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Ken Stevens

For a politician to be seen as in touch with the people is derided as populist. To advocate an unpopular option is regarded as a badge of courage by politicians, to be exercised at every opportunity. And as for "don't do as I do, do as I say" ...*@#$!!

Thus do the shepherds oft wander in different directions to us sheep.

Tony Makara

The process of policy-making has to be undertaken by the intellectual wing of the party. This isn't any sort of top-down intellectual lecture but rather is the process of proposal, the submission of suggestion, to be acted on, amended or rejected. The policy report should be judged on its content rather than on the lifestyle of those that produce it.

Dave Bartlett

It'll be interesting to see if Mr Oborne's new book 'The Triumph of the Political Class' generates any public debate on what goes on behind the curtain.

I recently came across an interview with Douglas Carswell (MP for Harwich) on You Tube, and I found it oddly comforting to know that there were Conservative MPs so passionately committed to making politicians more responsive to voters. I've no idea if anything will come it, but it's nice to see passionate idealism alive and well in our political masters :)

Mark Wallace

Tony Makera: "The policy report should be judged on its content rather than on the lifestyle of those that produce it."

Unless, of course, the policy report is lambasting people for the lifestyles they lead and advocating they either change of be forced to change. We do not judge a Bishop solely on what he says in the pulpit, but what he then does - if he says "Give to the poor" and is then found kicking a beggar we would have to take his actions more seriously than his words.

This applies even more if you will be able to afford the increases in, say, the cost of flying whilst many members of the general public will not. Are the Commission willing to live in the way they are trying to make others' live?


Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede.

Act 1, Sc. III Hamlet

We seem to have entered an age where politicians have lost the public. It is getting to the point of being surreal; they spout on about things completely oblivious to the fact that people feel they are drowning.....it is hard for those travelling in state-rooms to understand the concerns of those in steerage


The political process is more than intellectual configuration of planned action. It must be of relevance to society and, for the purposes of winning, be consistent with the wishes of the majority.

Issues that are important but seemingly remote because of conceptualising need a pre-input in the form of interactive education, such as global warming or the globilisation of the refugee problem.

The risks lie in the potential for public misperception of this kind of exercise, and policy suggestions often become irretrievably associated with party ideology.

Andrew Lilico

I am not interested in what politicians do themselves. I always find it unpleasant and unethical when Labour cabinet ministers are placed under pressure not to send their children to certain kinds of school, or quizzed as to whether their children have taken certain vaccines (as Blair was). Equally, it seems utterly irrelevant to me whether particular Conservative MPs use the NHS or where they fly on holiday.

First, this is wrong because MPs themselves and their families collectively need to make the decisions they believe best serve the interests of their families. Did it never occur to anyone, for example, that Mrs Blair may have not wanted Leo to have the MMR jab, and that if Mr Blair had been forced to over-rule her wishes that might have created marital difficulties for him? Is that a matter fur us to intrude upon? Again, it is perfectly consistent for Labour MPs to believe that all private education should be abolished, but send their own children to private school whilst that remains legal. What matters is not their conduct, but the policies that they would impose upon the rest of us. Politicians do not determine morality - my personal conduct within the law - but only what is and is not legal.

Further, the quizzing of these things seems to me to be an attach upon the very concept of a political party. Within a party, we don't always get everything we personally would like. Perhaps some Conservative MPs believe that the NHS should be abolished? Provided that they are prepared to advocate the Party line, why should they not be free to conduct themselves according to their own conscience?

The issue arises only, it seems to me, when MPs cross the line from being setters of the law to being our moral guides. But since we are all likely to treat attempts at moral tuition from MPs with the contempt they deserve, this seems to me to be very minor issue...

One marcus

The whole problem with these enviromental proposals is that it appears that all that is being proposed are new taxes and regulations, tax on rubbish, out of town parking, on 4X4's, doemstic flights etc etc.

The balance should be more towards persuading people to change their enviroment.

One big commitment that needs to be given is to stop this mad plan to build millions of extra houses in the countryside, mostly in the South East. I don't care how many of these houses will be zero or almost zero emmision houses they will still be sitting on concrete or tarmac where there were trees and fields.

Tony Makara

Mark Wallace, the points you make are fully valid. Nontheless, I do feel that policy has to be taken or rejected for its content. An alcoholic who lectures on the evils of drink while still struggling to give up drink is worth listening to. We are all of us guilty of hypocracy to some degree, but that doesn't mean we can't try to right our wrongs.

Ken Stevens

Andrew Lilico | September 11:43 AM
"..it is perfectly consistent for Labour MPs to believe that all private education should be abolished, but send their own children to private school whilst that remains legal. What matters is not their conduct, but the policies that they would impose upon the rest of us.."

