Wednesday, 13 August 2008

PICS serves up egg for our collective faces

PICS, the Liberal Democrat central policy resource, has offered up a standard press release on the Policy Exchange report Cities Unlimited: Making Urban Regeneration Work, which has been exercising politicians and bloggers throughout the day.

The basic tennet of the argument is that Policy Exchange is "David Cameron's favourite Think Tank", set up in 2001 by Michael Gove, and that we can therefore use it to bash the Tories for abandoning the North and giving up on poor struggling towns.

It is a fundamental mistake, and one that has prompted me to (unusually) reply to PICS suggesting that they may want to re-think it.

There are two significant problems with this line of attack:
  1. David Cameron has already come out and condemned the report in very strong language, saying that the report was"complete rubbish" and that its ideas were "insane". To attack him (by association) now would be ludicrous and would open us up to accusations of opportunism, disingenuity and possible outright lying.
  2. The report is co-authored by Tim Leunig, a Liberal Democrat member and economics professor at the London School of Economics. So if parties are to be condemned by association we are as guilty as the Tories.

Irrespective of the merits of the report (and I've made my comments, and recieved abuse accordingly, elsewhere) it is a fundamentally bad idea to try to use it as a weapon to bash the Tories.

What is more, it is depressing that we would rather do so than discuss the merits of the report in its own terms. Political debate is cheapened when we look upon innovative ideas (even flawed ones) as weapons with which to bash our opponents rather than stimulating suggestions which can trigger informed debate.

This is not a Liberal Democrat problem; it's a disease that has infected the entire body politic. Nonetheless, this latest PICS offering ought to be hastily retracted.

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