So Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg published an opinion piece in today's Times that was so incendiary that the Times also ran a front page news article gawking at the opinion piece.
Our welfare system is broken — and everyone knows it… One and a half million people have been receiving out-of-work benefits for at least nine out of the past ten years. Almost two million children are growing up in households where no one is in work…
Welfare needs to become an engine of mobility, changing people’s lives for the better, rather than a giant cheque written by the State to compensate the poor for their predicament…
First, the liberal notion of fairness implies social mobility. A fair society is not one in which money is simply transferred by the central State from one group to another. It is a society in which people are able to make a better life for themselves, with support from government and the broader community…
[L]iberals believe that people should be in charge of their own lives. Independence is a central liberal value. Dependency of any kind offends against this unwavering liberal commitment to self-reliance: and welfare dependency is no exception.
This, my friends, is died-in-the-wool classical liberalism. Or, as I like, and as we used, to call it: liberalism. A Young Turk in my debate club usefully pointed out that what we nowadays call "liberalism" is actually "statism in the service of progressivism."
At any rate, this is beautiful, powerful, staggering stuff. I'm not even sure the Republicans in the U.S. could necessarily get away with saying stuff like that. I have no idea how it's come into, not only being, but into power, here in Britain.
There have actually been a ton of examples of this Tory/LibDem coalition government turning Britain around on a dime, injecting stark sense and grownupness into governance, and basically saying and doing a lot of things I couldn't have imagined a year ago. (Just one good example, of many I've been too busy to blog about: a government web site soliciting ideas from citizens about what crappy, intrusive, meddling laws should be repealed! Can you imagine? A government which doesn't think its job is to keep passing laws until everything is either mandatory or forbidden . . .)
Then again, while I have been in London seven years now (this Saturday, in fact), I've only ever been in it under New Labour. Pretty much all of the things that bugged me about Britain but which I generally kept my mouth shut about, being a guest in this country (at least until last month, when I gained dual citizenship) turned out not to be things about Britain, but things about Labour.
Somewhere John Stuart Mill is dancing around merrily in his grave.
"The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."