The first cut is the deepest, or at least that’s how the song goes – clearly the coalition haven’t listened to much Rod Stewart (or if we’re being picky Cat Stevens), because the first cuts made to public spending have been a little shallower than we might have expected. It’s great news of course that schemes to create jobs have been cut (as the reality of those schemes is many of the jobs ended up being public sector), it’s superb, and humanising, news that the Ministerial car pool is being shelved, and even better news that the frankly ludicrous child trust fund has been axed.
But amongst the many cuts announced this week you couldn’t help but feel that this was simply a prelude: the ’emergency’ (in all senses of the word) budget being where the sharpness of the axe really will be felt. I applaud the immediate cuts, but I’m mindful that in many cases these were the easy ones – the government has a really messy job ahead of it, because it isn’t just going to be expected to make cuts: it’s going to be expected to change whole sections of society’s outlook away from it being the Government’s core job to provide employment.
You see, the problem with all Labour governments is that they have all historically mixed up private and public sector, it doesn’t matter which one you’re in, so long as you’re working – except that’s economic nonsense: public sector jobs don’t generate wealth or tax revenue. While this is perfectly acceptable for core essential services (security, defence, health and teaching) it’s totally ludicrous anywhere else. Under New Labour the public sector exploded; whole towns and cities where unemployment was traditionally an issue suddenly found themselves awash with work opportunities – all paid for by the tax payer, and all – ultimately – doomed to be unaffordable.
This is the attitude we’re going to have to change, the coalition is going to have to make people understand that jobs created by government don’t raise tax revenue – they’re subsidised jobs paid for by an ever shrinking group of entrepreneurs and business owners and the people who work for them, the people by and large who have smaller pensions, work longer hours, have less holiday and less job security. There is something horrifically unfair about this – Labour perpetuated that it was all for the ‘fairer’ society – but it failed to do this miserably by creating a society where a huge proportion of the jobs were paid for by mugging Peter to pay Paul.
You can browse the Grauniad or any number of local authority websites to find the dredges of this era of profligacy at the private sector’s expense: Community street football advisors, Gypsy & Traveller Liaison Officer, Biodiversity awareness officers, vast numbers of ‘communications’ and ‘pr’ advisors – the list is as bizarre as it is endless; these non-jobs (as highlighted by the TPA) are a fallacy, and it’s going to take a long time to convince people that this society can do without endless state-sponsored jobs, and even longer to convince people that they can (in many cases) create their own wealth, start their own businesses, and most importantly that you can thrive in the private sector if you’re willing to throw away the unaffordable perks of being paid by the public purse.
A blinder of a speech from Nick Clegg, I’ve been wanting to hear a politician talk like this for a very long time – and I’ve not felt so enthused since I heard Cameron’s speak at the Conservative conference without notes about how he wanted real change.
Nick Clegg today laid out what the Change Coalition can do: and it’s exactly what Britain needs right now – a rebalancing of power, more trust in us the people of the UK to run our own affairs, and a real movement toward a fairer, safer society that isn’t feared by it’s people.
I have spent my whole political life fighting to open up politics. So let me make one thing very clear: this government is going to be unlike any other. This government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state. This government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is how we build a society that is fair. This government is going to persuade you to put your faith in politics once again.
I’m not talking about a few new rules for MPs; not the odd gesture or gimmick to make you feel a bit more involved. I’m talking about the most significant programme of empowerment by a British government since the great enfranchisement of the 19th Century. The biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy, for the first time extending the franchise beyond the landed classes. Landmark legislation, from politicians who refused to sit back and do nothing while huge swathes of the population remained helpless against vested interests. Who stood up for the freedom of the many, not the privilege of the few. A spirit this government will draw on as we deliver our programme for political reform: a power revolution.A fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge. So, no, incremental change will not do.
It is time for a wholesale, big bang approach to political reform. That’s what this government will deliver.
It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide. It has to stop.
So there will be no ID card scheme. No national identity register, no second generation biometric passports. We won’t hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so. CCTV will be properly regulated, as will the DNA database, with restrictions on the storage of innocent people’s DNA. And we will end practices that risk making Britain a place where our children grow up so used to their liberty being infringed that they accept it without question. There will be no ContactPoint children’s database.Schools will not take children’s fingerprints without even asking their parent’s consent.
This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state. That values debate, that is unafraid of dissent. That’s why we’ll remove limits on the rights to peaceful protest. It’s why we’ll review libel laws so that we can better protect freedom of speech. And as we tear through the statute book, we’ll do something no government ever has: We will ask you which laws you think should go.
Because thousands of criminal offences were created under the previous government… Taking people’s freedom away didn’t make our streets safe. Obsessive lawmaking simply makes criminals out of ordinary people. So, we’ll get rid of the unnecessary laws, and once they’re gone, they won’t come back. We will introduce a mechanism to block pointless new criminal offences.
Nick Clegg 19th May 2010
Strong stuff – said from the heart from both Cameron & Clegg: but by god – we will be watching. So don’t let us down.
So, Nick Clegg, bless is cotton socks is standing by his word – speaking in the first instance to the party with the largest number of votes and seats. Cameron made a particularly Prime Ministerial speech, no nonsense and no tractor facts, just a plain speech laying out the points of outreach and the redlines which they won’t move on.
I’m extremely excited about this, many people seem to assume the Liberal Democrats are in some way social democrats: but I don’t think that’s their position – most of the Lib Dems I know are just that “liberal” “democrats”, conservatively focussed on freedoms of the people, freedoms of the markets within strong frameworks and a realistic view that many ‘unmovable rocks’ in British democracy are in fact entirely movable; and in an open democracy always should be.
A conservative liberal coalition would for me deliver many of the things that I’ve always wanted from a parliamentary party: strong reform of our public bodies, fairer voting, a more balanced outlook on Europe and a tempering of the budget.
I find this extremely exciting.