Thursday, November 12, 2009

Joining the debate

This week I spent a lunchtime at Long Road Sixth Form College, having been invited to debate the question "This House believes that the next Government should raise taxes rather than cut spending".

Although I speak quite often in the Council Chamber (rather too often some others Councillors would probably suggest...), I was never involved in student politics, and only really got involved some time after I left University, so I had never actually taken part in this type of debate before - it was good fun!

I was leading opposition to the motion, with the Labour parliamentary candidate for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner, speaking for it, with support each from a Long Road student.

I actually think in the short term we will need tax rises as well as cuts in public spending - but for my part the debate focussed on the terrible state of public finances under Labour, and the huge expansion of the state into areas where it really has been very incompetent.

One area is the way whole departments like the Ministry of Defence and the National Health Service have seen an explosion in the numbers of non-frontline staff. Its hard to know what the extra bureacrats are doing, at a rough guess mostly doing unhelpful things like poor MoD procurement, or monitoring government targets to ensure they are distorting clinical priorities in the health service in line with Ministers press releases.

The other area was the money wasted on government IT projects. Three of the four speakers agreed ID cards and the national identity register database should be scrapped - sadly despite my goading, we still couldn't get Daniel off-message - a few more months left to persuade him that ID cards really are a bad idea...

Daniel's case seemed to be that Labour had nothing to do with the debt crisis in government, it was all the wicked bankers, isn't really that serious, and can be solved by taxing a few rich people. The result - it was close, but I managed to end up on the losing team! I don't think people have quite grasped the historic scale of the debt problem that Gordon Brown has put the country in yet - this year the increase in public debt - the amount by which government spending is exceeding government income - is expected to be £200 billion pounds - which I calculate as more than £3,000 for every person in the county - imagine that added to your credit card bill at the end of the year, without any clear idea where the money has gone!

Many thanks to Tom Woodcock at Long Road for organising the debate, and all those who took part.

"Everything you say will be taken down and used in evidence..."

No comments: