Friday, November 13, 2009

Cabinet Office Calls in Tory Wonk for ‘Broken Society’ Advice

The civil service is getting into planning for the post-Labour period. Who better to get in to give a preview of the likely thinking of the next government than one of Steve Hilton’s favourite wonks, the ‘Red Tory’ Philip Blond?  This email has just been sent out by the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit to senior civil servants:


Red Tory Cabinet Office

Title: ‘The decline of civil society and what it means for society’
Date: Wednesday, 25th November 2009
Time: 5:30- 6:30pm (refreshments available from 5pm)
Venue: Admiralty House, Whitehall
Chair: Gareth Davies, Director of the Strategy Unit
Respondent: David Rossington, Director of Strategy & Performance, DCLG

Dear Colleague

I am pleased to invite you to the above Strategy Unit – evening seminar at Admiralty House.

Phillip Blond’s talk on “The decline of civil society and what it means for society” will focus on the New Civic Settlement: outlining a new politics of civic association. The talk will outline how civic society has been eroded, and what we can do to rebuild it and how a reconstituted associative culture can help solve public policy problems which neither the state nor the market have the ability to solve.

We are also pleased to confirm that David Rossington, Director of Strategy & Performance, from the department of Communities and Local Government will join us to briefly to respond to Mr Blond’s presentation.

Philip Blond is known as the “Red Tory” and is centrist on economics and conservative on social matters. The civil service is obviously starting with the less scary centre-right wonks. Just wait until the bureaucrats hear from the other centre-right think tanks about what the ‘post-bureaucratic age means for them…

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dan’s New Plan ‘B’

Dan Hannan isn’t doing interviews currently because he wants to take some of the heat out of the Lisbon issue and make sure that hostile media can’t spin things into a Dan versus Cam story.   He still maintains more cordial than you might expect relations with David Cameron.  As he says in his post-ratification blog post:

I shall continue to campaign for a referendum on the EU and, in the mean time, for the election of a Cameron-led government.

He will not be doing an Enoch and telling people to vote for any party other than the Conservative Party – tough luck UKIP.  Informed sources say that he is planning to set up an infrastructure to support a long-term campaign not just for a referendum, but for a decentralised style of government from local level to the supra-national level.

This isn’t a short-term campaign and he accepts that this may require him embarking on a Keith Joseph style long march politically. He aims to make the case for localist ideas that will separate the referendum issue from Little England thinking and frame it as a question of democratic legitimacy. His aim, he says, is to build a broad movement within the Conservative Party that will push for referendums, citizens’ initiatives and the rest of the paraphernalia of direct democracy.  In The Plan Hannan and Carswell outlined how technological advances, the internet in particular, makes direct democracy feasible.   Hannan and Carswell really do get it that the internet can change how we do politics...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wonk Watch : IPPR Gives Staff P45s for Christmas

Guido understands that IPPR, the think-tank that did most of the thinking for New Labour in the beginning, has given half-a-dozen staff redundancy notices terminating their contracts on Christmas Eve.  Guido pointed out that their 21st anniversary party held in June had the feel of a wake about it.  As New Labour dies the accoutrements go with it… ippr

In an attempt to flesh out the story* Guido has been calling the IPPR press office all morning trying to get confirmation.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be anyone there to take the call…

*OK, Guido will admit, he was  just trying to find out if the tired and emotional PR hackette who gave him flack at the IPPR party had been sacked.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wonk Watch : IEA’s New Director General Mark Littlewood

Mark Littlewood is the former LibDem head-of-spin who has become the chief wonk at the venerable Institute of Economic Affairs, the directorship of which comes with a (big for wonkland) £100,000 pay package.  There will be organic champagne corks popping in Cowley Street, because as an educational charity the trustees of the IEA insist on staff severing party political links.  Littlewood until now led the Orange Book pressure group Liberal Vision, a classical liberal thorn in the side of social democrats within the LibDems.  Mark will also have to tear up his LibDem party membership card before he starts at the IEA in  December.

