Skip to main content

Cowboy roofers

Speaking at the Labour Party conference, Gordon Brown claimed that they did fix the roof while the sun was shining. Obviously they didn’t make much of a job of it. We in the Campaign know they used faulty materials out of choice.

We offered them a product that would have done the job but they didn’t even bother to look at it.

A few months after each election, when they have had a chance to settle in, the Campaign sends every newly-elected MP a letter inviting them to subscribe, free of charge, to the Campaign’s newsletter “Practical Politics”, together with a copy of recent issue. This canvass of MPs is tedious and time-consuming. About 10% of MPs take up the offer. Hardly any of the subscribers are Labour. In fact almost none of the Labour MPs have the courtesy to send an acknowledgement. Conservatives normally acknowledge and a few subscribe; LibDems normally subscribe. The Campaign has no party political allegiances because LVT is a policy for all parties.

Around 1994, when Labour was formulating its plans, it set up policy groups and invited submissions. The Campaign responded to several of these, explaining what LVT was and how it would help Labour achieve its objectives. They could have fixed the roof. But again, we received not even acknowledgements.

We have approached the Conservatives from time to time since they lost power, and received mild expressions of interest. But they do not appear to have any coherent group responsible for developing policy. There is, indeed, little evidence of any Conservative policies apart from a few populist tinkerings. The Conservatives have nothing that will fix the roof.

The British deserve better choices than what they are being offered. But then again, perhaps they deserve what they have got. From Victorian times until the early-1980s, there was a lively interest in what was going on in the world. Both the Henry George School of Economics and the School of Economic Science had a constant flow of students through their well-attended economics classes. No longer. The Henry George School is defunct and whilst the SES economics course continues, it does not draw the crowds of forty years ago. The interest isn’t there. Amongst your own aquaintances, try getting a serious discussion going even with people who have gone through university. The usual responses are (a) not interested or (b) too difficult for me or (c) they will talk you down with their own prejudices.

There is a further difficulty which seems to be part of British culture. People who will stop and listen to a developed argument are few. It doesn’t even happen on the radio. The British are not good at sitting down together, listening to each other and trying to come to solutions. The accepted style is confrontational. Even the seating arrangement in the Commons and the Lords is confrontational, with a culture of bullying which has become institutionalised through the whip system. People pound away at each other from their fixed positions. Even a quality programme like The Moral Maze takes a confrontational stance where the presentation is in black-and-white and there is little listening or exploring around what are complex issues. In these circumstances it is nearly impossible to shift the terms of a debate.