Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Always look on the bright side of life

As regular readers will know, and casual visitors may guess from the name of this blog, I don't always follow Monty Python's immortal advice from The Life of Brian.

This evening, though, I'm inclined to look on the bright side of life.

As I write this, we have yet to hear from the Liberal Democrats, but David Cameron's intentions have been clearly stated: he aims to form "a proper and full coalition".

The coalition presents opportunities as well as challenges.

It is a good excuse for both sides to do away with some of their sillier manifesto commitments. It will be interesting to see what goes.

By sharing the poison, it may prove fatal to neither party. It will be difficult for a hostile media to portray the upcoming rollback of the state as 'Tory cuts'. Instead they will be 'necessary readjustments', in the national interest.

The Liberal Democrats have no obligation to the client voters that Labour has built up over the last 13 years. They will go along with massive reductions in the public sector, provided the most vulnerable in society are taken care of.

The Lib Dem policy of raising the poorest out of income tax will be a nice complement to Conservative initiatives to break Labour's welfare trap. I hope we will see both carrot and stick, with massive simplification of taxes and benefits along the way.

The Liberal Democrats have harboured committed libertarians like Mark Littlewood and Charlotte Gore. I do not know how many such people have found their way into parliament as Lib Dem MPs, but I do know that David Cameron granted safe seats to Conservative libertarians, and they stand ready.

With the election and subsequent negotiations out of the way, libertarian voices within both parties will be able to speak more freely, and we may start to win the battle of ideas. It will start with a renewed emphasis on personal responsibility.

We may also hope that the Lib Dem's hold true to their manifesto commitment to "always base drugs policy on independent scientific advice"; this is an area of policy that Conservatives have always got wrong.

There were some promising notes in Cameron's first speech as Prime Minister:
  • "Making sure people are in control, and that the politicians are always their servants, and never their masters"
  • "Real change is not what government can do on its own ... real change is ... when we all exercise our responsibilities, to ourselves, to our families, to our communities, and to others"
  • "I want to help try and build a more responsible society here in Britain ... one where we don't just ask 'what are my entitlements?', but 'what are my responsibilities?'"
  • "Above all, it will be a government that is built on some clear values: values of freedom, values of fairness, and values of responsibility"
  • "I want us to build an economy that rewards work"
  • "Rebuilding family; rebuilding community; above all, rebuilding responsibility in our country. Those are the things I care about; those are the things that this government will now start work on doing."
Finally, it is worth noting that the experts in Austrian economics at The Cobden Centre have long recognised the potential in David Cameron's conservatives. In an article back in December, Toby Baxendale highlighted the best bits of Cameron's Big Society speech. For example:
The size, scope and role of government in Britain has reached a point where it is now inhibiting, not advancing the progressive aims of reducing poverty, fighting inequality, and increasing general well-being. Indeed there is a worrying paradox that because of its effect on personal and social responsibility, the recent growth of the state has promoted not social solidarity, but selfishness and individualism.
Time will tell. I have my doubts, as ever, but for now I will allow myself to hope.

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