Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lib Dem Leadership Contest: Charting a new policy direction

The cult of celebrity permeated British politics long ago. Principally driven by the 24 hour media circus, each and every election campaign becomes more ‘Presidential’ in nature. There is a fascination surrounding the personalities at the top of British politics that often detracts from having an open and informed policy debate. I am hopeful that a similar fate does not befall the Liberal Democrat leadership contest. Whilst accepting that a candidates’ leadership skills (speechmaking, media presentation etc) will be of importance to prospective voters, it will be the individual with the most impressive policy suggestions that will capture my 1st preference vote.

The leadership race must not descend into a ‘beauty contest’ that focuses disproportionately on personality traits. By contrast, this contest ought to provide the party with a unique opportunity to engage in an open debate about our future policy direction. In the next few days, I will be commenting on the policy challenges that I believe we must most urgently address as a party. Below is a brief summary of the topics i will be posting on and where I believe our focus must lie:
1. Education and the ‘Postcode Lottery’

As yet another major report reveals the scope of the educational divide in the UK, it is even more crucial that we establish how to close the gap between the best and worst performing institutions. It is an appalling injustice that there is such chasm between the best and worst schools in our Country. We must be the party that thinks imaginatively about how best to extend opportunity for all. Building upon the ‘pupil premium’ policy will be a good starting point.

2. NHS – Choice and Competition?

The same ‘choice and competition’ agenda favoured by both Labour and the Conservatives has arguably had a fractious impact upon the NHS. As some hospitals thrive, countless others face spiralling debts and the threat of closure. I will recount the debate i had a while ago with Norman Lamb MP about ‘choice’ in the health service; arguing for ‘pragmatic choice’ to replace the choice and ‘contestability’ agenda of New Labour.

3. Environmental Policy

Whilst warmly welcoming our vision of a carbon neutral Britiain by 2050- i am convinced that the party must be even more imaginative in respect to our environmental policies. This would ensure that we move away from having a largely punitive approach to curbing pollution. Yes, green taxes have merit, but so too would providing greater incentives for people to go green; such as scrapping VAT altogether on the least polluting cars. Equally I am personally convinced that we must invest far more heavily in research and development projects for renewable energy sources.

So, that is a flavour of what is to come... I look forward to receiving contributions from any quarter (Lib Dem or not)-as to your views on the policy debate and the leadership race in general.

1 comment:

Tristan said...

As liberals we should be in favour of choice and competition - they are fundamentally liberal ideas.

Its the way to end the postcode lottery in education and to improve health services.

The problem is it needs radical reform, not simply tinkering around the edges, and choice between alternatives, not between two centrally run choices which are almost the same.