mark_littlewoodChain-smoking Littlewood’s CV includes time campaigning at Liberty and co-founding NO2ID.  He is an across the board libertarian on social and economic issues.  The board of the IEA clearly wanted someone who could raise the media profile of the original Westminster think-tank.  With a change of government coming, the call for dusty policy papers read only in academia to be replaced with agenda setting policy ideas became widespread amongst  IEA donors.  The centre-right think-tank sector is more widely enjoying a burst of increased funding and activity as the expectation that their ideas will be sympathetically received in government increases.  The IEA’s revival will make the market for ideas for the next government more exciting than at any time since the early 80s.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vote Reformer of the Year : Heather Brooke

Heather BrookeThe Reform think tank is inviting nominations for the “reformer of the year”.  Looking down the list there is one candidate who deserves to win.  Heather Brooke, the Freedom of Information campaigner who fought the Speaker and parliament to reveal the true venality of the political class deserves your voteIf it was not for her the troughing would still be going on unseen by the public today…

See also : Expenses Freedom of Information : Villains and Heroes

Monday, September 21, 2009

IEA Chief Search Down to Last Ten

The search for a new £100,000-a-year Director-General of the Institute for Economic Affairs has whittled down the sixty or so applicants to a short-list of ten.  The final decision will be made by the trustees before the end of next month.  Word is the Trustees are looking for someone who can take the fight for free markets to the media more aggressively.  The IEA has failed to have much of a media profile since the 80s…

101

Meanwhile elsewhere in wonkland Guido asked Madsen Pirie, the Adam Smith Institute’s doyen of Westminster wonks, if his new book 101 Great Philosophers: Makers of Modern Thought was aimed at politicians. “No”, he said. It was aimed at aspirational people seeking self-improvement. “Most politicians are not like that,” he told Guido, “They think they are already perfect.”

Quite.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Think Tank Pushes Drugs Policy of Decriminalisation

zero_baseOf all the right-of-centre think tanks the libertarian-leaning Adam Smith Institute has always been a bit more spikey and willing to push the envelope than rival think tanks in Westminster wonk-land.

In economics the ASI was the mid-wife of Thatcher’s privatisation strategies which were exported around the world (the separate consulting arm spun-off from the institute advises foreign governments worldwide to this day). In the last decade it has (to little  avail) been putting the case for not just lower taxes, but flatter and simpler taxes.  Until now the wider libertarian social agenda was seemingly off limits and left to the various pressure groups and single-issue campaigns.

Madsen Pirie has never dodged the drugs liberalisation question in the past but the ASI has never pushed the policy until now.  Madsen Pirie told Guido he felt that the “war on drugs” approach had now been tested to destruction and that the political environment was more “convivial” to drug liberalisation.  Guido asked him “Do you mean that because we have a former self-confessed coke-head in the White House and a former stoner heading for Downing Street we might see change?” Diplomatically he replied “Well, it is fair to say, this generation of ministers will be more familiar with the issues.”

Zero Base Policy has 32 other manifesto recommendations…

UPDATE : Claudia Rubin from the Release campaign says

the last significant drug policy measure in the UK was implemented by Margaret Thatcher with the introduction of the needle exchange programme and it is fitting therefore that the ASI should be taking this view. Were he to become Prime Minister next year, David Cameron could mark 40 years of the failure of prohibition by doing something really necessary and sensible.

Phillip Oppenheim, a former Conservative Treasury minister in charge of Customs says in an interview out today that in office he tried to push government policy in a progressive direction.  There is nothing progressive about locking people up for smoking weed…

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cruddas Underwhelms

Guido has to confess to a soft-spot for Jon Cruddas. He comes across as the more thinking type of leftie – he spotted earlier than most within Labour that Cameron might have electoral appeal and a competitive ideological offering, when they were dismissing him merely as a salesman-chameleon.  He has shown a far better understanding of the Notting Hill set, possibly because he is a member. So his widely anticipated Compass speech last night was a little underwhelming.

