Tag Archives: harold macmillan

A case for radical pragmatic ideas

During my book-hunting escapades, I stumbled upon Harold MacMillan’s “The Middle Way.” Its weathered cover, nestled among forgotten tomes, bore striking images: Mussolini’s Fascist emblem and the Soviet hammer with sickle; symbols of Europe’s political divide in 1938. Between them, the book’s title, “Middle Way,” almost asking politely: “Do things have to be this way?” The lack of evocative symbol of its own hints at thoughtful ideas contained within its pages. Intrigued, I purchased it, eager to explore its ideas before the rain set in.

If some of your readers are familiar with my previous (and first) blog entry, where I discussed Harold Wilson and his purported working-class persona, you might remember I discussed the stark contrast between his political imagination and his lifestyle reality. Just as Wilson’s persona was far removed from true working-class experiences that that of Del Boy, Harold MacMillan’s aristocratic lifestyle would fit more kindly in Hyacinth Bucket’s aspirations.

Yet, it was the devil in the detail from his book that surprised me: how strikingly compassionate and concerned about the lack of social coalescence.

His book doesn’t present itself as a warning about how too much government would lead to the formation of regimes and their state apparatus. Instead, if anything, he argues how too little government creates conditions that help extremists prey onto an unsuspecting public. In his book he calls it a study rather than a philosophy, “The Middle Way: A Study of The Problems of Economic and Social Progress in a Free and Democratic World”. The word study is rather methodical but doesn’t go too far for being called abstract.

MacMillan’s assertion of the need for a more interventionist government role is equally crucial in a free society. He advocated for pragmatic, evidence-based approaches, clear-sighted good sense; even going so far as to call for nationalization where market failures we’re evident or private interest was incompatible to public interest.

I noticed quickly upon joining as a new member that we LibDems come in all political colours. While critics may argue that this diversity muddies the Party’s image, painting it as too broad a church, wishy-washy, colourless, and just a bit ‘meh’; we centre our values on personal freedom and liberty. I always found the words “freedom” and “liberty” can be misleading sometimes. I often found its use, by extension, as the establishment’s way to excuse our collective responsibility. The freedom of choice is only as convenient if people have the economic resources needed to fully participate. The freedom from: social injustice, poverty, inequality etc. The “freedom to” is needed for a just society, but in cohabitation with the “freedom from” narrative.

So how could we envision this? Here is a list of a few ideas and thought experiments that I had in mind to share in this discussion.

Posted in Op-eds | 21 Comments

LibLink: Tim Farron – Where have all the political giants gone?

CO 1069-1-3. Harold Macmillan. Photo by National ArchIves UKOver on politics.co.uk, party president Tim Farron has been expanding on some of the themes of his weekend lecture. He begins with some interesting history:

When you ask me who my political heroes are, I will reel off a list of people like Beveridge, Penhaligon, Harry Willcock (the man who brought down the ID cards scheme in the 1950s) and Paddy Ashdown.  But in the last 12 months I have become attached to Harold MacMillan, when he was housing minister between 1951-1954. This admission usually raises an eyebrow or two.

Now, MacMillan is a much maligned political figure, I think that has much more to do with his association with David Cameron than to do with him. But as housing minister he was someone who, working under the post-war consensus, delivered one the best social policy achievements of the 20th century – he delivered 300,000 homes a year.

In 1951, he was appointed by Churchill to be housing minister – his task, to build 300,000 per year. It was a bold policy in the Conservative party manifesto and one many considered totally undeliverable. Famously, when tasked by Churchill, he was told: “It is a gamble. It will make or mar your political career. But every humble home will bless your name if you succeed.”

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

Opinion: Council Housing – our role in its downfall

Housing is not an issue of Conservatism or Socialism. It is an issue of Humanity

The Conservative Minister for Housing said that. In the 1950s. His name was Harold Macmillan, and he oversaw more than 300,000 homes built every year of that decade, two thirds of which were council homes.

Those words were spoken in a time when there was a consensus that the state should step in where there had been a market failure, and to ensure that everybody who wanted a decent home could afford one. Fast forward fifty years and what has happened that concrete and brick foundation …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 54 Comments

Vince: Cameron is “100% behind” my graduate tax proposals

Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable is interviewed in the Sunday Telegraph (“in open-neck pink shirt and slippers”, intriguingly).

The paper chooses to headline it, Vince Cable: ‘I’m not having fun in government’, trying to feed into the narrative that Vince is a semi-detached member of the coalition government, though he’s certainly loyal in all his utterances. Incidentally, the headline quote set in context reads rather more uncontroversially: “People sometimes ask me ‘are you having fun?’ ” he says. ” No! It’s hard work and it’s tough, but it’s important.”

The paper largely ignores what seems to me a …

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Would the coalition dare to cut welfare back to Labour levels?

After adjusting for inflation, welfare spending today is an astonishing ten times higher than in 1948, according to figures published in yesterday’s Guardian.

The graph shows that the sharpest rises in welfare spending were both under Conservative administrations (presumably not unconnected with the recessions at those times – 1981-84 and 1991-94 – though the bill rose in all but three of the 18 years of Conservative government).

Only under Churchill and Eden in the 1950s did the welfare bill fall slightly.  Under Macmillan it rose about 50%, and the welfare bill Labour inherited in 1997 was almost double that they’d handed …

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