Category Archives: British Politics

British Politics

Votes for 16-17yr olds – good or bad idea?

A quick observation from a country (Austria) in which 16-17yr olds will be voting in next Sundays General Election.

I’ve just read this BBC story  on the latest debate in UK on voting age. It promoted me to comment on twitter:

2013-09-25 07.44.54

Now I’ve talked to a lot of Austrian votes over the last few months about politics and who they will vote for. In all honesty the only people (excluding Party activists and not even many of them) who have actually sat down and read the party programmes were a small group of 16-17yr olds. They hold their own rather well in debate against old voters I’ve been told 🙂

For more info on Austrian General Election: Parties, trends, predictions 


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Conservative leader attacks Cameron over EU veto

Talking about last week’s European summit and Britain’s role in Europe, the head of the country’s pro-European conservatives is quoted, here, as saying “Britain must discuss a change of opinion towards Europe. I hope (for a change) because Europe without Britain is unthinkable for me.”

Alas, the leader in question is not a British Conservative showing some signs of sanity and defending the real interests of Britain. Instead the quote is from Michael Spindelegger the leader of Austria’s conservative ÖVP and the countries Vice Chancellor. Unlike the political landscape of the UK, in Austria it’s the conservatives who are often described as the most pro-European of the parties.

Austria currently has the lowest unemployment in Europe, growth has (up until recently) been healthier in comparison to much of Europe (including the UK), and (for the present) the country retains its AAA rating. The Euro has contributed to the country’s economic success and the collapse of the currency would potentially cause significant damage – as it would to the UK.

For many living Austria the Euro crisis has often seemed to be something happening elsewhere – a little irritating, far off, giving money away! However, the country’s debt figure is 73% of GDP compared to 60% only a few years ago and Italy’s troubles have brought matters closer to home as it is a very significant trading partner. The talk now is of debt brakes, taxation and cutbacks especially in the country’s extensive bureaucracy.

Thus Austria is learning that it isn’t quite the Alpine ‘island’ in the middle of Europe that frankly is the way you often feel living here. Getting to grip with the debt, ensuring unemployment remains low (tackling the issue of youth unemployment) and getting the Euro sorted (with or without some of the current club members), all whilst maintaining social cohesion would, I think, sums up mainstream opinion here in the Republic. The anti-euro, anti-Europe glee currently coming out of some sections of the UK body politic sounds particular strange from here given the importance of the European market to Britain, the lack of growth, rising unemployment, as well as the UK’s dependence on the outcomes of decisions from the Euro zone, the States and China.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not actually suggesting that Austria is a model that the UK should be following. In fact, despite Britain’s problems, Austria and other EU members could still gain from adopting some aspects of the Anglo-Saxon approach. It’s just that the little Englander stuff I’ve been reading in recent days reminds me of that rather interesting solution suggested in Tudor times for avoiding invasion from the Spanish Armada – send the English fleet north with ropes and grappling hooks, then tow the British Isles out into the Atlantic.

In all seriousness, sitting here on this ‘Alpine island’, the option of trying to get the Euro/EU back on track looks a much safer bet than putting up the keep out signs and rotting away in obscurity.


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Tim: coalition, Lib Dem’s & counselling

Great interview in today’s (Sunday 4th Dec ’11) Independent  with Tim Farron, president of the (UK) Liberal Democrats. The article is well worth a read but the points (and the ‘bold type’ is my highlighting) that most stuck out to me were his comments on:

Key themes for Lib Dem’s:

“It’s about being fair, progressive, compassionate. It’s about putting freedom and the ability to make choices about your own life at the heart of everything… understanding the biggest bar to anybody’s freedom is poverty. So our concept of freedom is very different from that of the Conservatives.”

On the Labour Party

What they do need to say sorry for is behaving like a bunch of Tories. They’ll talk about things like ‘we didn’t listen enough’. It’s like cheating on your wife and then apologising for being home late.”


He claims that since the late 1970s, the Tories – and later New Labour – have bought into a culture of “greed being institutionalised, lionised, glorified and treated as a virtue”.


“There are people who like the idea of coalition in abstract but, in practice, how could we possibly go in with the Tories? My reaction is generally that I need daily counselling to cope with it.”

If the article is a taste of the Lib Dem’s efforts to reassert their distinctive images it’s a good step forward.

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Liberals and the free market…..and saving local pubs

I’ve just read this piece about saving the local pub. A good article in its own right and I hope that the Lib Dem Ministers are able to deliver.

However, I particularly liked this summary of the Liberal attitude to the market:

‘Liberals believe that the market should be allowed to function without government intervention when it is succeeding and delivering including in a way that does not lead to socially unfair outcomes or exploitation; but when a market is not operating in either a fair or an open manner, liberals firmly believe that this is when Governments should intervene, to right the wrongs of market failure which there so clearly is in this case.’

Nicely put 🙂

PS: My late father, with whom I would rarely agree, would often say about politics ‘I don’t care what politicians do as long as they leave the working man (person) their pub and a pint we can afford’ or more accurately would say this or similar in somewhat stronger language. On this one I’ve always thought he had a point.

Saving the local is something that’s important to the life of many communities in the UK and potentially a real vote winner for Lib Dems.

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Unfortunately, ‘London like’ has a new meaning

It seems that if you are a conservative politician in Austria with a desire to shift your party’s position, in response to current economic and social concerns, the key soundbite is “to prevent London-like conditions in Austria”.

The comment was made by ÖVP politician and Governor of Lower Austria Erwin Pröll  as he called for higher taxes for top earners. His suggestion has not been well received by some other members of his party at the Federal level. Currently the ÖVP are scoring around 23% in opinion polls at the Federal level (putting them third place nationally) whilst a summer poll in the state of Lower Austria showed that Pröll’s ÖVP (who run the state) were on 53%, some 31 points ahead of their nearest rivals. As the State has long been a bedrock of ÖVP support the poll ratings and policy views do not necessarily have a direct correlation. However, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that the Pröll is the Governor of one of only three out of nine Austrian states in which the ÖVP have significant support (in the polls) and the Federal party is not making headway.

As for London, I used to (and to be honest still often do) hear Austrians talk in positive terms about the city. But these days Erwin Pröll’s negative soundbite is just as likely to fit with perceptions here.

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So are the Lib Dems still relevant?

Steve Richards (The Independent’s chief political commentator) article provides a balanced and interesting analysis of the Lib Dems role in the UK government which he sees as abenevolent and growing force:

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(British) Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg, Lib Dem Leader: “…… we are a party of fairness, freedom, progress and reform.”

13th March 2011

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