Wednesday, March 01, 2006

On the eve

The result of the Lib Dem leadership election will finally be declared tomorrow. Cicero has supported Ming Campbell from the off, and I believe that he will come home tomorrow as the new leader of the Liberal Democrats. The party can then start to deal with some of the live issues of the day.

One of these is not the report on childhood obesity. Was I alone in thinking that a report written by The National Audit Office, the Healthcare Commission and the Audit Commission was in fact a prime example of a far more serious problem: government obesity. Scientific opinion is divided as to what the current trends in childhood obesity actually are, and even more divided as to what the effects might be. Another, state funded, report will provide more publicly funded jobs in order to "tackle" this problem. It will however not actually tackle the problem at all, but it will give the illusion of activity and cost a fair chunk of taxpayers money.

However, one issue that is becoming of critical importance is the retreat from free trade. The whole idea of the European Union is to at least create a free trade area. Unless the protectionist impulse that is giving rise to "national champions"- such as the proposed merger between Gaz de France and Suez- within the European Union is crushed, the whole market will be damaged and the consumer will pay a severe price. Protectionism is growing across the planet- with the absurd posturing of American legislators against the proposed takeover of P&O, and hence some of the ports of the USA, by Dubai Ports World, a UAE based company- the latest threat.

Liberals, if they stand for anything, stand for free trade. Protectionism is the one sure-fire way to undermine the core of global prosperity. Fair trade, open trade, free trade- or global recession.

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