Thursday, 29 September 2011

We Aren't the Magic Key to Palestine's Problems, Nor They to Ours: Dilettante on The Student Journals

 In my latest contribution to TSJ, I rebut an article by Sabine Saade that argues that UN recognition of Palestine would not only resolve that benighted region's problems but also provide the solution to our own foreign policy problems in the Middle East. In my view, it would do neither such thing, and only make matters worse.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Dilettante on the Radio: BBC 5 Live's Up All Night

I was invited back on to the Young Parliament panel on Up All Night last night, battling the twin plagues of flu and socialism. Topics covered include nuclear power, the Palestine vote at the UN, alcohol pricing, foreign intervention and the coalition.

My segment starts an hour and a half into the program and runs for 90 minutes.

 Apologies to those who can hear me coughing, I am currently in the throes of a nasty cold. Still, you do not turn down a radio invitation if you ever want another one, so I drugged myself up to the eyeballs and got through it. Other than the coughing and my slowed responses, I don't think I performed badly.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Dilettante on Open Unionism: How will Fraser's 'Made in Scotland' be any better than Carson's 'Made in Ulster' Conservative Separation?

 In my first contribution to Open Unionism since becoming Editor, I argue that Murdo Fraser's plan for a 'Made in Scotland' Conservative Party will be just as bad for the Conservatives and the UK as the separation of the Ulster Unionists was, if not worse. I also explain and demonstrate how hard it is for regional parties to work in the national - rather than regional - interest.

I originally wrote this article for ConHome, but they've not expressed interest so I've published it on OU - that's why the tone might be a bit more self-consciously Conservative than my usual writing.

Edit: This piece has also been published on Tory Hoose, ConHome's Scottish equivalent.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Dilettante at the Adam Smith Institute: Devolving to Freedom?

 In the last of my submissions to the Adam Smith Institute, I make the libertarian case against devolution and local government.

Ignore the Fuss, the Boundary Review is Fair: Dilettante on The Student Journals

 In my latest article for The Student Journals, I contend that the equalisation of constituency sizes is a just and necessary reform, and that identity politics is no just cause for an unequal franchise.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

TP Blog Awards 1: Right Wing Blogs

To nobody's greater astonishment than my own, Dilettante is now a Top 20 right-wing blog, ranked 18th! Thank you so much to all who voted.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Mathematics of Defeat: The Illusion of Anti-Conservative Scotland

 If the decision of certain elements of the Scottish Conservatives to try to found a new party by taking a section of the Conservatives is distasteful, it is at least understandable. They've been losing for quite a long time. Not losing the way the old Liberals used to lose, of course - they've still been getting a fair number of MSPs, councillors and votes.

 But in Westminster terms their performance has been soul-crushingly poor. Or has it? In terms of MPs delivered the party has certainly failed, but what about the popular vote? I decided to run a little exercise that Liberal Democrats are often fond of running: divide the popular vote of each party by the popular vote they got to see 'what it takes' to elect an MP. Here are the Scottish figures for the 2010 General Election:

Party: MPs - Votes - Votes/MP
Labour: 41 - 1,035,528 - 25,257
Liberal Democrats: 11 - 465,471 - 42,316
SNP: 6 - 491,386 - 81,898
Conservative & Unionist: 1 - 412, 855 - 412,855

 In other words, the Conservative vote would, if distributed as efficiently as Labour's, deliver 16 MPs. If distributed like the Lib Dem's, it would deliver ten, and if like the SNP's a decent five. 

 Now, like most Conservatives I consider First Past the Post to be a good and fair system of electing representatives to parliament. But it does serve to mask total support behind regional variation. While only having one MP is disappointing - and something I hope Ruth Davidson will work ever harder on if she wins - why on earth have we as a party allowed the other parties to talk up this myth of a vanished Tory Scotland? Particularly the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, neither of whom command a popular vote much greater than ours despite their more favourable representation.

 Murdo and the other defeatists need to take a good, long look at those figures, and snap out of it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Dilettante at the Adam Smith Institute: Libertarians, Employment and the Unions

  The first of the articles I submitted as part of my winning Young Writer on Liberty entry has gone up on the Adam Smith Institute, discussing how a libertarian state would approach employment regulation.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Taking the Reins at Open Unionism

 Just a little update to let everyone know that I will shortly be taking over from Geoff McGimpsy as Editor of Open Unionism. I'm also delighted to announce that Paul, of Unionist Lite, will be returning to manage the site's Facebook and Twitter feeds. OU was one of the first places to publish me when I started out, so I'm particularly grateful to Geoff for all his efforts.

 It will remain a place where anybody can submit content, and I plan to broaden its scope to cover unionism across the United Kingdom. So if you're a reader of this blog and fancy writing something yourself, don't hesitate to drop me a line. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Federalism and Unionism: Not the same thing.

 Since I first heard about Murdo Fraser's plan to abscond with the Scottish Conservatives a few days ago, I've been trying to work out how to respond. Whilst trawling my archive to see what I've written on the subject in the past, I realised that I have written about why the party splitting is a terrible idea before. I've also written about the need for an optimistic, courageous unionism to replace the staid, defensive, defeatist version we have at present. Neither of these cases really need restating.

 Instead, I want to look at the issue in more specific terms: namely, with reference to the federalists and other separatist fellow-travellers within the unionist tent, particularly the Conservative and Unionist Party. I've taken a few days out before writing this, as anything I wrote in the immediate aftermath of my hearing Mr Fraser's proposal would have been unprintable.

 Now I'm a counter-devolutionary, and proud to be so. I see no reason to hide the fact that I am an integrationist as a matter of principle. However, I'm not a fantasist. I fully accept that devolution is here to stay for the present, and that Conservatives must work within the British constitutional framework, even as they try to change it. As long as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own parliaments, the Conservative Party should do its utmost to engage with them all. I believe there are few members of the party who don't hold this view.
United yet distinct: the Conservative and Unionist Party reflects our country.
 However, a distinction must be drawn between those unionists who are compromising with their political circumstances on a pragmatic basis, and those who demonstrate an ideological inclination to go far further than is right or necessary. There are those within the Conservative Party who argue that only by out-doing the nationalists at their own game can the party and the union be preserved. Their argument appears to be that if you actively pursue a fully autonomous parliament, support divisive language differences and assist in the cultivation of completely separate political arenas in each of the home nations, then maybe, maybe, we'll get to keep the currency, the crown and the flag.

 The logic of this argument is - at least from a unionist perspective - ridiculous. It's like trying to head nationalism off at a pass that doesn't exist. Every step taken to weaken the union does just that, weaken it. The federalist 'solution' would reduce this country to a mere alliance, a defensive and economic contract between the home nations with Westminster and the monarchy providing a skeletal constitutional superstructure. The United Kingdom is more than a flag and a name, and any unionism worth its name should defend the fact of union as well as the appearance of it. The day that Great Britain is not governed in the greater part as one entity, the union is already half-gone.

 Which of the two schools of devolutionary 'unionism' is Murdo Fraser from? Is he simply defeatist, unable to see a future for 'old' unionism and thus determined to redirect it down the disastrous road upon which he himself is set? Or is he, as evidence suggests, a committed and enthusiastic pseudo-federalist, who would be set on pursuing an autonomist agenda even if he could not make the case that electoral exigency was forcing his hand? If he is of the former school, he is selling the Scottish Conservatives short. If he is of the latter school, he is betraying their principles. In neither case should he be leading them.

Selling them short, or selling them out?
 Mr Fraser's new party, should it happen, might see a partial recovery in the electoral fortunes of the Scottish centre-right. But it would come at an unacceptable cost to the political unity of the UK. What the Scottish Conservatives should be pursuing is the renewal of the British centre-right in Scotland. Creating a separate party in the style of the Ulster Unionist Party is (as I explain more fully in a ConHome article that may or may not be published) a terrible precedent that plays right into Alex Salmond's hands.

 Mr Fraser may dream of setting up a centre-right pseudo-separatist party. So, too, might whoever it was that proposed that the Welsh Conservatives rebrand themselves to "Ymlaen" - an idea even Nick Bourne dismissed as "nonsense". But these people should have the decency to go and found their own party, rather than trying to abscond with the assets, both material and political, of the national Conservative Party. Murdo should not have the gall to try to enact his separatist vision under the label of a 'new unionism'. 

 Unionism must aim to preserve the union in fact as well as in name. British Federalism is its own ideology, currently espoused principally by the Liberal Democrats. In my view, it pays lip-service to the cosmetic aspects of unionism whilst abandoning its fundamental principles. This is not always the case where federalism is concerned: in Europe, for example, federalism represents an historic attempt to overcome centuries of bitter divisions and move towards "ever closer union". But for a country as old and well-integrated as the UK, every step towards federation is a step backward.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Layton Would Have Let Them Down in the End: Dilettante on The Student Journals

 In my latest article for TSJ, I examine the popular reaction in Canada to the death of Jack Layton, examine similarities between Layton and other populist politicians like Blair and Obama, and make the case that Layton will be remembered as a great prime minister who never was precisely because he never had the opportunity to disappoint.

Friday, 2 September 2011

ASI - Young Writer on Liberty 2011: Winner!

 It is with great pleasure and not a little surprise that I have found out that I've won the Young Writer on Liberty competition run by the Adam Smith Institute. Applicants had to submit three 400 word articles on libertarian approaches to policy dilemmas. My winning articles will be appearing on the ASI blog in the next couple of weeks, and I shall link them here. My sincerest thanks to the judges and everybody at the Institute.