Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Paxman vs Howard

In the concluding part of this three part series, Jeremy Paxman attempted to go medieval on Howard's arse this time. Paxman has been feigning indignation and looking rather smarmy all week, but Howard, like Blair, did not take the bait. On reflection, it seems that only Kennedy got shook up by Paxman's predictable bouts of foot-stomping.

Howard pulled off a pretty measured performance. The policies are a disgrace, but that doesn't mean he didn't dress them up appropriately. Out came the brand new Immigration pledge - an old classic in the 2001 campaign that ended up just a little too garish for the public. So Immigration 2005 got its umpteenth relaunch, as Howard flounced and pirouetted to the delight of the cameras - this time in bold, authoritative black. Paxman entered the dance floor with the full intention of tripping up this delightful dancer Howard with a carefully placed foot round the ankles as Howard pranced into full flow.

It was not to be. Howard played the issue carefully, but once more took up a considerable part of the interview in doing so. He got into a little bit of trouble on the age old question of how many immigrants would be the limit, but he brushed it aside with the usual "We're not in government" response. He run through the same old lines that he's said on many other occasions on other programmes, so we have heard it all before. If Paxman did achieve anything in this interview, it was to tie up the Tory leader with immigration for another 10 minutes chunk of his election campaign, thus keeping it on the front pages, and continuing with the theme that they are obsessed about it.

Of course, it won't help that this morning the CBI director Digby Jones has attacked the Tories plans for an economic migrant limit. He is right. This is not how Milton Friedman style Conservatives would run the party. I know a few who are desperate to have their party of economic freedom back.

Other parts of the interview were less exciting. The opening assault on Howard's credibility was worthy of being asked, and the usual admissions of the failure of the ERM were turned into positive aspects by Howard telling everyone how much it proves the Euro is destined to failure. It's clever, but again one we've heard before. I'd rather the discussion was on their current policies - not just for me to laugh at, but so that the electorate had a chance of hearing at least some analysis of what the Tories have planned for Britain. Apart from a reasonably interesting section on tax, where Howard proclaimed his Love for subsidising the private sector out of government finances, and the discussion on immigration, Paxman didn't go any further to look at their other policies.

Howard made a big play of their £4bn tax cut; a pittance in comparison with total budget finances. If they want to claim they are the party of lower taxation, I can't help but feel that they are going about it in a very odd way. They can argue the economy is struggling, but the plans for the initial budget are hardly revolutionary. Other Conservative parties in the past have made simple pledges on the rates of income tax, and not a whole plethora of issues designed to make the money spread as widely as possible. Their miniscule tax cuts they propose are not really worthy of the attention they are receiving.

Overall, it's a representation of the fact that most people probably aren't going to make up their mind on issues. It's going to be yet another development in the history of the more personality driven campaign. It's all about leadership, style and authoritativeness. Who do you trust?

On that score, Michael Howard may have won a few votes last night. And by God will he need them.


At 4:05 pm, April 23, 2005, Blogger CuriousHamster said...

Considered and thoughtful post as always Eddie. The Tories immigration policies really are a disgrace. Unfortunately, as you noted in your previous post, many people in Britain seem to approve of this sort of thing. I'd like to hear the "progressive" parties talking about the causes of immigration and asylum rather than claiming that they would be equally tough. The Green Party candidate mentioned this on Question Time but it was basically ignored by the rest of the panel.

At 4:42 pm, April 24, 2005, Anonymous robin said...

Why are the Tory`s immigration policy a disgrace?
As far as Ive heard,they are not unfair.Practicalities need to be sorted out,but its about time our country did what every normal country does.

At 7:34 pm, April 24, 2005, Blogger CuriousHamster said...

