Saturday, 29 October 2011

DNA and means

Right, back in the saddle as it were. A while ago I tore a tendon and caused a small fracture in one of my fingers playing rugby that has made typing at least awkward if not all that difficult hence the silence.

In terms of party policy I feel there are always two types of policies. There are things we simply believe in, that are part of the party's dna (see how I'm working in the title here) and are advocated for their own sake. For the Lib Dems the easiest example of this would be civil liberties, we believe they are a good thing in of themselves and therefore advocate them.

The second type is an 'objectives' policy, namely policies that we support because we believe they will have good outcomes. This covers a fairly wide variety of policies from the economy to health etc.

Of course it's more complicated than this (it always bloody is) as ways and means intertwine with each other, inform each other, and generally muddy the waters in a very unhelpful way. But it's always there, really why something is being advocated is a greater insight into a political philosophy than what is being advocated.

It's also a shifting point. It is hard to change a value that you (or your party) believe is inherently right. Once it is made into a means to an end then you can adjust it in ways you claim better achieves that end. If you're a leader of a party that has a policy of high tax rates for the sake of greater redistribution of wealth then it's hard to credibly argue that lowering the top tax rate is in line with that. It's just a u-turn.

If you first shift your argument that high tax rates are for the sake of raising high revenue then the headline policy hasn't changed, and the alteration is a detail if not just a change of emphasis. It's hard to raise passion about the change in philosophical reasoning for the same policy that you already had. Emphasise the importance of actual policy, what you actually want to do. The trick's half done in plain sight, but although people notice they don't care.

Then you can make the headline policy shift to a lower top rate tax and your line is clear, you want high tax revenue, your aims haven't changed you've just found a better way of achieving them. Flip the script and play up what you believe in as important, and that should be the trick done.

That underplays the obstacles of course, the faster you have to do it, the more awkward the particular political issue, and most importantly people trying to stop you are the fun obstacles a carefree leader attempting to rewrite his party's principles runs into. The whole point is to attempt to avoid any comparisons between stages 1 and 3. a=b b=c but if a and c are put next to each other then they're going to explode in a messy cloud of u-turn accusations.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


I'm left distinctly underwhelmed by this Vince Cable story frankly. I was all geared up to wade in and it's just such an anti-climax. After all the hype of Cable as a tax dodger, avoider, evader and possibly invisible ninja I read through the sun article and find this (later on of course, the later something is in an article the less attention people pay to it):

"They said an error was discovered by his personal accountants in January while his tax return for the previous financial year was being finalised. The accountants immediately alerted HMRC officials"

Now I'm a long way from being any sort of accountant, let alone an expert on any sort of elusive manoeuvring on the grounds of tax. But I'd have thought that one of the main rules to do it would be to well, not call up Revenue and Customs to tell them you haven't paid enough tax. Seems a bit of a giveaway, maybe it's one of those double-bluff things.

Really the most interesting thing is the Sun's line on it, namely that the knives are out for Vince Cable and I suspect Lib Dems in general. Not a surprise certainly, hostility from the newspapers generally and especially the tabloids is mostly part and parcel of being a Lib Dem, but still a concerning indicator. We're clearly well above the parapet for the rest of this parliament (a good thing) but while the other two usually have at least some of the press fighting their corner (although there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm in the Red-Ed corner) we may have to face down years of being fired upon from all sides.

The Huhne story seems to be going nowhere very slowly and repetitively, this is likewisea very small spark fanned into an awful lot of smoke, but all mud hurled leaves a little bit on its target and another 3 1/2 years of this could build up enough to make a difference.

Or in short the story doesn't worry me, its delivery does.

Cable fails to pay tax bill

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A very late Saturday quote

I'm a bit behind on this obviously. Saturday was rather interrupted by a rugby game followed by a post-match meet up that was of course very very sober. So sober in fact that it weighed heavily upon my head for most of the next day. So I'm taking today as Saturday.

Where a historian has to rely on one document he is safe, but if there are two to be consulted he was in difficulty, and if three were available his position was hopeless.

A quote I've seen attributed to George Bernard Shaw but (as I mentioned recently) quotes are hard to verify and he's also one of those that tends to have these sort of saying attached to him. I've been unable to track it down definitively in the very small amount of whimsical time I've tried to do so in. But really most quotes are just as valid whether said by a famous wit or mumbled out a nonentities mouth (on a side note, I remember phsyics quote about not being able to distinguish between world class scientists and the ravings of drunks sleeping on park benches that came to mind during the recent faster than light kerfuffle, but unfortunately I couldn't find it again).