the classic liberal side (readers will be aware I think of myself as classic liberal). This would merely give an opening to Cameron's mob. Menzies Campbell will be discussed later*.
3) Charles is actually pretty good. He is clearly motivated by an understanding of why government should be intrinsically distrusted, which is rare in professional politicians. he is the only leader in contemporary British history who is clearly on the libertarian side of the libetarian/statist axis of the political compass. I consider this axis to be much more important than the traditional left/right one. He & probably he alone was responsible for steering an unflinching course on the illegal Iraq war & on ID cards & internment. By comparison the Tories got them selves into a ridiculous fankle being initially pro-war, calling the PM a liar on WMDs then saying they would have gone to war without WMDs i.e. in undeniable breach of law. He is also the only one who could credibly negotiate a coalition with either party.
By comparison Cameron has yet to prove that he has anything apart from youth & inexperience to stand on.
Having said that, we are going to have to do something other than just waiting for the other 2 parties to mess up.
I would suggest 2 things to concentrate on.
Under Mr Kennedy we have barely mentioned proportional representation. Perhaps this is because everybody knows it is what we stand for & it had got a bit boring. If so this is a mistake. Every advertiser knows that when people complain about seeing an advertising slogan to often it is starting to work. The case for PR is stronger & clearer than it has ever been. We may lose a couple of points on the grounds that while it is democratic we are also supporting our interest, but the Lab/Tories lose far more on the grounds that the reason they oppose it is that they are putting their interest ahead of democracy, which makes them look rather nasty.
One can now argue that FTPT isn't really in the Tory interest any more (Tories got 60,000 more votes than Labour in England & still lost) which makes them look silly & nasty at the same time.
I would like to see somebody saying at every debate on internment that such Bills are opposed by the representatives of over 64% of voters & supported by those of less than 36% (the Labour vote). There is ground which is advantageous to every party & a democratic electoral system is one which we should fight on at every opportunity.
The other is the economy. The economy is almost always the most important issue in elections. Mr cable managed to outflank the Tories at the last election with the proposal to abolish the DTI. More importantly he proved that he really understands what is wrong with our economy & how to fix it. Mr Brown is normally considered a Labour intellectual but clearly Cable is far more competent. I have repeatedly made my view known that we should adopt the Irish model to achieve growth so you can discount a bit of this if you wish.
We should establish as an immediate aim that we can bring growth up to the world average of 5% & ultimately to the 7% Ireland has managed. Such targets would, of themselves, be a standing indictment to Labour & indeed to the Tories who never really did much better than Labour. Neither have a decent growth record over the last 90 years - as with Mr Cameron inexperience here, handled properly, may comparatively inspire confidence. (Personally I would also call for us to go nuclear in a big way & support GM, X-Prizes for space development & new technology generally but but this is perhaps reaching metaphorically as well as literally for the Moon)
I would also quite like to see, now that the Kyoto bandwagon is about to crash, that we use David Cameron's leap aboard (pretty much the only policy he has definitely supported) as an opportunity to quietly dismount. I think when the shine wears off Cameron he will look rather dull.
Those policies & strong pressure on the other parties to discuss PR together with clear willingness to discuss alliance with anyone under a hung Parliament should put us in a very credible position.
*Menzies Campbell: while, to our shame, all MPs supported going to war to help our KLA employees engage in genocide, Menzies (pronounced Ming) Campbell was, with the exception of then leader Nazi Ashdown, the most unstinting in his enthusiasm. Like all MPs he knew that the KLA were engaged in genocide because foreign Secretary Cook had told Parliament that most of the civilian murders were of Serbs killed by the KLA (it is quite possible that he was wrong in that the KLA also murdered large numbers of anti-Nazi Albanian civilians but that does not diminish the moral case).
I would openly regret seeing an enthusiastic supporter of genocide running the party - again.