Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lighter things 

A pleasant weekend camping on a hillside in Devon 'Between the Moors' overlooking Winkleigh (and just about resisting the temptation to fret 'what constituency is this in?). Two odd thoughts.

1 It was impossible to find a Devon Cream Tea on Bank Holiday Monday, indeed the only Devon eatery on my route home open on Monday afternoon was a Macdonalds in Tiverton. Meaning I suppose that I was in Working Devon not Visitors Devon.

2 And Winkleigh has three shops. A Londis supermarket, a post office and a butchers rejoicing in the name 'The Mad Butcher of Winkleigh'. The name of which on its own made the weekend.

Winkleigh does however have three (I think) car dealerships.

It is no backwater in terms of political issues though - a Biomass Powered Electricity Generation Station is planned for the nearby former airfield. I now feel a personal attachment to Mad Butcher Land and I will be keeping an eye on this issue for my own political education.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

On Catalogues and politics 

Maybe politics should be more like writing essays.

When I was an Open University Associate Lecturer I had to tutor students on academically credible essay writing. In essence this was how to bring evidence and analysis together.
First you state a 'thesis'; that is an assertion about your subject that raises questions. Not just 'self-evident truths'.
Then you marshalled evidence for and against your thesis. Anyone half awake can get 'evidence' to support ones own ideas, the discipline comes from understanding and being able to state accurately the case against your ideas.
Then you show why your evidence makes a difference to your original statement. Has it strengthened your case, weakened it or can't we decide on the evidence available?

In order to have evidence that makes a difference it has to be marshalled into an 'argument' linking the items and weighing them up. It is not enough to present a catalogue of facts. The marshalling into an argument, using discipline and integrity, is one of the things that separates good scholarship from plausible assertion.

Is it possible that the Liberal Democrats have fallen into the habit of having a magnificent catalogue of policies without enough ‘argument’ following on from this to make it live? Leaving voters to check the boxes as Kos says in respect to US Democratic politics? If so policy reviews that redraft the catologue will not be the most productive ways forwards. Perhaps some thoughts on philosophy and direction as well as on policy details are needed 'in the next decade' or even earlier. Simon Titley has some thoughts here.

One 'argument' linking our policies in the recent election was implicitly 'Restoring the Tax Base'. fairness and integrity is the theme of that argument. Beter than getting trapped in the 'Tax Raise' meme anyway.


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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Gonna win 

Post election briefings and so on. Much focussing on doing stuff to win at all levels. And about time too. Let freedom ring.

Meanwhile my Hard Disc becomes even more Tory, crashing every 30 minutes or so. I may have to put it out of its misery.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

A different home life 

Great that campaigns for electoral reform are springing up. Maybe those of us already committed should take a look at how people campaign under existing PR systems, to see how party and other political arrangemenst would need to change. As an example what is it like campaigning under STV where in effect campaigners could be working to move some of their party's candidates above others in preferences. I can imagine strains and interesting complications.

New Zealand is gearing up for a General Election so we should be taking a look at them in the next few months. I note one cultural difference not connected to PR - it is illegal to campaign on election day so no Good Morning Leaflets, no knocking up and all campaign posters have to be taken down for the day. Having been subject last week to heartfelt pleas from voters in Watford not to put yet another leaflet through their door mid-day on polling day I suspect the NZ regulation could be popular here.


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Monday, May 09, 2005

back to normal 

After the election excitement back to FOCUS writing, getting some sleep and wondering about Cowley Street. Some thoughts on policy making and how to use the process to foster party cohesion later..

My happiness at a general policy review would be greater if everyone in the party read and internalised Anthony Saampson's "Who Runs This Place?" though. How about an online Liberal book Group to blog these issues...


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