Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Politics Decoded: Be Merciless to Ming, Taxing Times & Anyone Fancy a Flutter?

Continuing my weekly Tuesday column at the Wardman Wire, here is my latest post I did early today:

Time to dump Ming?

The conference season is upon us again and, as always, it has started with a rather ominous silence as the Lib Dems take to the stage. This year’s wise ideas from the Lib Dems are the cloud cuckoo land policy to abolish the petrol car by 2040, the impossible dream to make Britain carbon neutral (and nuclear free) by 2050 and the guaranteed vote loser to increase income tax for top earners. It is probably no coincidence, therefore, that high up on the unofficial agenda is to get rid of Ming Campbell.

For a party that are in the fortuitous position where they can offer anything knowing that they will never have to actually deliver it to the electorate, the Lib Dems are floating some real stinkers at the moment. But even so, is dumping Ming the answer?

Lib Dems seem to thinks so

An incredible 45% of Lib Dems voters want to dump Ming in favour of someone “younger and more charismatic”. That shouldn’t be too difficult as it doesn’t actually rule out anybody as a replacement. Only 5% think that the Lib Dems would do worse if they replaced Ming. Even more worrying for the Lib Dems is that only 36% of the electorate thinks that the Lib Dems are an irrelevance and a further 41% think they are a third force on British politics – just a protest vote party. The party is at a desperately low 15% rating in the polls with Labour and Tories attracting the floating voters.

What are the Lib Dems for?

However, the problem with the Lib Dems is not so much Ming – though he is hardly inspiring – but the Lib Dems themselves. When thinking of the Lib Dems I am often left wondering, what exactly are they for? They picked up some votes over Iraq, but that was a Blair issue and not perceived as a Brown one. Without Iraq they don’t actually offer us anything and they haven’t done since the mid 80s – their polling at election time has flat lined at all but the 2005 election (when Iraq was an issue). This strongly suggests the problem isn’t Ming but the perceptions of the electorate of what the Lib Dems are for. They are a protest vote for all but a small hardcore.

Flat lining for years

As the Labour party and Tories have pushed towards the centre ground from both sides they are squeezing the Lib Dems out all together. While the battle for the centre ground may be tough for Cameron, it is nigh on impossible for Ming. The same will be true for Huhne or Clegg. Anyone who thinks that a change in leadership will lead to a surge in the polls like it did for Cameron or Brown when they took over is probably living on the same street in cloud cuckoo land as Ming.

So, given that I don’t think it’ll make a blind bit of difference whether they replace Ming or not, you may be surprised to learn that I think he should go anyway.

The need for a hard nosed negotiator

There is a small but real possibility that the next election will produce a hung parliament with Labour as the biggest party. It will be one of those rare occasions that the Lib Dems will suddenly hold a few cards worth playing. However, they will need a strong, decisive leader to ensure the party makes the right decisions about whether they will support a Labour government and on what grounds. We have seen a small glimpse of how Ming will act in these circumstances when Paddy Ashdown was approach by team Brown to join his cabinet. Ming was indecisive and looked weak. The Lib Dems will need someone decisive and who doesn’t blink in the face of stiff negotiations. Which leads me to the next problem… who?

Taxation for the sake of taxation

It is about time our politicians stopped acting like the worse type of tabloid editor and start telling a few truths about the environment and global warming. The world is not going to end if we don’t charge parking at supermarket car parks. Adding Darling’s £2000 “showroom” tax to cars will not make a blind bit of difference to the climate of the earth. The country can not be carbon neutral by 2050 as Ming has said it would be under the Lib Dems.

The Tories are the most at risk over this issue, though. For John Gummer to claim that if we don’t adopt the proposals in his and Goldsmith’s Quality of Life report the Gulf Stream may “ceases to pump” is reprehensible nonsense. To suggest that buying produce from Goldsmith’s organic farm is better for the planet is simply untrue. It is no coincidence that the developed world has tackled famine, disease and poverty better than the rest of the world – because it industrialised. By refusing to do business with Africa will only increase famine, disease and poverty. Britain is an insignificant part of the problem – why should we pay shed loads of tax to tackle the impossible?

I support the idea that we should be “doing our bit” for the environment, but taxing the hell out of us will neither make any difference to the state of climate change nor win you any votes at the next election. If the Tories are not the party of tax cuts, they are nothing.

New Government policy

Anyone fancy a flutter? From the Daily Mash:

CHANCELLOR Alistair Darling has agreed to cover all bets at this afternoon’s EBF Maiden Stakes and is tipping the Irish two year-old, General Ting.

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