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Rene Kinzett

The first 500 days outlined

May 23rd, 2010 by René Kinzett

The Coalition Government’s first Queen’s Speech has been trailed in today’s Sunday Telegraph, giving us a glimpse of the 21 Bills expected to be outlined by Her Majesty on Thursday.

As previously announced on the Home Office website within hours of the new Cabinet appointments, ID cards are to be scrapped and the “Great Repeals Bill” will roll back many of the other attacks on civil liberties and limits on personal freedoms brought in during the last 13 years of Labour Government.

Much needed and widely anticipated reforms to schools, the NHS and the police will also be among Bills introduced during this Coalition’s first Parliamentary Session.

The number and scope of these Bills leaves some wondering if the Coalition will suffer from over-stretch and become fatigued and bogged down early on in its projected 5-year lifespan. I think that the ambition and commitment shown by the Coalition is actually rather reassuring. There is not a “steady as she goes” approach, which is to be welcomed given the huge task ahead – the structural budget deficit, the pressing need for reforms to our public services and the public’s expectation for immediate action on political reforms leave the Coalition with no choice but to move swiftly and decisively in all of these areas.

I am also encouraged by the structures of the new Government. The Cabinet Committees seem to be well thought out in terms of responsibilities and personnel. The balance between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for my money spells out that this is a “full and proper” Coalition Government, as promised by Cameron when he made his public offer to the Liberal Democrats on the day after the election.

As a social liberal Conservative, with a hawkish eye on public spending, the Coalition Government’s first Queen’s Speech promises much that I can celebrate and more importantly, much I can sell on the doorstep in my area. The fundamental theme of this legislative programme is “freedom, fairness and responsibility”, aims which have underpinned Conservative thinking for generations and which we share in common with our Liberal Democrat partners.

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The natural affinity of Liberal Conservatism

May 17th, 2010 by René Kinzett

This article originally appeared on WalesHome…

THE NEW Liberal Conservative Coalition Government has put forward its proposals for a far-reaching programme of constitutional reform and the restoration and protection of civil liberties.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have historically been opposing forces in British politics, disagreeing on issues such as electoral reform, devolution and House of Lords reform over the past 100 years or so. To observe some of the ways in which those who articulate the starkest differences between the two parties behave, one could be forgiven for thinking that the lines of conflict as drawn down by William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli are as relevant now as they were in the 1850s. Gladstone described the fault line in Victorian politics thus:

“Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.”

For his part, Benjamin Disraeli could never resist the temptation to get under the skin of his more straight-laced opponent:

“The difference between a misfortune and a calamity is this: If Gladstone fell into the Thames, it would be a misfortune. But if someone dragged him out again, that would be a calamity.”

But Disraeli also had a serious mission on his hands: to make the Tory Party electable, to seek new supporters among traditionally anti-conservative groups and to prove that the Party was capable of representing and understanding the interests of the whole of society. Sounds familiar? Much like the reforms, re-branding and ‘decontamination’ mission of David Cameron, Disraeli’s efforts were based in the basic principle of the protection of the vulnerable and the desire for both social mobility and improved conditions for the poorest in society. One of Disraeli’s most powerful quotes comes from his novel Sybil which studied the horrific conditions of the English working classes, published in the same year as Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. The novel was also known as “The Two Nations”:

Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor.

Sybil gave us the term ‘One Nation Toryism’ and Disraeli set his sights on transforming the forces of conservatism (which he had famously derided by describing the concept of a Conservative government as “an organized hypocrisy”) and creating the new movement of Refoming Toryism. His battles with Gladstone over the Reform Bills of 1866 and 1867 ended with Disraeli’s Government finally getting a Reform Act onto the statute book in 1867, a more radical package of measures than proposed by his Liberal counterpart. Disraeli’s social and industrial policies were also welcomed by the embryonic representative organisations of the working classes.

David Cameron has used his own journey to ‘liberal conservatism’ to press for a realignment in British politics and soon after he was elected leader of the Party, he reached out to Liberal Democrats in a speech in Bath, a call which I had already answered having made the switch myself from the Lib Dems to the Conservatives four years ago. Ironically, it was Tony Blair who had originally set himself up as the architect of a ‘new politics’ and set up a joint Labour-Lib Dem Cabinet Committee to look at issues like electoral and Lords reform. Blair’s dream of a Labour-Liberal Democrat realignment (wanting to make the 20th Century the “radical century”), based on his previous discussions with Lord Jenkins and others, was broken up on the rocks of Labour’s unexpectedly huge Commons majority in 1997 – he simply did not need the Lib Dems and his party told him so.

Cameron, for better or worse, is not in the same position as Blair in 1997 and needs the Liberal Democrats in order to provide the nation with a strong, secure government. However, I am somewhat taken with the idea that Cameron is not displeased with this situation as it really means that he can head the Liberal Conservative Government with the kind of policies and approach to the key social, political and economic questions he was promising as party leader. I note that my colleagues on the right of the party are keen for Cameron to nip this kind of argument in the bud, but I rather think there is a lot of truth in the assumption that the new Prime Minister can get more of his own agenda through the party as part of this coalition government than he could in a Conservative minority scenario. Simply put, the Prime Minister is not a prisoner of the right of the party and he is clearly relishing the prospect to be one of the most reforming national leaders in the last 100 years.

