The Liberal Democrats are keen to present themselves as the “realistic” choice for those who want to express their dissatisfaction with Tony Blair, over his war in Iraq and so much more. That was the case in the recent Dunfermline West by-election, which the Lib Dems unexpectedly won by posing as a left alternative to Labour.
But Menzies Campbell, the new Lib Dem leader, has made his real intentions clear within days of his appointment. Campbell wants to move the party further down the free market road. At last week’s Lib Dem spring conference he won the party’s support for the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail. Delegates had previously rejected this policy, but Campbell won them over by presenting it as a “liberal reform”. He urged the Lib Dems to “support enterprise” and ditch previous manifesto policy to raise taxes on high earners to fund education.
The main reason why so many voted Lib Dem at the last general election was the perception that they opposed the Iraq war. Yet during the leadership contest, Campbell made it clear that he opposes setting a deadline for British troop withdrawal from Iraq. On that issue, as with so much else, he is pulling the party into line with New Labour and the Tories.
If people want to punish Blair and support a radical alternative to the neo-liberal consensus blighting politics, then Respect is the way to go.
Nuclear is no solution to climate change
The government’s own advisory body on sustainable development has dealt a blow to Tony Blair’s support for the nuclear industry.
The Sustainable Development Commission’s report states that doubling Britain’s nuclear capacity would produce a cut of just 8 percent in emissions of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, by 2035. Far greater reductions are needed to avert catastrophic climate change.
The report also argues that any benefits of nuclear energy would be more than offset by its major disadvantages. There is still no long term solution to the disposal of nuclear waste.
And the kind of nuclear programme favoured by Blair would lock Britain into an inflexible and costly energy policy for years to come, while undermining attempts to reduce emissions through greater energy efficiency.
The report underlines what socialists and many environmentalists have argued. Renewable energy sources such as wind and tidal energy, combined with greater planning and energy efficiency programmes, are needed to halt global warming.
That lesson is lost on Blair’s energy minister, Malcolm Wicks – who last week helped block a plan to build a 27 turbine wind farm in Cumbria.
The wonderful world of Silvio’s friends
Few readers of this paper will be pondering the pros and cons of taking out a fifth mortgage on their house. Fewer still will have received a cheque for £350,000 and not bothered to ascertain whether it was a gift from an Italian businessman or payment for work done on his behalf.
That is the world that Tessa Jowell lives in. But it isn’t just her. She works, after all, for a prime minister who finds it perfectly acceptable to holiday at the villa of Silvio Berlusconi.