Following Cameron's recent attempts at love-bombing the Lib Dems, Gordon Brown was also at it this morning during his Andrew Marr interview. Here's what he had to say:
I think our policies appeal to liberal voters because you know we are for Alternative Vote system, we're for reform of the House of Lords, we're for the right of recalling members of parliament who commit fraud and equally at the same time we have policies on the environment and we've got policies on civil liberties that are not dissimilar to them (the Lib Dems).
Now putting aside the irritant that he continually referred to us as "The Liberal Party" (to coin a Ting-Tings-ism, that's not our name) let's have a closer look at the policies that he thinks appeal to liberal voters:
- Alternative Vote system. The main reason that "liberal" voters as he terms it are in favour of electoral reform is because they want a more proportional system that delivers a much more fair and representative result. As I have blogged about on numerous occasions (most recently here), the Alternative Vote system is not proportional and can actually be even less proportional than our current First Past the Post system. I don't know any liberal minded people who think that what Brown is offering in this area will tempt them into voting Labour. Also, even if a few were tempted, look what happened the last time Labour promised a referendum on a change to the electoral system in 1997. They reneged as soon as they were in power.
- Reform of the House of Lords. That's fair enough as far as it goes and we certainly do need to reform the upper chamber. However, again look at what has happened in the last 13 years. Labour abolished (most of) the hereditary peers but have left the rest of the chamber largely unchanged. It was kicked into the long grass because it suited them. Jack Straw recently suggested that it could take another 12 years at least before we could have a fully reformed House of Lords. It's far too little and far too slow.
- The right of recalling MPs. Well I would be in favour of this but frankly, how can we even be in a position where that cannot currently happen? My current MP, Andrew MacKay has been was forced to stand down (for the next election) in May last year after a public meeting where hundreds of his constituents (including myself) expressed their fury at how much money he and his wife Julie Kirkbride had claimed for "second homes" by nominating each others houses as their second homes (it is estimated to be well over £100,000). And yet, he has not paid anything back and it is looking very likely now that he will get away with paying nothing back. In the meantime, from what I am hearing here in the constituency he is very rarely seen out and about any more. He appears to have gone into semi-retirement early but of course he is still being paid from the public purse and because he will be stepping down at the next election he will get a nice little resettlement allowance. People here are furious that he can do this and there is nothing that we can do. So whilst I am pleased that looks like it will now be addressed Brown should get no credit. He is only acting because his hand is being forced and did nothing in the long years when MPs like MacKay were filling their boots.
- Environmental policies. Labour so seem to have some positive aspirations on this subject but look at how compromised they have become in office. Where is the massive investment in renewable technologies like there has been in some European countries? Where is the huge improvement in public transport infrastructure we were promised before 1997? Instead we have promises that nuclear power is the big answer which is in direct contravention to Lib Dem policy. We also have fake "public consultations" about airport expansion spun to make it look like local people are in favour.
- Civil liberties policies that "are not too dissimilar" to the Liberals. Eh? How can he have the brass neck to even say these words? This is the most authoritarian government in British history. They are hell-bent on introducing ID cards backed by a massively intrusive database and have mustered (and lost) every argument they could think of for them. They have increased detention without charge to 28 days and have tried to increase it to 90 and 42 days respectively in the last few years. Photographers are regularly harrassed and sometimes even arrested by police for trying to take photographs of public landmarks. They have introduced the "Vetting and Barring" scheme which will likely lead to millions of people in this country having to be security checked before they can do favours for local groups and organisations such as giving lifts to children, hence many of them I suspect won't volunteer any more. They have introduced suspicion and fear into many aspects of our community life and it would not be an exaggeration to say that they have started to destroy our community cohesion*. The idea that Labour's policies are anything like Lib Dem policies on civil liberties is utterly laughable. Yet Andrew Marr didn't even bat an eyelid.
I am very much looking forward to the televised debates over the next few months. I expect that Brown will not have the balls to make these sort of statements during them because he surely knows that Nick Clegg will never let him get away with it and he would actually end up looking very foolish.
* Incidentally, Jenni Russell has an excellent piece on how Labour's policies are destroying communities in The Sunday Times today here.