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Friday, January 13, 2006 

Lib Dem leadership: Sir Menzies gets "it".

It's quickly becoming clear that Simon Hughes is likely to be the main challenger to Sir Menzies Campbell. Judging by an interview with Campbell in today's Guardian, it appears as if he has finally realised exactly what is wrong with British politics as it stands:
"Yes, I stand for same set of values now as I did when I first heard Jo Grimond and as I did when I first stood. I am a creature of the centre left. Important issue here: Blair's concerned about legacy - one of Blair's legacies will be that he has squeezed values out of politics. Along comes Cameron and says essentially 'I can do what he's doing but I'm a better manager'. One thing is certain: there isn't space for three management companies in the centre of British politics. What's required for us is a return to values, accompanied by an openness of mind. I'm more for open minds than I am for open-neck shirts."

"This is not self-indulgence. It's got to be accompanied by intellectual rigour. Our plans plus intellectual rigour should be sufficient to produce a manifesto on which we can attract support of the people of the UK."
While he is still ambiguous, talking of "values" when what he really means is ideology, it's about time that a major politician finally realised what puts so many people off politics. Both Labour and the Tories are all about control - their emphasis on spin has been increasingly clear following Cameron's election. Both are now essentially standing for exactly the same things, with Blair wanting more choice in the public sector, and Cameron saying the same, except that he would do it with even more private involvement and with even more "choice". He speaks the language which Labour is now afraid to touch on taxation:
"It's a scandal that the poorest 10% of people in this country pay higher proportion of their income in tax than the richest 10%. It's a scandal. It's a scandal that there are so many people in my constituency who will never get houses."
It's also a scandal that pay in the boardrooms is sky-rocketing even when retail companies keep preaching doom and gloom. It's a scandal that so many are getting away with tax evasion that means they pay little to nothing for the business they do in this country. It's a scandal that these same people have such an influence on this country. It's a scandal that the tabloids can conduct a witch-hunt against Ruth Kelly over a policy which has been in effect since 1997, and when ministers got the advice of doctors and psychologists on the matter of employing those who were on the sex offenders list due to a caution. On all these, either the political parties are complicit in it, silent, or joining the bandwagon. We need a political party that is prepared to speak out on all of these matters. Whether the Liberal Democrats are willing to become that party is yet to become clear. Simon Hughes started his campaign yesterday but has yet to set out any policies, but after this interview needs to play catch-up. It may well soon be time to be optimistic about politics again.

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