Monday, January 14, 2008

Nick Clegg finds his voice

This feels like the beginning of something big.

If Nick Clegg had said this during the leadership campaign I would have unhesitatingly voted for him.

This is an authentic Liberal voice, and one that is going to make a dramatic difference. A few of the quotes I would highlight:

"The first step is to scale back the vast monster of Whitehall. Whitehall should get out of the business of the day to day running of public services in Britain. That strategy doesn’t work. We will draw up plans for radically shrinking the size of all our public service departments - to re-focus them on setting broad objectives for the local agencies and people who deliver on the ground."

"Marrying our proud traditions of economic and social liberalism, refusing to accept that one comes at the cost of the other. On that point, if not all others, the controversial Orange Book in 2004 was surely right."

"There are two crucial dividing lines in British politics. First - the dividing line between progressives and conservatives - between those who believe in tackling inherited disadvantage and removing the scars of poverty, and those who don’t. And second - the dividing line that splits liberals from the advocates of big government solutions - a dividing line that splits the progressive cause"

"As John Stuart Mill warned in 1859: "A state which dwarfs its men...even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great things can be accomplished."

"Government should step away from daily management, and instead make sure that public services are held clearly to account through effective, independent systems of inspection. We should consider merging the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, OFSTED and parts of the Schools department into a new Educational Standards Authority, independent of ministers, accountable to Parliament - and active in promoting innovation and best practice.I don’t think it should be acceptable for any school to have over half of young people leaving without 5 good grades. And it shouldn’t be acceptable that we have such low standards for GCSE pass scores that the Government reports as "passes" some grades which we know are in reality of no value in today’s labour market. What value exactly should an employer place on a G or F grade? You can get a G, in some cases, for a mark of about 20%. It’s time to call a fail, a fail. And raise expectations by abolishing the two lowest pass grades for GCSEs."

"I didn’t come into politics just to transfer power from a set of national politicians to a set of local politicians. That’s a necessary first step, but it is not an end in itself. We need to empower people who use and people who deliver public services every day. We know central government gets in the way of that happening. But let’s not pretend that local government is blameless. Councils too can impose bureaucracy, insist on unnecessary control"

"Freedom. Innovation. Diversity. Yes, choice too. These are liberal words. Let us take them back. If we yield liberal language and liberal values to our opponents we do nothing but damage to our liberal cause.

This is the 21st century - the age of Youtube, and Facebook, and Wikipedia. The age not of top-down management, but of people taking control of their own lives, creating the tools to deliver services to each other. We no longer want to be treated as if we should be grateful recipients of inflexible, and sometimes second rate, state services delivered from on high."

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