Fine Words Butter No Parsnips


Nick Clegg is speaking today.  I began to listen and stopped. More of these inananities will drive me over the edge – about time! – I heard that. We live in an Orwellian age of news-speak. Fine words indeed: but do they have meaning. Here are some words: social justice, fairness, progressive, liberty, green, sustainability. Let’s test them by tryng out there opposites. Anyone out there, and raise your hand,  who thinks the opposite? Who is in favour of injustice, unfairness, reaction, pollution, and unsustainable economic development. No takers? Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no need for me to add anything. We are all on the side of the angels. Thank you for coming.

I confess to you that I am heartily tired of this nonsense-speak. Let’s return to basics. Politics is about policy not protestation; actions speak louder that words, the road to Damacus is paved with good intentions (you see that even I know how to take refuge in a cliche); it takes time to judge whether a policy improves a problem or worsens an outcome; and, for the philosophers among you, not every problem has a solution.’ (Discuss in a coherent passage of not fewer than 500 words, thank you). And to summarise ‘fine words butter no parsnips’.

Let’s take two  big calls. First, is it likely that a slow growing economy with persistently high unemployment, a reduction in the quality of public services  and an attack on welfare benefits will result in more or less social justice? Might it be true that universal benefits  alone can ensure that those who are entitled to expect help receive it? Undermining universal benefits might result in  some claimants  receiving benefits they do not need or are not entitled to be given but to close loopholes at the expense of depriving the deserving would not add to the net sum of social justice, would it?

Secondly, take this statement from Cleggie. The Coalition has ‘restored British civil liberties.’ It is a Liberal delusion that liberty is an absolute. Of course it is not. What does he mean? He means of course,  the abolition of speed cameras, reducing the size of the DNA database, smaller and less effective external defence, ineffective border policing, fewer policemen on the beat, more criminals on the street. Freedom .yes. Let’s check. You are a guy who favours a large measure of personal freedom in your life. Good on you. Are you for or against the following: more fatalities and serious accidents on our roads; lower detection rates for serious crimes, rising crime , inability to defend our country against all the threats to our way of life, and a higher probability of serious terrorist acts in Britain. No, of course you are not. Are you then grateful to the Coalition for bringing  this state of afairs closer to our everyday lives? Speak up at the back. No evidence of this outcome, I exagerate, time alone will tell. Very good, sir. You make my point. Let us judge policy by its outcomes not by its claims. It may take time to know an outcome.  However, should  we not put up the red markers. Watch this space and all that..

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Filed under Alan Milbourn, BBC, Big society, Cameron, Civil liberties, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Deficit, Environment, George Osborne, Green, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Party, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Politics, Social justice

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