Monday, October 18, 2010

Tuition Fees

Nick Clegg met the Chilean President Sebastian Pinera today, presumably to ask him how to get out of the deep hole Vince Cable has buried the party in.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

All you need is love

It's been an emotional morning. I watched the rescue of Chilean miners. Here was Archimedes' fulcrum - "Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the world", images instantly around the globe. I thought of the first time we saw live video from inside a warzone, CNN in Baghdad during the 1st Gulf War and then of that first live global television link, Our World,on 25th June 1967, when 400 million people in 26 countries watched the Beatles sing All you need is love. I remembered the hippy hopes and joy of the late 1960s and all that has happened since.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of the party

“Liberal Democrats are the only party which believes university education should be free and everyone who has the ability should be able to go to university and not be put off by the cost.”
LibDem manifesto 2010.

Did we mean it ? If we give way on this issue, we will not only lose the votes of a generation, we will signal to the Conservatives that we are a pushover.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Coalition and the real alternative

Critical indeed fanatical opponents of the coalition implicitly compare it with their imagined ideal of government, usually some mythical version of Labour government which never existed. In the real world the choice was between the coalition and a Tory minority government followed by a general election and a majority Tory government. I put this to choice to a Labour supporter and virulent critic of the coalition and she replied she would have preferred the Tory minority government and the risk of their subsequent majority.

Paul Walters has drawn attention to one of the small but important effects of having a coalition - Nick Clegg's influence on the child benefit decision. It's an example of the Liberal Democrats' power to stop or mitigate bad things. We also need to be able to promote good ones.

Fairness ?

The Today programme discussed the Equality and Human Rights Commission's report How fair is Britain ? Humphries asked Trevor Philips what fairness means and Philips demonstrated the vagueness of the idea. Such discussion often ignores two issues.

Firstly, outcomes are often measured in monetary terms which take no account of personal life choices. Some people seek other things than wealth.

Secondly, discussion of ethnic issues is often taboo. Interesting that there is no gap in educational achievement between rich and poor Chinese children but a 20% gap for Indian children. I can't find the figures for white or Caribbean British children (forgive me if these are not the currently politically correct terms). Some people have attempted to identify racial differences in intelligence relying on notoriously vague and unscientific definitions of both race and intelligence. However, it would be equally prejudicial to deny cultural differences between groups which, for example, have enormous impact on children's performance at school.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

So farewell then, Norman Wisdom

Albania's favourite filmstar has died. Did you know he was popular in France too ? At a meeting in Rouen a few years ago I noticed the puzzled faces of British civil servants. Charged with negotiating with the French, they of course only spoke English and were listening on headphones to the English interpreter as the Prefect of Upper Normandy reminded us of the need for la sagesse Normande. Naturally they were surprised to hear a French official insisting "What we need is Norman wisdom".

Friday, October 01, 2010

Federalisms - East and West

Just returned from an excellent conference on Federalisms organised by the Europaeum at St Anthony's College, Oxford. As well as the usual suspects, there were academics, politicians and journalists from India, USA and Europe. I found myself next to the complacent turncoat Roger Liddle at dinner but this was more than compensated for by the wonderful Bridget Kendall, whom I have always wanted to meet and didn't know was going to be there.
My visit was crowned by an hour in Blackwell's where I found that Iain Dale had included this blog in Total Politic's Guide to Political Blogging in the UK. Of course I had to buy a copy - it's only polite. It's a sort of vicarious vanity publishing.