Friday, June 30, 2006

Why I am not a Liberal Democrat

Easy to answer now...

Whilst we have similar ideas across many areas I just despise their attitude that all is fair in elections. It isn't and whilst I am appalled our efforts in Cheadle the Bromley and Chislehurst by election just makes me plain angry.

It is typified by this video clip (Thanks for Iain Dale pointing this out) of Bob Neils victory speech. Just look at Ben Abbotts in the back round.

Still this attitude of the Liberals probably explains why it took us Conservatives so long to ban slavery and sending children down the pits.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What are the functions of the state?

Debating with Liberals is interesting, but it seems to me that some things they take as a matter of faith are wrong, and they do not understand why I take the views that differ. The main reasons why we differ is because of our core understanding of what the function of the state is and in what order of priority. In my view they are as follows:

  • Defence of the Realm.
  • Law, order and justice.
  • Social cohesion.
  • The creation of wealth.
Defence of the Realm

Surely the ultimate no brainer here? If you do not defend the realm you end up with no state in which to have Liberal ideas or any of your own ideas.

Law, order and justice

I think most Liberals would put this high on their list too as if you do not have laws you can't have things like property rights and then can't create wealth or much else. Whilst that is true there is a much more important reason for it and why it is number two on my list, which is that the lack of it causes social problems and threatens social cohesion. You can't get everyone to buy in to the justice system but you need as many people as possible to do so.

Social Cohesion

Why oh why is that anywhere I hear you ask. Simple really. Without it the state withers and dies and it is then unable to carry out objectives 1 and 2. As social cohesion breaks down, birth rates drop, children are brought up in less ideal circumstances etc. etc. leading to a reduced population with a reduced identity and will to defend the realm.

So I do think Government has some business here, but it is a very intractable issue as everyone takes different views. The best way of dealing with the issue is through leadership rather than law. One of the interesting things about David Cameron is that he is prepared to lead where he is not prepared to legislate which is a good thing.

The Creation of Wealth

I can't see any serious liberal opposition to this, and I suspect no one cares what Scargill thinks so I will leave it at that, bar commenting that economic liberalism is key to achieving it.

I think the order in which I place my priorities is what separates me from Liberals, whose key ideas from my point of view have been assimilated into the Conservative party.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

OK Ben - howcome you ended up a Tory as a '68-born person?

Well, first, thanks for the question Tabman..

I think this refers to growing up and first being eligible to vote in the Thatcher years, and by implication is similar to my first real posting here, which asked the question : "You're an intelligent chap Ben, why do you vote Conservative?" but directed at my experiences of the Thatcher years. Do I remember them? I think the people who ask the question should be asked if they remember what it was like before Thatcherism.

First of all you have to appreciate that I was an expat for most of the first 8 years of my life growing up in Beirut. My father told me stories of how great the home country was...

When we left war torn west Beirut in 1976, we were expecting something special...

We did not get it. We arrived at Heathrow airport in July 1976, during the drought. (Don't worry I am not blaming that on Labour!)

When I was in Beirut trade happened at all hours, (well sensible ones) people wanted to do business and wanted your money.

My experience of 1976 to 1979 is as follows:

Shops not run by immigrants did not close at 5 sharp, they closed at 4.58, and if you were a 9 year old boy who had just walked 1/2 mile for a pint of milk, and got there at 4.58 and 1 second, tough.

That time I Walked back past my house to the Pakistani run "corner shop" (and yes it was on the corner) and not only was he still open, but he wanted my business. I did not really bother with the other shop after that.

We had pay restraint, whereby bureaucrats went around examining pay records of people to make sure they were not being paid too much!

We had "pay parity" or in other words, when one union squeezed a pay rise out of their employer, then some other union would consider that unfair as they were now getting paid less by comparison and would go on strike to get parity back.

The state interfered in business to get companies to merge who did not always want to. Then the state also owned all sorts of businesses that the state had no business in owning, like of all things, an airline.

As with all things state owned this gives rise to three problems.

