October 28, 2008

Labour losing liberties?

The Labour party have been taking a bit of a bashing in UK politics recently, if we disregard the praise Gordon Brown gained from Nobel Economists such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz for his 'recapitalisation' (read temporary nationalisation), of some of Britain's major banks. 

Brown was originally criticised for dithering over the initial Northern Rock crisis, and his record as chancellor has been challenged by the Conservatives who have mocked him over what seems to be a return to the 'boom and bust' he promised were part of history.  Of course this was never going to be the case, economic cycles have been a fact of life from ancient times when they were caused by shock in agricultural conditions, to Soviet Russia under central planning.  Economic shocks cannot be simply tammed, they can only be managed.  Here is where one criticism of the former Chancellor holds true, Britain is unable to enact expansionary fiscal policy now because Labour failed to save some of the proceeds of the last seventeen years record uninterrupted growth.  Brown's recent attempt to make the country's record fiscal deficit seem like a proxy for action on the economy is pure smoke and mirrors.

However I would still consider voting Labour despite the economy.  Brown may have dithered over Northern Rock but it can be understood that a Labour PM would be hesitant to start nationalising banks, and he has moved quickly and efficiently since then.  It is unclear that the Conservatives had a clear strategy at the start of the crisis, they would probably have let Northern Rock go down rather than nationalise.  Only Liberal Democrats Treasury spokesman Vince Cable seemed to have a clear and coherent understanding of events as they unfolded, he backed nationalisation from the start.

I won't be voting for the current Labour administration however.  The reason is the erosion of civil liberites seen under this government in the name of anti-terrorism policies.  Attempts to increase police powers to detain citizens without trial for 90 and 42 days have been defeated, but plans for ID cards continue and the DNA database is rapidly filling with the information of innocent individuals.  So we have responded to terrorists who Bush and Blair claimed wanted to change our way of life by giving up one of the best features of western democracy, which took the struggle of generations to accomplish?

While Labour continue with these policies I'll be voting Liberal Democrat.

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Scott Redding

    I agree with you that the Lib Dems are far better on civil liberties than Labour. However, they have some problems as a party. The Lib Dems, at their autumn conference, discussed keeping a privatised train system until 2050. Tesco and Microsoft were some of the sponsors at the same conference. They want to keep PFI. They want to keep nuclear weapons. They have no ethnic minority MPs, nor MEPs. So, yes, good on civil liberties, problematic in other areas.

    14 Nov 2008, 11:20

  2. Hi Scott,

    1) I would argue that the problem with the railways is a combination of lack of localized competition between suppliers and that the price of fuel still probably does not reflect its social cost. So a reformed but still private rail system is at least worth discussing.
    2) Corporate sponsors are not ideal, but we all know the funding of political parties needs some reform in general
    3) The Lib Dems policy on PFI as I understand it is that they would allow public bodies to bid for contracts on an equal basis with private, thus preventing collusion between private companies. Also to include ‘all aspects’ of PFI costs on balance sheets, such that the government cannot simply shift the cost of projects into the future, which I feel is one of the major criticisms of PFI.
    4) I personally think keeping nuclear weapons, (albeit in drastically reduced quantity), is the best option when there is no globally co-ordinated push to get rid of them
    5) I don’t see a lack of ethnic minority MPs as a problem per se, (all these articles about a ‘British Obama’), there’s only a problem if there are institutional constraints preventing groups gaining these positions, whether they be ethnic minorities, women, gay, etc. I don’t know much about the internal structures of the Lib Dems, but I can’t see that they have these constraints more than any other party.

    Please feel free to let me know that I’m wrong!

    16 Nov 2008, 16:07

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