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Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Last week I went to the Policy Institute's meeting on the Scottish economy. David Farrer has a good review of it on his blog.
I would reinforce his objection to calling it a meeting of the "Right" & I found several others there saying the same. Indeed Tom said this had been discussed when sending the invitations & they had basically found no other term people could agree on. I can understand that - call it progressive & Tommy Sheriden would turn up, call it liberal & Nicol Stephen will want an invite & it was clearly seen, by the Tory party, as their bailiwick. Nonetheless I would like to See the description classic liberal used - I think it is the only one which is accurate. It is said that the Conservatives are liberal, the Liberal Democrats are socialist & the Socialists are conservative.

The speaker Mark Pennington certainly spoke for what was certainly free market liberalism rather than conservatism, ending with his fears that Britain's charitable/single issue activists are being effectively nationalised, by government grants & being turned into government controlled lobbyists for ever growing government power. I discussed how this had been done with Friends of the Earth previously. He was clearly worried this would be unstoppable. Thinking it over I wonder if it would be possible for all government grants to lobby organisations to be made public & for opposing organisations to have a legal right to claim something similar, either as an Act of Parliament or more probably a judicial decision under the European Human Rights Convention. Government might be less keen to subsidise FotI or Ash if they might also have to give equal time to SONE or FORREST.

During the lunch I was on the social services discussion group where I helped kick off a discussion on schools vouchers which went down fairly well. Also at the table was a LibDem Policy Ctte member who had the grace to be slightly embarrassed when I introduced myself as someone who had benn expelled from the party for, what I consider to be, liberalism.

In the final discussion the Tory representative was scathing about anybody setting up a free market party, rather than joining the Tories. Personally I consider the SNP to be currently more free market than the Tories, which is why I gave my constituency vote to them. If they want to get such support they are going to have to earn it not assume it as a right. This also seemed to be the opinion of the hall, agreeing that the recent SNP budget was a better "Tory" budget than the Tories could have produced. I hope that message has been taken back to the party leadership.

I have also added this comment on David's blog so might as well put it here too:

Katie Grant suggested that the Tories should accept another period in the wilderness as a price for persuading Scotland to believe in markets. While I think it would be legitimate to pay that price I think it misunderstands the difference between Westminster's FPTP votes & our PR. It may be the case that to win the Tories at Westminster need to become cuddly to gain the middle ground (it is also arguable that it isn't) but in Scotland nobody is going to get a majority so what they need to to is to get their natural voters to support them. It is clear that at the last election a lot of Tories voted SNP in the, correct, opinion that they were more likely to allow economic freedom & success.
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