PoliticsUK - 2001

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An English language weekly newspaper, sold in a magazine format. The Economist strongly identifies as 'liberal' both economically and socially. 

1997 Election Endorsement: Conservative

2002 Election Endorsement: Labour/Liberal Democrat Coalition


The Real Song of Solomon - Westminster's Sleaze Problem

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Following media frenzy around Solomon Trevitt's actions, what is the real barrier for the government?

Other than the news of Paul Burrell's trial for allegedly stealing many of Diana, Princess of Wales' possessions, the headlines have been dominated this week - and likely many weeks to come - by 'Trevittgate', the allegation that Solomon Trevitt, the old Secretary of State for Education and then Public Services, had given out comfortable positions to close friends in suspicious circumstances. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alwyn Thomas, alleged in public these positions were given to sexual partners of Trevitt's, though this is yet to be verified.

It has turned the political storm that was the Queen's Speech and the many scandals and resignations that came from it into a media frenzy. It is worth noting that these allegations about Solomon Trevitt came out around the time he had defied the government he worked for over the issue of a proposed elected Senate, following which he promptly had his whip removed. The timing is highly suspect and has many in the media, and definitely opposition politicians, wondering to what extent the government knew of these goings on. Some allege the government had explicitly covered up Trevitt's actions.

Trevitt says the government has actively covered up his at best undignified and at worst completely corrupt actions, which is to be expected. The government vociferously denies this, which is also to be completely expected. But the fact there is even the smallest suspicion that the government could have been complicit in Trevitt's behaviour has led to an investigation into not just Trevitt's but the government's behaviour surrounding the issue, dubbed by the media as the 'Trevitt report.'

The fact the government is being investigated is immediately, no matter how innocent they may actually be, a bad look and has turned the political atmosphere on its head in the most sensational of ways: even John Smith's critics saw him as a good man and as somewhat of a moral arbiter. In the matter of weeks corruption is 5% of voters' most important priority, only being beaten by the NHS, the euro and crime. Voters prioritise what they feel to be the implication of the scandal as being on par with transport even in the aftermath of Hatfield and the report that highlighted the failings of Britain's railways.

Instead of pointing fingers or playing detective as too many politicians across Westminster have done, they first need to sit back and let the relevant authorities investigate. If politicians really want to win over the public they must convene and think of ways to win back the public's trust not just in the wake of Trevittgate but in the aftermath of the MacDonald affair (though, thankfully for her, that incident has somewhat faded in the background as the media have found a new victim). 

Callum Finch seems to have taken the appropriate steps considering difficult circumstances he faces in dealing with the single issue at hand. Harold Saxon, standing in contrast of some of his more reactionary Cabinet members, seems to have taken the first big step to tackle the wider political issue and the true message we must take home from this scandal. The other parties must play ball: for real change to happen, everyone is going to need to get involved. 

Often, we hear of the values of a small state. And however true that is, we need to start hearing more about an open and accountable state too.

If the Trevitt report exonerates the government, Callum Finch will need to still go the extra mile to win back the public's trust and there will still be challenges on the horizon. This is likely to be his first big (perhaps only) and defining task as Prime Minister: to change the system completely. Many politicians on both side allege this is the action of one bad apple, but the voting public feel differently and must be heard. 

And if the Trevitt report finds that something deeper was going on? Westminster may be rocked to its core completely - and its about time.
Business give mixed reaction to Budget and Shadow Budget

Business groups have given a mixed reaction to the plans of the Chancellor and the Shadow Chancellor, with a statement from the CBI saying that "neither party is presenting a truly pro-business platform," and urging parties to "use the opportunity of the general election to set out clearly how they will support business and afford future investment in public services while maintaining a low tax and competitive economy."

The CBI said it was disappointed at the Chancellor's decision to increase employer National Insurance Contributions, especially when unemployment may rise of the rest of this year, but said it was equally concerned about the Opposition's plans to increase the apprenticeship levy. "Both the government and the opposition have proposed a stealth tax on employers," the CBI said.

The CBI did welcome opposition plans to cut corporation tax and welcomed its other pro-business policies in the Shadow Chancellor's recent speech, saying that "the opposition's plans are broadly pro-business, and we hope that we would be able to turn them away from their proposed increase in the apprenticeships levy." However they raised concerns over borrowing. "The Conservatives will not be able to spend much more and cut taxes. We are concerned that returning to deficit, given the scale of additional spending increases we understand are still to come, could mean higher interest rates and crowd out private sector investment."
Give Labour another term but not another majority

British voters head to the polls this week and face an interesting choice. On one hand, Britain's Conservative Party has undergone a radical transformation recently, recovering its economic competence with a genuinely exciting economic agenda from its new Shadow Chancellor Elizabeth Atwood. On the other hand you have the centre-left Labour Party that, five years in, is looking distinctly tired of government and retreating into old comfort zones, taxing the rich and expanding the welfare state without much needed reform.

Were it that simple, our choice would be simple. But Britain's Conservative Party, a historically Burke-ian pragmatic force, has abandoned that principle for rabid euroscepticism, a dangerously statist policy on crime and disorder, and a questionable approach to foreign policy. All the while the Labour Party has shifted in the opposite direction - embracing the prospect of adopting the euro; challenging populist and ineffective policy on crime and drugs; and championing foreign aid.

If Britain were a bit more European, we might be able to hope for a grand coalition that takes the genuinely exciting parts of these two agendas. As it is, we have to make a choice between the two.

In our view, the optimal outcome of this general election is that Labour is returned to government but without a majority in the House of Commons, leaving it reliant on Liberal or Conservative MPs to implement its economic policies. Liberal Democrat MPs are likely to support Labour on its liberal domestic and foreign agenda, but less likely to support its left-wing economic agenda. A strong Liberal influence on a returned Labour Government would be the best of both worlds. Alas, the archaic lunacy of Britain's electoral system will almost certainly deny Britain such a sensible outcome.