James Counsell, former Union President and current member of the CULC Commitee, writes in favour of the motion:
Despite sitting happily on the centre left, I follow J. S. Mill's lead in considering an effective Conservative party to be essential for a healthy democracy. The worst excesses of the Blair years would likely have been avoided if Labour had faced a competent opposition. It is for this reason that I am sincerely unhappy to witness the implosion of the Cameron project.
The biggest crisis is clearly the economy. Last week, the IMF released an explosive report that argued fiscal consolidation was having a far more severe impact on growth than was previously anticipated, and that as a result austerity should be eased. Although Labour had been warning of this for two and a half years, hearing it come from the IMF was akin to witnessing the pope declare the church defunct as a path to salvation. Regrettably, growth seems to have entirely dropped off the government's agenda; Osborne managed to get through his entire conference speech without mentioning the word once, in spite of the damning fact that the economy today is smaller than it was when he took office.
In fairness to the coalition, many theorists on the left are increasingly open to the perspective that economic growth should no longer be considered the yardstick against which we measure government success. There are numerous problems that need addressing in our deeply fractured society, and were the task of healing underway the stubborn sluggishness of the GDP figures could be forgiven.
Regrettably, there does not seem to be any such redeeming project. The Big Society, to the extent that it ever meant anything, appears to have been entirely abandoned. This 'greenest government ever' has place the Department for the Environment in the hands of a man who believes it is an example of 'soviet-style' excess to subsidise the nascent renewable energy industry. Any pretence of favouring localism has been undone by the unprecedented centralisation of ministerial vetoes over local decisions, from property development to free schools. A government that claimed to prioritise the future of our NHS is overseeing cuts to its budget of £20 billion and the largest transformation in its history, fully exposing it to the private sector.
In spite of all the U-turns, mistakes and betrayals, the government will fail in the one task it has stuck to; the deficit is projected to increase next year, precisely as a consequence of the sluggish growth austerity has created, and by 2015 our national debt is forecasted to grow by £600 billion.
I have lost all confidence in this government because the promises that they abandon are precisely those that made them electable. I have lost confidence because the few policies they are seeing through are relentlessly, demonstrably wrong. Most importantly, I have lost confidence in this government because through its mendacity and incompetence, it will have crippled two of our three national parties. However much I look forward to a Labour victory in 2015, I recognise that government without opposition is bad for democracy.
Nick Crawford, Chairman of CUCA, argues in opposition:
I do have confidence in the Government. Just about.
It's the things that people notice less that keep me confident in our government. The quality of many government ministers reassures me. It's the long term projects, whose results we've not yet seen, that will make us look back positively. Overall, I do have confidence.
I understand scepticism about the big schemes of the Government. The big policy decisions on the economy and health are so difficult to judge. Health because the policy's not even been implemented yet.
The economic policy is almost impossible to evaluate because although results have strayed from the intended course, governments are always venturing into new, unpredictable territory (ask Gordon Brown) and this Government has seen mountainous obstacles appear from across the Channel. As our largest trading partner, our fate is tied up with the Eurozone.
But in contrast with that uncertainty and negativity about growth, we have more people in work now than at any time since records began. And unemployment is falling. (Crimes rates are lowering too.)
But there are hugely important changes whose impact is minimal now but which will stand Britain in such better stead in the future. The cost of public sector pensions to the public has been halved. (To be clear, the pensions haven't halved.) For a country with a dramatically agony population, this is a very big change.
We will have better-funded universities, better school qualifications, better-run schools - all of which stand Britain in better stead to have a strong brain-based economy in the years to come.
The Government has a completely different attitude towards our diplomatic service, which if maintained should improve our international dealings. And with this Government protecting its international development and aid budget, I have confidence in its moral attitudes too.
It gives me confidence that the Government has ministers who know what they're talking about. There are economists in the Treasury, businessmen at BIS, lawyers in the Ministry of Justice and former soldiers in the MoD. Yes, there's the odd weak link but the majority are extremely competent.
And I do maintain confidence in Her Majesty's Government because, most importantly, Ken Clarke's just about still there.
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