Tag Archives: government

“To govern is to choose”

One of the first aphorisms I learned when studying history and politics was: ‘To govern is to choose’. It was Pierre Mendes-France’s maxim when Premier of France in 1954-5, cutting through the morass of postponed decisions left by weak coalition governments and negotiating the withdrawal of French troops form Indo-China. Good government means taking decisions, even when they are hard decisions.

Which underlines how appallingly incompetent Britain’s current government is. It has raised the art of postponing decisions to an art form. If it could postpone presenting Parliament with a clear choice on Brexit until the afternoon of March 29th, it …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 25 Comments

Leaving London

Britain is one of the most overcentralized countries in the Western world. Our political and financial institutions are concentrated in London, perpetuating regional inequality and overburdening the capital’s underfunded public services.

London might be open but it’s also full: strangers share bedrooms; commuters collapse on crowded trains, gentrification ravages local communities, savings accounts stay empty and the Westminster bubble remains as tight and cosy as ever.

There seems to be no end in sight to London-centrism. Jobs flow to London without serious consideration being paid to whether or not they might be better off elsewhere. For example, in 2015 George Osborne decided …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 17 Comments

Should we move our government to Manchester?

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Big Ben has been silenced. At some point in the next 6 years, MPs and Lords must leave the Palace of Westminster too, with renovation needed in the face of ‘impending crisis’. A lot has been written about where parliament might go temporarily, with some even suggesting a few years out of London. But we need to be more ambitious than a mere temporary move of parliamentarians.

We should permanently move both parliament and ‘Whitehall’ to Manchester. Undoubtedly, political parties, think tanks, charities, much of the printed and broadcast press, quangos, embassies and lobbyists would eventually follow, as well as other corporate offices: with further knock-on effects through the spending power of these 10s or even 100s of thousands of jobs.

Politicians talk a lot about ‘rebalancing’ the UK but this is one way – perhaps the only way – in which the state can actually do it at the stroke of a pen. For those currently working in or around parliament and central government – including journalists (and myself) – it would be painfully disruptive. But for most voters in the South East an easing of population pressure should be welcome. As Jeremy Cliffe at The Economist writes:

Moving government out of London would free up housing, transport and office capacity that the current capital badly needs. … Meanwhile that city would of course remain Britain’s economic centre and gateway to the world; a Barcelona to Manchester’s Madrid; a Glasgow to Manchester’s Edinburgh; a New York to Manchester’s Washington. The city on the Thames is surely dynamic enough to absorb the change without breaking a sweat.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 54 Comments

Coalition-Lite – a better way of doing coalition government?

Shortly before midnight on 11th May 2010, just five days after the General Election, Liberal Democrat MPs and Party chiefs voted to enter Coalition Government with the Conservatives and to support the difficult but inescapable compromise Coalition Programme for Government.

This was a sobering moment. No jubilation. Just a recognition that we had to make this work; and determined that, contrary to past history and evidence from elsewhere, it wouldn’t inflict terminal damage on the Party.

This was, of course, a “least worst” option. The public finances were in a mess; the economy in danger of catastrophic decline. The last thing the country needed was the routine tribalism of the Westminster Village. No party had a majority. The country needed stable government. We did what had to be done.

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged and | 21 Comments

Opinion: Government is at its best when it’s boring

If Alistair Darling had ever walked into the pub when I was pulling pints, I would have thrown him out on his ear for introducing the now deceased beer escalator.

Now I find myself applauding him. What he said today about High Speed 2 and transport policy was probably bad politics, but it is exceedingly good government.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 25 Comments

Liblink: Duncan Brack on how to get green policies implemented in Government

Until recently, Duncan Brack was Chris Huhne’s Special Adviser in the Department of Energy and Climate Change. He has written for the Green Alliance blog about the challenges of putting green policies into practice. As well as insight into the practical realities of Government, he has some interesting points to make about the importance of policy making within political parties and how it might need to change in the future:

The coalition agreement hammered out by Liberal Democrat and Conservative negotiators over five days of talks in May 2010 (with details added over the following two weeks) became, at least in

Posted in LibLink and News | Also tagged , , , and | Leave a comment

Coalition ahoy

News trickling in that the Conservatives have offered the Liberal Democrats a coalition. The Lib Dem parliamentary party and Federal Executives, without whom a coalition cannot be ratified, are currently meeting to consider it.

There’s even talk of an emergency Special Conference this weekend which will mean conference representatives across the country pricking their ears up.

But the rolling news media are considering it a done deal already.

Amongst the headlines are that Nick Clegg will serve as Deputy Prime Minister, Danny Alexander as Secretary of State for Scotland, along with three other Lib Dems in the cabinet and a further …

Posted in General Election | Also tagged , , , and | 98 Comments
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