Author Archives: Lord William Wallace

William Wallace writes…The politics of unreason

As 2017 begins, the politics of unreason seems to be spreading its influence across British politics and media.  Liam Fox inside the government, and John Redwood and Peter Lilley outside, are arguing that we don’t need to negotiate a treaty with the EU as we leave.  They propose that Britain simply reasserts its sovereignty, and to hell with international law, commercial and security interests, and rights of access and residence elsewhere across the EU for the 50 million journeys UK citizens make every year. (Peter Lilley, like Nigel Lawson, lives part of the year in France; you’d have thought he might have taken rights of residence into account.)  Free trade, they assert, is something that we can if necessary adopt unilaterally.  The mercantilist policies of China and India, the threats of protectionist tariffs that the President-elect Trump has been making, do not disturb their tranquillity.

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s Times  carried an article in its business section by Mark Littlewood, the director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, recommending Las Vegas as the model for post-Brexit Britain’s economy, in particular by spreading casinos through our ‘left behind’ seaside towns.  He’s as serious about this as Tim Congdon (of Economists for Britain) is when he argues that Britain’s economy can manage without an industrial base, and as the Taxpayers’ Alliance is when it recommends further deep cuts in public spending.  That’s the US Republican model they aspire to, even as Donald Trump moves away from it.  It is, of course, the opposite of what most Leave supporters thought they were voting for, and what the Leave campaign appeared to be promising.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 16 Comments

Our not-so-decrepit peers

peersinrichmond

If you read the Evening Standard the day before the Richmond Park by-election, you might have noticed this wonderful comment on the participation of Liberal Democrat peers in the campaign, which I suspect came from someone in Zac Goldsmith’s team who was overwhelmed by how many Liberal Democrat activists were on the streets.

One hundred Lib Dem peers were sent to knock on doors. Only a handful of the ill and very old were spared by-election duties – in echoes of James Graham’s play This House which recounts how MPs close to death were dragged to the Commons for crunch votes in the seventies.

If you’ve seen the play, you will appreciate the picture of the elderly and infirm being wheeled in to do their bit.  Of course it wasn’t at all like that.  I don’t think more than 25 of us were ever there together at one time, though many of us went as often as we could, and canvassed over the phone when we couldn’t:  not as a ‘duty’, but because we enjoy election campaigns, we’ve done a lot of campaigning in our time, and we’re committed to the party.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments

Brexit: You broke it, you fix it.

It’s now five months since the EU referendum on June 23rd: plenty of time, you might have thought, for a government which appointed ministers committed to Brexit to key posts to have developed a strategy. Yet confusion reigns in Whitehall and Westminster. The clock is ticking towards Theresa’s pledged date of invoking Article 50 by the end of March. Yet the government seems more focused on fighting a court case to limit the involvement of Parliament than in setting out its preferred future relationship with our neighbours on the European continent.

This is a degree of incompetence about …

Posted in Op-eds | 44 Comments

William Wallace writes…Taking on the anti-tax movement 

If you read any other paper than the Guardian, you will have noted some days ago a generously-covered story about the enormous ‘lifetime tax bill’ faced by British families. The ‘average UK household’ in 2014-15 was estimated to pay £826,000 in direct and indirect taxes over their working life, while the top 20% ‘will pay £1,686,970’ – a curiously exact figure for an estimate, and a claimed rise of 4.3% over the previous year.

Posted in Op-eds | 43 Comments

William Wallace writes: Could Brexit split the Conservative party?

 

How deeply could Brexit divide the Conservative Party, as the contradictory choices involved in negotiating an alternative relationship with the EU become clearer?

Media focus since the Referendum outcome has been on the widening divisions within the Labour Party.  Press comment has praised the self-discipline of the Conservatives, by contrast, in resolving the issue of leadership so quickly – though in reality it was resolved by the implosion of ‘Leave’ candidates, one after the other, leaving Teresa May in command of the field.  But the divide between practical Eurosceptics and ideological Europhobes is wide, and often bitter.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 22 Comments

Lord William Wallace writes… How you can make sure we win this referendum

The betting odds on the outcome of the EU Referendum are comforting. And the polls so far are not too bad. But once you are out of London, and on the doorstep, it doesn’t feel good. The messages that feed back, picked up from social media and the subtle messages that the Leave campaign are putting out, show how many people have picked up their portrayal of the EU as draining both our sovereignty and our budget. Their latest political broadcast played heavily on the idea that the NHS will get worse if we stay in, and will benefit from extra funds and fewer patients if we leave.

Not all Liberal Democrat party members feel passionate about Europe. For many, local issues and local campaigning is more important – and more directly relevant to those whose votes we are seeking. The ALDC has fixed a full-day conference the weekend before the Referendum to discuss local campaigning, which will I imagine include a session on how to combat the appeal of UKIP at the local level. But local and international issues do not exist in separate compartments: concerns about immigration and diversity, competition for housing, schools and jobs (and hospital admissions), bridge the two. UKIP, and some local Tories, play skilfully on fears of change and mistrust of incomers, to our disadvantage.

Posted in News | Tagged | 23 Comments

Could Trumpland reach Britain?

We all hope that Donald Trump will not be the next US President; even if he wins the Republican nomination, it’s unlikely that he will win over a majority of states and voters. But his astonishing success so far, in mobilising the embittered, marginalised and nostalgic, all those who feel they have lost out through rapid economic and social change, has lessons for British politics.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 35 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAndrew McCaig 21st Jan - 5:22pm
    Well, after hearing him I was hoping Jeremy Browne was no longer a member!
  • User AvatarSimon Horner 21st Jan - 5:17pm
    The writer of this article poses the crucial question for all of us living in Scotland. "Can we back an independent Scotland as a better...
  • User AvatarPaul Walter 21st Jan - 4:47pm
    Moderator's note: We do not publish "part two" or "continued" comments. There is a length limit in order to keep the debates fresh and stop...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 21st Jan - 4:38pm
    Fair enough, Fiona - though you hear all sorts of funny things in Dundee. I don't think independence is a done deal - I do...
  • User AvatarCaron 21st Jan - 4:18pm
    When the public announce menu is made, yes.
  • User AvatarFiona 21st Jan - 4:01pm
    @David, you obviously didn't spend much time in Dundee during the referendum. The idea that Scotland could go fully socialist if independent was one of...