Thursday, 24 December 2009

Yo it's Dave

Dave Cameron came to Leamington on Monday for a 'town hall meeting' with voters. I applied for a ticket, but didn't make the cut. However, there does seem to have been a cross-section of voters there and Dave seems to have given straightforward answers to their questions.

I would like to have seen him in person, as I can't quite work him out. I always thought one of the keys to Tony Blair were his rather fervent religious views and the sense of moral superiority that gave him, leading him to believe that he was entitled to overthrow Saddam Hussein in the absence of any UN mandate. As Private Eye put it this week, 'I would have invaded Iraq even if Dubya had not told me to.' I was never swept up in the enthusiasm for Blair in 1997 and voted 'None of the Above'.

Dave is a 'bells and smells' but nevertheless doubting Anglican. What does one make of that? Is he just interested in power for its own sake? Some compare him with Harold Macmillan, but I am reading a new biography of Super Mac and basically he was a devious old rogue, even though some of his decisions were right and he did have to put up with being cuckolded by Bob Boothby.

I think that Dave believes he can genuinely do a better job than Labour (which some would argue is not difficult) and does really think he can make Britain a better place. He comes across as a more likeable person than the Boy George who comes across as both nasty and incompetent. Let's hope Nick Macpherson (Eton and Balliol) stays on as permanent secretary at the Treasury.

The president of the students' union at Warwick did get in and asked Dave a neutral question about whether students would get a better deal under the Conservatives. Dave was honest enough to say that, in effect, they wouldn't.

What I was less happy about was the point scoring rhetoric which I - and probably other voters who are not very partisan - find a real turn off. Labour was described as a 'dishonest and sick' organisation. Now it is certainly the case that Labour has been economical with the actualité, although spin is nothing new (Lloyd George started the modern form). But sick?

He also argued that Britain had become 'the laughing stock of the world' because of its deficits. I am critical of the way Labour has handled fiscal policy as many economists have been for some time. However, the fact that Britain is slow to get out of the recession may have as much to do with our very large financial sector as with Labour's policy errors. In the meantime, talking Britain down doesn't help, even if Dave thinks he is getting his excuses ready for when he is prime minister.

In the Total Politics guide to the 2010 election, Warwick and Leamington is singled out as a key constituency which the Conservatives must win. The actual majority for Labour's James Plaskitt in 2005 was 266, but redistricting makes the notional majority 4,393 or 10.3 per cent. It's going to be a re-match between the incumbent and the very smart Conservative candidate Chris White. We shall be following the contest as the election approaches.


Justin Greaves said...

It does seem to me that we need to think through the problems of the fiscal deficit from first principles:

(1) How large is the structural deficit (80/100 billion?)

(2) Proportionally how should it be dealt with (80% spending cuts, 20% tax increases?).

(3) Over what kind of time scale?

I would probably agree with tbe Conservatives that it needs to be eliminated more quickly than Labour propose (and that spending should bear the brunt of getting it down). The key surely is to make sure the public finances are in surplus in the last couple of years of an economic cycle? So aim to eliminate the structural deficit within six years?

Where I disagree with them is that the fiscal tightening should begin before recovery is even underway. I feel also that that they will also just make across the board cuts to public services (eg: universities) when a more sophisticated approach is required.

I'd go with (as a start):

Increased VAT (with some compensation for low earners to stop it being regressive)

Increased environmnetal taxes

Cancelling or scaling back of Trident upgrade

Stop tax credts going to high earners

Possible revew of universal child benefit and pension age

Tackling high pay and generous pension provision in the public sector

And of course the usual suspects like scrapping ID cards etc.

Wyn Grant said...

I'd agree with much of that. With VAT should one broaden the scope or is that too difficult politically? Should one pay VAT on energy at just 5 per cent? Are public sector salaries that high compared with those in the private sector? Best guestimate on structural deficit is £80bn.

Justin Greaves said...

It may be possible to broaden the scope - but remember the outcry when the last Conservative government tried to increase VAT on fuel to 17.5%?

Would it be possible to have a higher rate of VAT on luxury goods or goods above a certain value?

Wyn Grant said...

Exactly - measures which might be economically or environmentally desirable can be too costly politically. It's permissible under EU rules (I believe) to have such a higher tax on 'luxury' goods. It happened with purchase tax which preceded VAT, although VAT is a different sort of tax because money gets refunded along the production chain. But how does one define a luxury good - other than in terms of price? But supposing one buys a second hand car costing £10K. Is that a luxury good? Some people might argue that a car is a necessity.