  • Firstly any investment needed to improve the business is in effect borrowed by the state or just out and out payed by the taxpayer. Either way it affects what is left in the treasury to pay for things like schools.
  • Secondly any profits made go straight to the treasury to pay for things like schools, and none gets left for re investment.
  • Thirdly the business is ripe for every day political interference on issues from pay disputes to what products are sold to what price they are sold for.
And then there was the winter of discontent.

It was so appallingly bad and wrong headed.

Not that Ted Heath had not noticed or tried to fix things, but he bottled it. Jim Callaghan knew things needed to change also but was effectively defeated by the unions. (That is two governments in a decade brought down by the unions.)

So given the above, what was so bad about the Thatcher years that I could never be a Conservative?

Well, just where do we start?

The sell off of council houses

Yes, ... er.. no. People think that the sell off of council houses naturally reduces housing stock. It is afterall the intuitive position to adopt. It is also fundamentally flawed in its thinking. When someone lives in a council property they are there for life. Statistics exist to show how immobile council house tenants are, and these tenancies can be inherited once, so in practice you remove one house, and one need for a house and change the overall position very little.

It is also the ultimate consumer power/ privatisation. I do not know how many people who read this have dealt with housing officers of either the council or housing associations, but the ability to sack them for being either patronising, over bearing or just plain useless is fantastic.


Well, any liberal reading this who thinks in principle that privatisation was a bad idea needs to understand liberalism. To quote from a post on the last article:
  • As Jo Grimond has said, "The state owned monopolies are among the greatest millstones round the neck of the economy...Liberals must stress at all times the virtues of the market, not only for efficiency but to enable the widest possible choice...Much of what Mrs Thatcher and Sir Keith Joseph say and do is in the mainstream of liberal philosophy."
Anyone who is not either Conservative or Liberal should consider this:

  • When BT was privatised it needed a £2 billion in investment to get it out of the dark ages.
  • You had to ask for a phone line to be fitted, and it would take months to get one.
  • You could not connect YOUR own phone to the phone line, you had to RENT one of theirs.
All these sorts of problems were quickly solved by privatisation, and also more people ended up owning shares and getting on with a free market economy.

The Miners Strike

Well what's to say? In the previous decade the Miners effectively overthrew a democratically elected government (Ted Heath's) and the union movement had destabalised Jim Callaghan's Labour government.

Could the same result have been achieved breaking less eggs? Don't know. It is very easy to drive a car from the back seat, or manage England's football team from the sofa. Likewise here.

The question you have to ask yourself is how do you deal with someone who thinks they can be "elected for life" on "a show of hands" as the president of a Union who can call a strike without a secret ballot?

The miners strike was nasty, brutal and horrible and no I would not want to go through it again, but ask yourself the question what if the Miners had not been broken?

  • Would the government still own the coal mines?
  • Would the miners still hold us to ransom?
  • Would anyone want to buy their coal?
  • How would this fit into a free market LIBERAL economy?

It is very easy to look back now and see the riots and other issues associated with the poll tax and know that it was wrong. However, it was thought up to deal with a specific problem, which was that Labour controlled councils at the time could levy a tax on the minority of people who paid rates in their area which their electorate did not pay. This is the complete reverse of the "No taxation without representation" argument of our errant colony, on the one hand in that the un taxed had undue say over the taxed and could vote for what ever programs they wanted without worrying about irritating the tax payer as they were not a significant part of the electorate and on the other, the taxed had effectively no representation.

The poll tax was badly thought out and badly implemented, but in its core principle it did address the core problem, that if you wanted to vote for a council that wanted to spend money like water then YOU had to pay for it.

You also have to remember that by this time Maggie was described as Daggers by her ministers. (1989-90)

That is not Daggers as in dagger eyes, but Daggers as in Dagenham, two stops on from Barking.

I have not covered the 1989 recession or Black Wednessday in this article, but may in a futrue one.

We of course have to recognise that NO ONE who stands any chance of electoral success challenges the Thatcher legacy.

So perhaps Tabman, you are just a Thatcherite without the courage to admit it?

Monday, June 26, 2006

The books that have influenced the way I think.