Oh dear, you are a man of contradictions. Mostly I find myself in broad empathy with your viewpoints but every so often you come out with aberrations such as this! For someone themselves to believe that private education should be abolished and yet still send their kids to private school is unbridled hypocrisy. It would only be acceptable if they openly acknowledged that they did not personally believe in that aspect of party policy or else to make it conditional, i.e. that abolition was to be a future event once the public educational system had been brought up to scratch. If one regards parental responsibility as overriding political belief, then one should question whether that political belief is in fact well-founded, as such a dichotomy should not arise.
[-- and similar sort of argument re your mention of MMR and private medicine]

I simply will not countenance MPs who believe that they have different entitlements and expectations from their constituents -- and that includes green taxes that have a material adverse impact on us masses but are of no practical significance to those able to afford purchase of "indulgences" such as carbon offsets or twee sops such as little windmills.

Moral minority

Our "Blue Green" leadership and environment policy group are a classic example of what Hayek called the "fatal conceit". Their message is a modern version of "let them eat cake".


Bang on the nail in my view Mr Shakespeare. Being a truly sad person I spent my Sunday reading the Gummer report.( ok - so I fell asleep twice and I had been watching the grand prix )
Having met the man twenty odd years ago my lasting impression was of an amiable buffoon. Why does nothing in your piece surprise me? ‘I need a 4x4 to get around my constituency (but then I can afford it)’ (my parenthesis). Dear Lord what have we become? We won in 79 because millions of hard pressed but aspiring ordinary folk wanted to be set free from a domineering and failing state. What has changed? Little in my view except we now have a rash of politicians whose entire job experience is either in politics or PR, and no more understand the needs and wishes of ordinary folk than they understand astro physics. It’s going to be an interesting week at conference.

Andrew Lilico

Ken Stevens@12:47

>For someone themselves to believe that private education should be abolished and yet still send their kids to private school is unbridled hypocrisy.<

Why? What is hypocritical about this?

Let's take a different case. I think that the basic rate of income tax should be raised to 25p - Do you think that I should therefore feel obliged to donate the extra 5p in the pound to the Treasury? Or suppose I thought that it would be better if all savers were to be banned from removing their savings from Northern Rock so as to prevent it from failing - should I therefore feel it would be wrong of me to remove my own savings?

The key point is this (and I think it is an important one for a Conservative): policy and the law are not and should not be about what is right and wrong for us to do as individuals. Therefore I can believe that something should be prevented as a matter of policy without necessarily believing that it is wrong for an individual to do it. A Labour MP is fully entitled to believe that, whilst private education remains legal, it is perfectly OK for him to send his kids to private school, whilst at the same time believing that it should be illegal. He will only get into difficulties if he starts to argue that it is morally wrong for us as individuals to send our kids to private school...

I would think that any Conservative should support this outlook - the alternative, it seems to me, is to believe that public policy is a reflection of private morality, which is not a view I see as Conservative.

Mark Wallace

"suppose I thought that it would be better if all savers were to be banned from removing their savings from Northern Rock so as to prevent it from failing - should I therefore feel it would be wrong of me to remove my own savings?"

Erm, yes - fairly obviously I would have thought! What could be your justification for banning others from something you enjoy and make use of the freedom to do?

Adam in London

I see in the anti-QoL Report hysteria we've become quasi-Communists insisting that everyone live identical lives in the interests of fairness (apparently class war is alive and well in the Tory party of all places). Presumably we need to dump the market (dreadfully unfair you know - allows richer people to buy more things) in favour of rationing. Maybe we could be really 'fair' and equalise incomes as well.

Thank goodness Zac Goldsmith and John Gummer remembered that they're Conservatives and kept faith with market-based solutions. I dread to think what the contributors to this discussion would have come up with.

stephan shakespeare

Andrew, surely it doesn't work well if the biggest personal consumers are proposing policies to stop other people consuming, while hiding behind 'carbon offsetting'? Surely you shouldn't, as a law-maker, advocate a policy such which makes your own actions - actions you intend to continue - harder for others?

It doesn't smell quite right, does it?

stephan shakespeare

Adam, that's absurd. Suggesting that ZG and JG shouldn't tell us to do things they're not prepared to do themselves is NOT the same as insisting everyone should do the same. I have no concerns at all about how often they fly to exotic locations, or what cars they drive. They can do as they please. I just don't think its helpful for them to advocate new taxes for those who want to do the same. That's quasi-Communist?

And how can you refer to BANNING plasma screen a "market-based solution"? Surely it's the exact opposite?