He was good on the diagnosis of Labour’s troubles and the loss by New Labour of the social anchor of their core social base (LabourList has the full text). Policy-wise his prescription seemed as uncompelling as Gordon Brown’s own. The FT’s Jim Pickard took notes:

1 – establishment of a High Pay Commission – Yawn, symbolism of no consequence.
2 – greater tax justice, including closing tax havens and more equal distribution of income and wealth; Levelling down.  When even the Guardian uses tax havens you can bet they won’t be closed.
3 – index link benefit levels, pensions and the minimum wage to average incomes; Can taxpayers really afford higher dole and benefits with 6 million economically inactive welfare recipents and gargantuan government debt?
4 – replacing tuition fees with a graduate solidarity tax;  Whatever.
5 – a Fair Employment Clause in all public contracts; Whatever.
6 – windfall and transaction taxes and resetting capital gains tax; Sure, drive businesses,  jobs and capital overseas.
7 – a new covenant with the military, including more investment in mental healthcare, equipment, housing and support for veterans funded by scrapping plans to renew Trident and re-deploying the money saved within the Minister Of Defence budget;  Maybe.  Isn’t this LibDem policy?
8 – a Green New Deal, to include scrapping the third runway at Heathrow; Hardly going to inspire consumerist voters.
9 – remutualisation of the finance sector;  Half of it is nationalised already.
10 – a credit card bill of rights for consumers. ‘What do we want – Standardised APR definitions – When do we want ‘em? NOW!’ To the barricades comrades

If Cruddas is to be the source of inspirational ideas for the left, Guido has to say: the cupboard is bare.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Black Swan Guru Lays into Guardian

It seems to have gone unreported that Nassim Nicholas Taleb has written a scathing letter to Alan Rusbridger about the Guardian’s reporting of his public conversation with David Cameron accusing them of a lack of ethics.

Black Swan Guru v 20 WattHe rejects the charge of being a “climate-change denier” made by Lucy Mangan, and the suggestion that he thinks “climate change is not man-made” as alleged by Nicholas (20) Watts.

Taleb points out that “A minimum of homework on the part of your staff would have revealed that I am one of the authors of the recent King of Sweden’s Bonham Declaration on attitude to climate change.”

Nicholas (20) Watts is the senior political correspondent, he hasn’t had a very good silly season.  Made a monkey of over the Baltimore Mayor Hoax and accused  again of not doing his homework.  Hencke might have been slower, but he wouldn’t have screwed up twice like this…

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

+++ Rose Friedman Dies +++

She died yesterday according to the annoucement on the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation website.

rose-and-milton

Our central theme in public advocacy has been the promotion of human freedom….it underlies our opposition to rent control and general wage and price controls, our support for educational choice, privatizing radio and television channels, an all-volunteer army, limitation of government spending, legalization of drugs, privatizing Social Security, free trade, and the deregulation of industry and private life to the fullest extent possible.


Seen Elsewhere

Does Europe Really Want Britain to Quit? | Nick Wood
Immigration Nation | Hopi Sen
Tories Choose Anti-Israel Candidate in Rochester | JC
Osborne’s Daycare Obsession is a Time Bomb | Kathy Gyngell
BBC Marr Pinko Trying to Ban the Queen | Speccie
Eric Hobsbawm: Companion of Dishonour | Standpoint
Guido Party Gossip | Iain Dale
Russell Brand Comes Out as 9/11 Truther | Guardian
Health Revolution is Underway | Fraser Nelson
UKIP Gets Professional | Red Box
Kelly Tolhurst Wins Rochester Open Primary | BBC


VOTER-RECALL
Find out more about PLMR


Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann on Cameron’s refusal to pay the £1.7 billion EU bill by December 1st:

“Well, then he’s gonna pay on December 2nd”



Mycroft says:

Have you read the last bit of Animal Farm?

You know where the animals are looking through the Farmhouse window?

My TV screen was that window at lunch-time today.

Be careful, the sudden self-congratulatory tone, the slightly pudgy outline of indulgence and you become exactly what you should despise.

The jolly face of the Quisling Cameron poses for your camera has mesmerised and deceived you, you who were once not so deceived.

You were no firebrand, you were a damp squib in my opinion, sorry.

You need a damned good kick up the ahse!


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