Robin, I'll give you two answers.
1. The "free market" answer. The Tories are supposed to be the party of the free market. They believe that the free movement of labour leads to greater economic growth. By imposing limits on immigration they are imposing limits on the workings of the international labour market. UK business generally opposes the idea of an immigration quota and free market ideology should also oppose it.
2 My opinion: I find the idea that we cannot absorb more immigrants laughable. In Britain we enjoy a standard of living vastly better than most people in the developing world. I don't see how being born British entitles us to deny this right to others. I'm British but only because I was born here, it's not something I had any control over. In Britain we could absorb millions of immigrants and our standard of living would still be higher than in any number of developing world countries. If I'd been born in a country where I had a 1 in 4 chance of living to the age of 1 year old, I expect my parents might have tried to take me to a country where my chances of survival would be higher. I see every baby born into the world as a human being first and foremost. Do you?

At 11:16 am, April 25, 2005, Blogger Eddie said...

Exactly right, Garry. Sure we couldn't take millions of economic migrants every year as we probably couldn't build the houses quick enough... but overall we can continue to absorb new nationals at a similar rate to what we have now. As other people have noted anyway, a lot of these economic migrants go back home after a certain period of time.

At 1:01 pm, April 26, 2005, Anonymous robin said...

The free market does not mean no controls of everything.Business leaders are not the normal business people-very often they are out of touch with the very people they should be representing-The CBI and FTA are two examples.

We cannot absorb more immigrants-look at the overpopulated south.Standard of living isnt just about how much money some people earn.Theres also quality of life.
You may wish to share your wealth with anyone who comes to the UK-most people earn theirs.

At 12:15 am, April 27, 2005, Blogger CuriousHamster said...

"The free market does not mean no controls of everything."
No, it means the rich countries set all the rules in their favour.
The ideology on which the "free market" is based actually does advocate no controls of any kind. Key phrase: "perfect market conditions".

"You may wish to share your wealth with anyone who comes to the UK-most people earn theirs." I hope you aren't insinuating anything about my own financial position as I find it hard to imagine how you could have any knowledge of it.
I also presume you believe you work harder than someone who spends 6 hours every day just collecting drinking water for their children before having to go out to try to earn food for their family. Do you think you've earned the right to a better "quality of life" than someone who does this every day?

And do you have a blog yourself? I'd be interested to read it if you do.

At 12:53 pm, April 27, 2005, Anonymous robin said...

The rich countries set all the rules in their favour"
I presume you mean via WTO and the EU,but can you explain how?I see multinationals sometimes getting an advantage.This also affects ordinary people in our society.

I do not know your financial position,but if it is good and you enjoy your job I do not begrudge you that.Others have poorly paid and horrible jobs,the only solace they get is their wages and I dont see why they should have more of it taken away by taxes or suffer overpopulation to salve other peoples conscience.
I am aware of the plight of other people in the world and have seen it.Its better to help them there,if we can.
I do not have a blog as I am not good with computers.Hopefully this will change and if I do get one I look forward to your input.

At 3:57 pm, April 28, 2005, Blogger CuriousHamster said...

If you want to know how the rules are set in our favour I'd recommend reading "Globalization and it's discontents" by Joseph Stiglitz. As a former chief economist to the World Bank, and Nobel prize winner, he is a lot better informed than I am.
Sunday Telegraph Review:
"What made you do it Joe? What made you rock the boat? Because of him a lot more taxpayers will know more about the international financial institutions which they fund. For that, we should congratulate him, even if his former IMF colleagues will not."

There are so many ways in which the international economic rules are set in our favour that I wouldn't know where to start. The book will probably shock you. I gave it to a retired US navy officer I met when I was on holiday a couple of years ago and he was appalled by what he read!

You said:
"I am aware of the plight of other people in the world and have seen it.Its better to help them there,if we can."

I agree with you there. What we really need to do is address the problem of poverty in the developing world.
And I'd say go for it with a blog. If you sign up to Blogger it really is pretty straighforward. I've got virtually no computer skills myself but Blogger does all the computer stuff for you.

At 7:27 pm, April 28, 2005, Anonymous robin said...

I am reading (slowly)"The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" which expands on what you say.I bought it for £1.50 in a discount bookshop in Ipswich,if you are about there.

At 11:11 pm, April 28, 2005, Blogger CuriousHamster said...

I'm a bit further north than Ipswich, I'm all the way up in Aberdeen. I haven't read that book but it sounds interesting. I'll see if I can track down a copy.


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