Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BP, Banks, Budgets.........and Pink Fluffy Handcuffs


I don't know about you, but there is something that puzzles me. BP is enemy number one in the US, Hayward is vilified for taking a day off, while this disaster destroys the livelihoods of countless thousands. President Obama is clear – not only will BP pick up THE WHOLE TAB, the administration of this compensation scheme will be by an independent body, NOT BP.

Last evening, like many of you, I got an email from Nick Clegg, preparing me for bad news tomorrow, "why we have to do this" – hmmm, that's what tends to happen when you jump into bed with someone who whispers sweet nothings in your ear and then pulls out the handcuffs, however pink and fluffy they are! Tomorrow, let's face it, is the price our party is paying for having a seat at the table of power. Is it a price worth paying? Anyway, what jumped out at me from the email was Nick's description of the "reckless" banks. These "reckless" banks, who are universally blamed for the current financial crisis (allegedly aided and abetted of course by the Labour Party), these "reckless" banks, who have allowed this financial oil slick to render moribund, or to destroy, the hopes and dreams of so many. So my obvious question is this – if BP are being expected (rightl y of course) to compensate those whose lives have been destroyed by their negligence.........what is the difference when that destruction is perpetrated by the negligence of the banks?

So, given the billions that BP is being expected to shell out to compensate for its negligence, surely the answer tomorrow is to expect the banks to shell out the lion's share of the savings the government is insisting we need to make.

Ah, and there's another thing. Look, I'm no economist. I know some........and I know if you put 2 economists in a room you'll end up with 3 opinions. I also rather like the joke about how many economists it takes to change a light bulb? None, the market will take care of it. This weekend I heard an economist arguing that even if Boy George did nothing, the deficit would half by 2015. And this excellent interview with Robert Skidelsky in the New Statesman, takes the position our Vince did a few short weeks ago and offers a real warning about cuts now. Adam Ramsay in TMP takes a similar line "Tories love to talk about wasteful public services, but the truth is that the biggest waste in our economy is not public spending, it's unemployment – and their measures look likely to make things much worse. Cutting public spending in a recession is to pay off your debts like a fisherwoman selling her rod to pay off her debts, rather than waiting till she catches some fish"

The Birmingham Special Conference was not easy for me. Contrary to popular opinion, I don't actually find being the arsy one easy. Sadly challenging ones elders and betters is often equated with disloyalty. The "loyalists" will tie themselves into knots supporting and justifying the leadership – ending ultimately in the nonsense best expressed in the "Kings New Clothes", when actually, far from being loyal they have allowed their leader to make a fool of him/herself. They will begin the day believing the sky is blue, but by the end of the day, in order to support their leader they will have discovered it is yellow – they will find every kind of explanation of why what they have always believed was blue was really all the time yellow......and woe betide you if you question the logic. Frankly my first loyalty politically is to my fellow citizens, I am a Liberal Democrat because I believe liberal democracy – based on our values of liberty, equality, justice and fairness – rooted in a belief that "no one should be enslaved by poverty ignorance or conformity", offers the best hope for a better society where all have the freedom and opportunity to make the most of that precious gift of life we all have been given. I am not a Tory because I don't share their values – or beliefs, frankly, if I did what on earth would I be doing in the Lib Dems? And yet, I find myself being joined to them by proxy – and it makes me feel dirty.

OK, I understood all the arguments at the conference, Simon Hughes speech was probably the best I have ever heard him make – and if anyone has the capacity to convince me I am wrong, it is he. But I wasn't convinced, for the very reasons I gave in my speech – I think we have been seduced – and as every day goes by the more convinced I am that this is the case. In order to get a deal they hoodwinked us. They drew us in to their bed murming sweet nothings, but hey, once we are there – once there is no way out, we find ourselves "handcuffed" to deals we never ever would have agreed to had we known.

Today will be the first demonstration of the real objective of the Tories – to destroy the public sector, firstly to meet their overriding aim to cut taxes and secondly, so that if and when it ever gets rebuilt it will be their pals in the private sector who get the rich pickings. And what really sticks in my gullet is that we are helping them to do it.

Will I wonder, my visual aid at conference,(pink fluffy handcuffs for those who weren't there) turn out to be prophetic?

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