Skip to main content

What works...

Last Friday Cicero was speaking at the two-yearly seminar on the Baltic countries held at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at UCL. Two years ago we were celebrating the entry of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the European Union and NATO. This year the atmosphere is more muted. The reforming zeal of the region continues, but a greater sense of tiredness is evident- the politicians are clearly finding that keeping focused on the complexity of change is now more difficult with the goal of EU entry now achieved.

Yet as a Liberal I am heartened.

The key note speaker, Mart Laar, was the Prime Minister during the implementation of the shock therapy programme and continues to lead the most right wing faction, Isamaaliit, in the Estonian Parliament. Meanwhile another speaker, Professor Marju Lauristin retains her membership of the Social Democrats (although she herself was a minister in Mart Laar's government). What strikes me, however, is that there is a large body of policy which the to politicians at either end of the Estonian political spectrum actually agree on. Not for the first time, I find myself thinking that the debates that take place across the political spectrum in Estonia take place within the Liberal Democrats in Britain.

Although British Conservatives lionize Mr. Laar, he describes himself as a Liberal and in his blunt support for the European Union he has far more in common with British Liberal Democrats than with British Conservatives. Although the gentlemanly and thoughtful Christopher Beazley MEP, who chairs one of the sessions, provides his usual thoughtful analysis, it is clear that as a pro-European Conservative, he is a very small minority indeed. Christopher represents one of the most attractive strains of Conservative thinking, but in their determination to head down the cul-de-sac of Anti Europeanism, the Conservative party no longer listens to such humane and principled voices.

Meanwhile, in her open minded views on welfare reform, Professor Lauristin too reflects Liberal ideas- a far cry from the dog-in-the-manger union activity that still creates many difficulties in the British public sector. I see that British politics is still so much more polarized compared to Estonia. I idly wonder whether this is just another example of the "grass is greener", but think that the practical realities of reform have forced Estonian politics into a more informed and honest mind set than the ill informed brawl of the British House of Commons.

The Liberal tide in Europe is rising and the success of such countries as Estonia is something that British Liberal Democrats can learn from.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Post Truth and Justice

The past decade has seen the rise of so-called "post truth" politics.  Instead of mere misrepresentation of facts to serve an argument, political figures began to put forward arguments which denied easily provable facts, and then blustered and browbeat those who pointed out the lie.  The political class was able to get away with "post truth" positions because the infrastructure that reported their activity has been suborned directly into the process. In short, the media abandoned long-cherished traditions of objectivity and began a slow slide into undeclared bias and partisanship.  The "fourth estate" was always a key piece of how democratic societies worked, since the press, and later the broadcast media could shape opinion by the way they reported on the political process. As a result there has never been a golden age of objective media, but nevertheless individual reporters acquired better or worse reputations for the quality of their reporting and

We need to talk about UK corruption

After a long hiatus, mostly to do with indolence and partly to do with the general election campaign, I feel compelled to take up the metaphorical pen and make a few comments on where I see the situation of the UK in the aftermath of the "Brexit election". OK, so we lost.  We can blame many reasons, though fundamentally the Conservatives refused to make the mistakes of 2017 and Labour and especially the Liberal Democrats made every mistake that could be made.  Indeed the biggest mistake of all was allowing Johnson to hold the election at all, when another six months would probably have eaten the Conservative Party alive.  It was Jo Swinson's first, but perhaps most critical, mistake to make, and from it came all the others.  The flow of defectors and money persuaded the Liberal Democrat bunker that an election could only be better for the Lib Dems, and as far as votes were concerned, the party did indeed increase its vote by 1.3 million.   BUT, and it really is the bi

Media misdirection

In the small print of the UK budget we find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the British Finance Minister) has allocated a further 15 billion Pounds to the funding for the UK track and trace system. This means that the cost of the UK´s track and trace system is now 37 billion Pounds.  That is approximately €43 billion or US$51 billion, which is to say that it is amount of money greater than the national GDP of over 110 countries, or if you prefer, it is roughly the same number as the combined GDP of the 34 smallest economies of the planet.  As at December 2020, 70% of the contracts for the track and trace system were awarded by the Conservative government without a competitive tender being made . The program is overseen by Dido Harding , who is not only a Conservative Life Peer, but the wife of a Conservative MP, John Penrose, and a contemporary of David Cameron and Boris Johnson at Oxford. Many of these untendered contracts have been given to companies that seem to have no notewo