The Samovar

Selling liberty and democracy
March 8, 2007, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Politics

In a previous entry I asked if the Labour party could get my vote, and suggested some policies they would have to change to do so. My motivation for doing so was not purely narcissistic, it’s a way of making myself think about electoral politics. I quipped that my plan was not very electable, but actually that’s not good enough. Why isn’t it and what can be done about it?

So, some ideas about how to present the policies I suggested (this entry should be read in conjunction with my previous one):

  1. Civil liberties: the present government portray anti-terrorism measures as necessary to combat the extreme danger of terrorism. This can be countered by pointing out that the threat of terrorism is considerably less than it is portrayed to be and that the government’s measures are incredibly wasteful and expensive. The ID card system will cost between £5bn and £20bn over 10 years and not be of much use. The CCTV network around the country is very expensive (3/4 of the Home Office crime prevention budget, totalling hundreds of millions of pounds), and according to the government’s own research doesn’t actually prevent crime. Why are we paying for this when that money could be so much better spent elsewhere?
  2. Democracy: I don’t think it’s that hard to sell the idea of democratic reform, but introducing state funding for political parties might be difficult to justify. Limiting spending though, as Brian suggested in the comments to my previous entry would have many of the same effects and be relatively easy to justify.
  3. Immigration: more complex, not something I know enough about to make any coherent suggestions.
  4. Economics: Convincing people that progressive taxes like income tax are better than flat or regressive taxes like VAT and council tax seems to be more difficult than you might think. I don’t have anything to add. On the other hand, I think it would be fairly easy to make a convincing case that market fundamentalism ends up costing us more because when the private sector fails the government bails them out.
  5. Environment and transport: this is tricky because it might involve an awful lot of spending and there really is a necessity for people to lower their energy consumption which is never going to be an easy sell.
  6. Public sector: I find it perplexing that the well-being of public sector workers is such a low priority in electoral politics. There’s lots about making the public sector more efficient, delivering better outcomes, etc., but these are often at the expense of public sector workers themselves. The National Statistics web page says that about 1 in 5 workers are in the public sector, which ought to be significant enough to warrant more attention than they actually get. Perhaps this is because in a two party system, policies tend to be aimed at improving the lot of the median voter, who is perhaps not a public sector worker?

In conclusion, I don’t think it would be impossible to run an electoral campaign on some of these ideas. You would probably have to make difficult compromises in some areas, and make some unpalatable decisions, but I don’t think you have to go as far to the right as New Labour has done.


Hi Dan. This is Brad from AskNRICH. Hopefully you’ll remember me. I found you by searching for “dan goodman + maths” on google. I’m writing because I’m studying in Europe this semester, and I’m going to be in the UK for the first week in April. I’m not sure where you’re living (maybe you’re not even in the UK anymore) — but I was wondering if you’d want to meet up for coffee sometime, at least if you’re living in a bigger city. Anyway, if you would like to, let me know (preferably send me an e-mail), but if you think it would be unbearably awkward, or aren’t in town, or whatever, there’s no need to reply. But I’d like to hear from you. Also, if you have the wearabouts of anyone else from the website, that would be useful too. [Hopefully I’ve found the right Dan Goodman. From the looks of the blog entries I think I have.] Later.


Comment by Brad Rodgers

“The National Statistics web page says that about 1 in 5 workers are in the public sector,”

It’s actually more than 1 in 5, but because there’s so much outsourcing to employment agencies etc, no-one really knows. This way the govt. can say it’s more efficient/less workers, when it’s simply not true (plus they don’t have to give the public sector benefits to these ‘non people’).

Comment by Chris

Thanks for pointing that out Chris – are there any views on what the likely range is?

Comment by thesamovar

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: