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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can't or Won't?, 17 July 2014
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This review is from: The 'Too Difficult' Box: The Big Issues Polititians Can't Crack (Kindle Edition)
This book has a certain valedictory air, edited by Charles Clarke. It's very good bed-time reading for policy wonks as you can knock off one or two chapters a night. Most of the 27 essays, based on invited lectures at the UEA, are written, with some exceptions, by ex-Labour grandees or left-leaning members of the great and good. In that sense, these are the problems that they themselves rather than others found too difficult to solve. This is the homework they set themselves but most readers would regard them as a fair spread of 'too difficult' issues. No 12 by Anatole Kaletsky presents an interesting view of banking regulation (no bank is too small to be allowed to fail) and suggests that Gordon Brown really did 'save the world' in the 2008 crisis. Two essays on pension reform, by Patricia Hollis and John Hutton respectively, however, manage to avoid completely any reference to Mr Brown's raid on the private sector pension funds which practically destroyed private sector final salary pensions and did not do the stock market a lot of good either. There is an essay on Scottish independence by Jack McConnell, which is not really 'too difficult'. The Scots have quite clearly said that what they want at this stage is 'devo-max'. Westminster refused the SNP's request to have that on the referendum ballot. Rather, devolution is a solution with unintended consequences. Designed to 'dish the nationalists' it gave them a platform and now they govern Scotland. There is no essay on the really difficult issue, namely the 'English Question' or the 'West Lothian Question', which Tony Blair declared 'too difficult' when Scottish & Welsh devolution was introduced and which British governments have been avoiding since the time of Gladstone (see Linda Colley's book on Acts of Disunion and David Marquand's article in the June issue of Prospect magazine). This is one that the Labour worthies do not even wish to tackle, let alone crack, preferring to adopt Lord Irvine's advice that the answer to the WLQ is not to ask it. It will eventually solve itself.
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