Saturday 28 September 2013

A Long Time In Politics

Not even a full week, in fact.

Two principles that used to be axiomatic to both parties, but against which they have both defined themselves more recently, are once again the very terms of the debate.

They themselves are not up for question. All that is, is how, specifically, they are to be given practical effect.

One, which has turned out to be stratospherically popular as soon as the Leader of a major political party has dared to utter it, is that the State ought to fix the price of utilities in the interests of the consumer, especially the domestic consumer.

The other is that the State ought to give specific recognition to marriage, as such, in the taxation system.

The first is more popular than the second (or anything else that any politician has said in donkey's years, come to that), but they both have mass appeal.

David Cameron now needs to come up with an even more appealing variation on the energy prices fix. While Ed Miliband now needs to surpass the Government's marriage tax break.

The second is easy: make the thousand pounds universally transferable from the spouse or civil partner who is earning more to the one who is earning less, if at all, while removing the restriction of civil partnerships, which have never had any requirement of consummation, to unrelated same-sex couples.

Harriet Harman and a tiny band of Seventies Sisters, who were probably or certainly going to retire anyway, might kick up a fuss if they were so inclined. But what are they going to do, vote with the Tories? How many Tories might in any case vote in favour of this?

And if Harman created a vacancy for Deputy Leader, then it might well be filled by someone not formed politically, but rather formed in the womb, in the 1970s.

However, even though Cameron could rely on Labour votes to enact it against much of his own party, what, exactly, could he say in order to top Miliband's promise on energy prices? He is going to have say something in the coming week. But it is impossible to see what that something is going to be.


  1. Leaving the Lib Dems as the party opposed to both.

    As your readers in print and online know, Mr. Lindsay, the combination of economic and social liberalism originated in the Liberal Party in the UK and defines the ones abroad like the German FDP. It went on to take over first the Tories and then Labour.

    But the Tories now want to recognise marriage in the tax system again and Labour now want to control energy prices again. They both used to do both, before they were both taken over by Liberals. I learned that from you, like a lot of other people.

    You were "formed in the womb in the 1970s." I wish you were Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Doing the job from the back benches. Putting down amendments in all your causes from taking back each rail franchise in turn to raising the age of consent to 18. Forcing votes on them.

    Maybe writing a couple of newspaper columns a week. Definitely appearing on radio or television every other day or so.

    And addressing Blue Labour/community organising and People's Assembly events all over the country, making them both integral to the party machine for policy input and feet on the ground.

    You are the lost leader of your generation, Mr. Lindsay. But your work has probably guaranteed that there will not be a lost leader of my generation.

  2. You really are far too kind.

    And if you are a generation or so younger than I am, then you really are a lot better than I was at your age.

  3. No, he (she?) is right, and I am older than you. 10 years on and Neil Fleming has a lot to answer for. Readers might say who? To that I say, exactly.

  4. With even Charlie Falconer and Andrew Adonis lined up against Peter Mandelson, Philip Collins, Dan Hodges and John Rentoul, the High Blairite ultras have become a party of their own.

    They ought to constitute themselves as such.

    Or join the one with which they agree. It is led by the Prime Minister, which is the only situation that can possibly interest them.

  5. Chuka? Michael Dugher? Our old mate Jon Ashworth? They would have to fight it out among themselves. Any of them would be good, not just better than Harman, really good.