Andrew Lilico

Mark Wallace@02:36

>What could be your justification for banning others from something you enjoy and make use of the freedom to do?<

Coordination problems meaning that if we all act a certain way in our private interest then our individual interests are harmed. This sort of legislation operates all the time.

- It might be more convenient for me as an individual to go round a certain corner on the right hand side of the road, but the law nonetheless requires me to travel on the left.
- I might find it better, individually, to burn coal in my inner-London house, but if everyone in inner London does that then there is unpleasant smog.
- My own hunting of a tiger might make little difference to the total population and be fun for me. But if we all are free to hunt tigers then they become extinct.

and many other examples. There are many instances in which behaviour that is not wrong for the individual should nonetheless be curtailed - to the benefit of us all.

I don't see the slightest inconsistency between politicians saying that 4x4 cars should have higher taxes imposed upon them (or even that they should be banned) and yet driving 4x4 vehicles themselves. And the same applies to airplane trips. Politicians are not our moral leaders, there to provide us with an example for how to live. Let's leave that to holy men, and have the politicians get on with determining the laws.

Andrew Lilico


I don't disagree totally in the specific cases to which you allude, in that some of the environmentalists in our Party do seem to think that it is their job to preach to us about what we as private persons should and should not do, rather than to define laws for us. If you must preach, then for goodness' sake practice! But I'd rather they just didn't preach, but instead stuck to proposing laws - so then I could stick to being uninterested in their personal conduct. I don't care about what they do - I care about what they restrict me and others from doing, and whether I agree that such restrictions are helpful or necessary.

Graeme Archer

Very cordially - I agree with "Adam in London". I look with despair as "Conservative" commentators rail against a move from tax on income to a tax on consumption ... and most of all (not something the author of this excellent article has done) when they deride such taxes as regressive. Uh, yes. Taxes on consumption are regressive, as Adam points out. So was the poll tax. Did all the anti-QOL writers send letters to the Daily Mail demanding an end to that? Or was it the absurd levellers who brought about the demise of the best post-war system of council funding that had been devised?

There is also an aesthetic dimension to most people's Conservatism. I betcha loads of people in the field at Heathrow would see no contradiction in doing that one month and voting Tory in the local elections the next. We don't want any more of these appalling excresences destroying our landscape. That may make me, in your view, someone who wants to stamp out cheap holidays. It could just as easily make me a true Tory custodian of our natural resources, who wants to preserve what's best for the next generation.

I don't really understand what Mr Gummer's car has to do with any of this. MAybe I'm a marxist really? I think whoever was in charge of this report would have had to come to similar conclusions. We are churning up too much of our countryside and regardless of the desire of people to fly anywhere they want for a fiver, it has to be contained.

Ken Stevens

Andrew Lilico

I am somewhat taken aback that you don't seem to feel that there is a smidgin of an ethical dimension to holding a public position such as MP. If it weren't for the fact that the particular instances under discussion don't have a moral dimension, in the proper sense of the term, I would describe your stance as holding that politicians can unobjectionably be amoral!
Or maybe you would just describe it as pragmatism - everyone else should be banned from shooting tigers, just so that your own depredations would have insignificant overall effect. Whatever happened to leadership by example?

Mention is made throughout these boards at various times about conviction politics. If someone doesn't actually believe in applying to their own situation that which they would legislate for compliance by the masses, then they lack conviction and will not attract my vote.

I am a bit of a Puritan, I know, but I don't believe that anyone in a position of power over others can have a private persona wholly separate from their public face. That doesn't mean that a politician can't have a separate private life, as long as the two roles don't contradict each other in important respects.


Andrew Lilico

I simply struggle with your concept. A politician should lead by dictat not example. Shooting one tiger will make little difference to an endangered species per se so it would be perfectly acceptable for you as a politician to shoot one but then introduce legislation banning the shooting of tigers. By the same logic then Mark Oaten would be perfectly entitled to condemn the moral depravity others who used the services of rent boys whilst themselves indulging in the practice. Perhaps such a thesis is one of the many reasons that politicians are increasingly treated with disdain by the electorate.
To me if a politician is not capable of moral and ethical leadership he deserves everything his critics throw at him.

Ken Stevens

Andrew Lilico | September 17, 02:08 PM
" 'For someone themselves to believe that private education should be abolished and yet still send their kids to private school is unbridled hypocrisy.'

Why? What is hypocritical about this?"

Can't resist a belated riposte as I stalk you today:

Times dictionary-

Seems to fit the bill quite neatly.


Ken Stevens

Not sure how the Times definition disappeared from previous posting! --

The practice of professing standards, beliefs, etc, contrary to one's real character or actual behaviour.

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