Rather than just go and deal with why I don't support the other parties, I thought it would be helpful to list some books that have a very large influence on the way I think, and to some extent altered my political view.

The foremost of these is George Orwell's 1984.

I HAD to read this for my English literature 'O' level, and whilst it is not the nicest book to read (no happy ending for a start) it does have some fascinating political ideas in it. I don't think of it as a novel or work of fiction but a dire political warning. On balance I am very pleased I have read it and will have to read it again. There is a wikipedia article on it here.

One of the most influential parts of the book on my thoughts are the party slogans, which are:

Umm.. That does not make sense on a first reading does it? So I'll say what I think of each in turn.


Well whilst counter intuitive on a first reading it does make sense. All evidence shows that when a state is fighting a foreign war that there is less dissent and indeed less suicide etc. at home. This does of course assume that the war is not deeply unpopular at home, but that only happens when people actually know what is going on and you can see slogan 3 for dealing with that. Anyone noticed incidentally how many foreign wars we have been involved in since 1997 or indeed the fact there seems to be no gaps in between?


This seems even harder to understand. Surely freedom is freedom and slavery is slavery? Well, in the centuries up until the abolition of slavery the slavers were free to trade in slaves. More importantly the absence of laws favors the strong not the weak, allowing them to enslave the weak. I firmly believe that laws are their to protect the individual and in particular the vunerable.


Well this is at least more obvious from the start. Ignorant people are far easier to control and lead than educated ones, because they don't ask questions or if they do, they don't ask the right ones and accept what ever answer they are given. If you look at the easiest to run dictatorships, they tend to keep their people ignorant, either in terms of education or information.

Having read 1984, and having seen the way this government is working I am frankly terrified of what is to come and what would happen if Labour do win another term in office.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"You're an intelligent chap Ben, why do you vote Conservative?"

I used to get this all the time from a friend of mine, who supported Labour.

Well one night before the May 2005 general election I sat down and explained lots of areas of conservative party policy to him and another "New Labour" friend, and they all agreed the policies were good.

So I think the question says more about the person asking it than me.

I have always voted Conservative in national and local elections. During the 2005 general election I was hoping (against all the evidence) for a conservative win. I had read all the policy documents I could find, and had no problem getting people behind the policy. I then saw Tim Yeo on Newsnight talking about the environment and nuclear power. It seemed he had not read the policy document at all. This made me angry. I emailed the party to say that if they did not pull their finger out and win the election, then I would join and give them all a good kick up the A....

Well I have. I joined around the 15th of May 2005 and have since been to a few meetings.

So why a Conservative?

Well, it's all down to what you believe, and to some extent in what order of priority. I believe:

  1. In the rights (and responsibilities) of the individual.
  2. In The rule of law.
  3. That the individual is best placed to make their own decisions.
  4. That the individual has the right to make their own mistakes.
  5. The right to create wealth.
I suppose the obvious question is "Why believe that?"

Well, any unit larger than the individual is made up of individuals. In law all sorts of non persons are treated as individual persons, for example a company is an individual person at law.

Given that, individuals need rights and protection from each other. A person doing work needs the right to get paid for it and the person who is paying for the work needs the right to expect it to be carried out to a good standard.

Individuals are better placed to know what they want to achieve, what makes them happy and what is for them a fulfilling life. This means giving people choices.

When making choices we make mistakes. "The man who has never made a mistake has never done anything." Furthermore what may be a mistake to you may be my deliberate choice as an adult.

I think the last point is obvious. Everyone should have the right to generate their own wealth and provide for themselves.

So what are conservative party values?

Well, on the conservative party web site there is an article titled built to last
which starts with these two paragraphs:
"Our enduring values mean we believe in trusting people, sharing responsibility, championing freedom and supporting the institutions and culture we share as one nation.

Conservatives are not ideologues. That is why in each generation we change, applying our values to new challenges."

Well it seems to me to close enough.

The next question will be why not any of the other parties, and perhaps I will post another article on that another day!

I started this blog, because I wanted to post a comment on someone elses blog and needed and account!

Oh well...

I suppose I will have to fill it up then.