Thus far, the criticisms from the left have been obvious and predictable. To believe some of the worst cant and hypocrisy from left-wingers, one might imagine that the 1997-2010 Government was a paragon of reform and that the 2010 Labour Manifesto contained further steps towards a utopia. When, in the last 13 years of Labour government, was it acceptable to liberals or socialists that ID Cards should be brought in? When has it ever been in the Liberal handbook to extend CCTV and collect DNA samples for a national database from the innocent?

The Liberal-Conservative coalition can hold its head high with such proposals as the extension of the Freedom of Information Act, the ending of storage of emails and internet records without good cause, the protection of the principle of trial by jury and the restoration of historic freedoms for the right to peaceful protest. The erosion of ancient liberties and the encroachment of the surveillance state have been some of the worst aspects of the Blair and Brown years. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are able to agree on so much with regard to civil liberties as we approach the issue with similar principles, centred around the rights of individuals, a rejection of top-down government and a recognition that society and the state are not the same thing.

Historically speaking, the partnership between Conservatives and Liberals in Parliament may at first glance seem odd, almost impossible. But a greater study of the development of the Conservative Party, a deeper understanding of the principle of reforming One Nation Toryism and the approach to politics and society taken by David Cameron over the past five years, clearly shows that this Liberal Conservative Coalition has every chance of making a lasting impact on British society and the body politic.

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Phew! The LibDem Conference isn’t so woolly after all!

May 16th, 2010 by René Kinzett

Great news from the Liberal Democrat Special Conference which this afternoon backed the deal brokered by Nick Clegg et al to join the Liberal Conservative Coalition Government.

The past image of the woolly-jumpered, sandal wearing and bearded old Liberals pontificating for days of painfully boring debate and torturing their Party Leadership with motions to abolish the Monarchy, outlaw meat-eating and give cats the vote were brought to a welcome end today by a quick, sensible and important decision.

The Liberal Democrats and their predecessor parties have not had a sniff of real power since the falling out between David Lloyd George and Herbert Henry Asquith in 1916. So the prospect of Liberal Democrat policies transferring from the never-never world of the Party’s Manifesto to the Statute Book was an opportunity that no rational person could rally pass up. Unless you are Charles Kennedy, of course.

I wrote about the common approach between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats with regard to civil liberties and a wider liberal agenda over on WalesHome and I really do believe that with this vote at today’s Special Conference, seals the deal on a full five-year progressive coalition.

Ken Clarke gets dressed up for top job

May 14th, 2010 by René Kinzett

The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain

The Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP was today sworn in as Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and boy did he look smart! Of course, Ken is more widely known for the somewhat casual nature of his atire, not being one to follow the sartorial rules of most politicians. But for one day, at least, the brown suede shoes, the pale blue/grey suit and distinctly NOT this season’s shirt and tie combo were ditched in favour of the robes of the second highest Office of State (the first being Lord High Steward…look it up if at all interested!).

The ceremony for all its pomp and circumstance (as much as I love all that!) is only really important in that we now have someone of huge stature and independence as our Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. A previous holder of the position of Lord Chancellor, Charlie Falconer, was generous and sincere in his tribute to Ken’s appointment when he stated that judges and lawyers across the land would be very happy indeed to see Ken in this vitally important job.

The previous Labour administration tinkered with the position of Lord Chancellor but failed to entirely abolish the title, sitting as it does in the centre of the venn diagram of the British Constitution – made up of the Monarchy (HM Government), the Legislature and the Judiciary. To abolish the office of Lord Chancellor would require a huge amount of unpicking and legislative changes that a Parliament could spend the next 5 years in that single task!

Facing Ken Clarke will be the job of running our over-crowded prisons, protecting the public from offenders, improving services for victims and witnesses of crime, continuing the modernisation of our judiciary, reforming the provision of legal services to consumers and helping the relatively new Supreme Court become more familiar to the public.

That is before we even consider new policy initiatives such as the referendum on changing the voting system or any abolition or reform of the Human Rights Act, legislation surrounding the restoration of many of the civil liberties eroded by Labour, a Bill to enshrine Fixed Term Parliaments, the creation of a wholly elected Upper House and the introduction of voter recall of Members of Parliament. Phew!

Well I am happy that such a huge job has fallen on the shoulders of one of the great Statesmen and born-survivor of post-war British politics. Good luck, Ken!

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René Kinzett

May 13th, 2010 by René Kinzett

I’ll be moving my blog to Think Politics this week, so I thought it wise to take a moment to introduce myself. I’m a Swansea Councillor and Leader of the Conservative Opposition Group on Swansea Council. I was also the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Swansea West at the recent general election.

By profession, I’m a public affairs/PR professional and currently work in the cultural and heritage policy fields in Westminster.

I’m looking forward to continuing my engagement with voters in my ward, Swansea and a wider national audience here at Think Politics. In the meantime, why not subscribe to my RSS feed? You can do so by following this link, by clicking the RSS banner at the top of the right hand column, or the logo in the address bar of your browser.

I’ll look forward to hearing from you soon.

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