söndag 9 mars 2008

The state of British politics

I find it easier to comment on British politics from a safe distance away. What struck me as interesting today were the Liberal Democrats' spring conference in Liverpool and kind of budget he would introduce if he were the real chancellor instead of Alistair Darling.

The LibDem leader, Nick Clegg, is critical of the winner-takes-all electoral system which sustains Britain's two-party system and squeezes out alternative views. It is not going to change, for the same reason that turkeys do not vote for Christmas. That is the way that Britain will always be unless something drastic were to happen that would force reform, but in that case it is unlikely that would be for the better. It is probably a more productive use of energy to stand back and really try to understand what is going on and attempt to influence opinion from the sidelines rather than get sucked in to a bad system.

As for the shadow chancellor - the depressing thing there is the lack of any sign of fresh thinking. The tax system leaks like a rusty old bucket. Perhaps a better description would be that it is an attempt to collect puffs of smoke in a string bag. Any would-be chancellor with a scrap of imagination would see that the system is indefensible, in a state of near collapse and ripe for reform. And the fact that tax systems are little better elsewhere ought, one might have thought, have given added incentive. Whilst Osborne delivers some well-aimed criticism at Alistair Darling's stupid proposals for change, he offers nothing beyond a little bit of tinkering.

The sad thing is that the old Liberal party actually had radical views on taxation, but dropped them when the party amalgamated with the Social Democrats. And so all the parties are offering the same policies, with same ingredients only in different proportions. It seems there is nobody in power who recognises that the whole concoction has gone off and needs to be slung out.

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