The Great Debate UK

Scepticism about the state runs deep

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–Sheila Lawlor is Director of the London think tank, Politeia. The opinions expressed are her own.–

As UKIP’s earthquake materialises, with the party topping the European poll and the Conservative party narrowly missing second place, a shift in the political landscape is underway. Even before counting of the council votes had finished, or that for the European parliament had begun, the message from voters was clear – people were returning to the values with which they most readily identify: socialist or conservative.

Britain, though not alone in having a Eurosceptic majority (the EU’s older founder countries – Germany, France and Italy – all have one), has a political tradition that has bequeathed, along with the right to vote and to enjoy freedom under the law, a scepticism about grand political projects and theories. The result is not the cynicism and extremism to which continental voters may fall prey in the hopes for change, but a wish to rein in the political classes by sending them, and what are seen as their far-fetched visions, packing.

That, for most British people, whatever their party politics, is what democracy means, and its where Europe fails. But the EU and its institutional government is not merely remote and unaccountable, arrogating to itself powers which more properly belong to individual states, but it is wrong. Not only does it fail, whether on economic prosperity, stability, “human rights” or justice, but its utopian ambitions are destroying its own member states, both economically and in terms of the cultural and social cohesion for which it  aims.

from Breakingviews:

Boris Johnson intervention reduces Brexit chances

By Hugo Dixon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own

Boris Johnson's intervention in the European debate reduces the chance of a British exit from the European Union - or Brexit. The Mayor of London, a popular Conservative politician, says he will campaign to keep Britain in the EU provided it can negotiate a pared-down relationship based on the single market.

from Breakingviews:

Euro-recession, not rebellion, is what boxes UK in

By Ian Campbell. The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

An E.U. protest vote by members of his own party has knocked the UK prime minister. For the moment, the Conservative party rebellion is largely symbolic.

from MacroScope:

Give me liberty and give me cash!

Come back Mr Fukuyama, all is forgiven.

In his 1992 book "The End of History and the Last Man", American political scientist Francis Fukuyama famously argued that all states were moving inexorably towards liberal democracy. His thesis that democracy is the pinnacle of political evolution has since been challenged by the violent eruption of radical Islam as well as the economic success of authoritarian countries such as China and Russia.

Now a study by Russian investment bank Renaissance Capital into the link between economic wealth and democracy seems to back Fukuyama.

Aid: In favour of zero-tolerance

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By Laurance Copeland

After one year, the progress report on the Coalition reads “Moving in the right direction, but with a lot more to do”.

Nonetheless, it is a prisoner of its commitment at the outset to leave two departmental budgets untouched: the NHS and international aid. It is not simply the amounts of money involved (colossal in the case of the NHS, relatively small for aid). It is also the signal it sends that there is such a status as sacrosanct, which immediately begs the question from policemen, firemen, teachers, the legal system, the armed forces: why isn’t our budget sacrosanct too?

The budget must help SMEs to survive and grow

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Bobby Lane 4By Bobby Lane, Partner at Shelley Stock Hutter LLP. The opinions expressed are his own.

Everyone in my practice, and no doubt anyone advising the five million UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), welcomed the Prime Minister’s latest show of support for them at the recent Conservative Party conference.

A budget for Growth?

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Thomas Story_NSP8121By Thomas Story, Tax Director, BDO LLP. The opinions expressed are his own.

George Osborne has promised that measures to boost sustainable growth will be central to this week’s Budget. To meet this objective, the Chancellor faces the challenge of accelerating the reform of business taxation within the severe constraints imposed by the overall fiscal position and the political imperatives of the coalition government.

Many previous reforming Chancellors have benefited from a more benign fiscal outlook to facilitate fundamental fiscal reform (Nigel Lawson and Gordon Brown spring to mind). The daunting fiscal deficit means that any tax reforms must be achieved within a tax neutral framework; Geoffrey Howe’s Budgets in the early 1980s are a closer precedent but the need to accommodate both parties to the coalition agreement provides additional dilemmas in 2011.

Budget will force ‘squeezed middle’ to muddle through

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By John Evans, CEO of Incahoot.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

It’s a cold November morning last year, and in the Today programme studio Ed Miliband sits across the desk from John Humphrys.

John: “So Mr Miliband, can you tell us exactly what you mean by the ‘squeezed middle’?”

Permanent revolution trains kids for unemployment

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BRITAIN-ELECTION/By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.

I am unsure about Britain’s education system. Most of the time, I think it is a matter of one step forward, two steps back – but then there are times when I wonder about the forward step.

This morning I heard the glad tidings about the latest ideas for grabbing a much-prized relegation slot in the world’s education league table (predictably enough, the Americans can be relied on to provide stiff competition).

from FaithWorld:

Muslim Brotherhood treads cautiously in the new Egypt

cairo sunset

(A girl waves an Egyptian flag at sunset in Cairo February 14, 2011 /Suhaib Salem)

The Muslim Brotherhood is treading cautiously in the new Egypt, assuring the military government and fellow Egyptians that it does not want power and trying to dispel fears about its political strength. The target of decades of state oppression, the Brotherhood wants to preserve the freedoms it is enjoying under the new military-led administration that took power from Hosni Mubarak.

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