750 Years and Now a Democracy Betrayed.

 

Big BenToday is the 750th anniversary of the first elected parliament in 1265. It laid the foundation for our current political system.

It wasn’t perfect, it still isn’t, but over the ages it has evolved. Change has often been slow, those who have been ‘in power’ have been reluctant to embrace change. So it is today. Today we have a political class which has little interest in giving the people what they want or what they need. Inflated with self-importance and captured by the ego massaging trappings of their ‘position’, politicians are set on a course of self-enrichment and determined that nothing shall stand in their way. It’s party before people and ‘me’ before anything else.

The main cause of this malaise is corporate power: the political class have been bought by corporations and vested interests. Their corrupting influence has prevented political parties from connecting with the public, it has distorted spending and tax decisions and become a cancer metastasizing at the heart of our democracy. It explains the drive to privatisation so loved by Friedman’s Chicago School, a light touch to banking regulation which nearly led to our ruin, a disastrous dalliance with PFI which has left the country with huge debt obligations, and the ability of the very wealthy few to get even wealthier at the expense of the majority. Parties accept ‘funds’ and favours follow. How has this been allowed to happen? Because the political class have refused to reform the political party funding system which has effectively allowed big business and multimillionaires to buy political parties. The distortions caused by the corruption of our politics are many, but our sizable and growing inequality must rank as being the worst. The cost of the waste of human talent, of shattered expectations, of lives lived in poverty and hopelessness, the huge social costs of this appalling neglect of duty are unacceptable in a modern society. There has to be radical reform.

This may be a day to celebrate, but it should also be one to pause and reflect on how we achieve change. If we don’t address the problem, social unrest will follow – sooner than many people think.

I wrote this ‘Agenda for Reform’ earlier this year inspired by the Chartists. Perhaps it’s time we started a ‘New Chartist’ movement to speed up reform?

In 1832, voting rights were given to the property-owning middle classes in Britain. This meant that less than 18% of adult males had the right to vote. The British people felt betrayed. Four years later the Chartist movement was started, demanding political rights and influence for every man. Chartism got its name from the People’s Charter which proposed six fundamental reforms. It became a powerful irritant to the established political class, with a rally in Kennington attracting 150,000 people. Three petitions were presented to Parliament containing 1.5 million signatures, a later one had a total of 3.5 million – 15% of the population! In every case, the politicians in Westminster voted not to hear the petitioners. Despite these setbacks, by 1918 all but one of the Chartists’ petitions had been accepted.

Chartism was a continuation of the 18th century fight against corruption and for democracy. Today we need to fight for the restoration of our democracy, and for an end to the corrupt practices that have been allowed to undermine it.

Our parliamentary democracy has been reduced to a farce by politicians who refuse to reform the corrupt system of funding political parties. They have made a mockery of the voting system. Corporate capital and the wealthy elite have bought our politics and our politicians.  Personal and party interests now come before the interests of the electorate. Parliament no longer works for the common good but for the interests of the few at the expense of the many. 

            BRITAIN WANTS ANSWERS! BRITAIN WANTS CHANGE!

Why should we tolerate politicians and political parties who don’t work for the common good?

Why should we tolerate a corrupt political system that allows corporations buy and bully politicians to do their bidding?

Why should we tolerate politicians who allow corporate capital to bypass our democracy and control our politics?

Why should we tolerate a system where corporate lobbyists are free to pressure and influence politicians without any checks and balances and without our knowledge?

Why should we tolerate a system that allows billionaire media owners to determine the political conversation and manipulate public opinion?

Until we confront corporate power, and reform the party funding system, politics is a waste of time!

 

Is it right that we have to endure crippling austerity when the well off enjoy billions in tax reliefs and billions are doled out in corporate welfare?

Is it right that the poor are punished through swingeing indirect taxation for the excesses and mistakes of a wealthy few?

Is it right that those we elect to represent our best interests have failed to address the appalling level of inequality in our society, and who appear content that the United Kingdom has the second highest level of inequality in the western world?

Is it right that senior executives cream off millions and the state pays to supplement the appallingly low wages they pay their employees?

 Is it right that we should have to tolerate a political class that has failed to prioritise investment in the country’s infrastructure, allowed the country’s industrial base to wither and engineered an end to social mobility?

Is it right that the British people have to suffer a system that allows the richest to become richer while three million children in our country are brought up in poverty and hundreds of thousands of people, despite being in work, have to resort to food banks to survive?

The level of inequality in our society is unacceptable!

For too long we have suffered the creation of too many rentiers, people who live off investments. They have been allowed to feed off our stagnant economy and become staggeringly wealthy. Britain’s rentier capitalism rewards those who contribute least towards the common good.

For too long we have suffered from politicians who refuse to reform the tax system which lacks transparency, is unnecessarily complicated, and unfair.

For too long politicians have refused to address the chronic housing shortage. Four million people are on housing waiting lists and house building is at an appallingly low level. Meanwhile council houses continue to be sold off at a discount, and no new council houses are being built.

For too long we have put up with a financial sector that has chosen to put personal financial gain ahead of fulfilling its proper role of fuelling and oiling the greater economy.

For too long we have endured an outmoded form of local government. Local party politics an impediment to progress. More importantly, the country has no efficient means of devolving power to the regions and the development and prosperity of the regions has suffered as a consequence.

For too long we have put up with a political class who have failed to reform the anachronistic and undemocratic House of Lords. It needs to be abolished. It should be replaced by a House of Representatives representing all regions within the Union.

And yes…

For too long we have suffered a political class who put their interests and the interests of their party before the interests of the electorate, who deliver empty promises not action, glacial change in a world of accelerating change.

 

Without a new vision and fundamental reform, we’re heading for social conflict!

 

Is it not time we had a NEW CHARTIST movement?

 

 

Here are six demands!

 

  1. We want honest politics and honest politicians. We demand that the corrupting influence of money is removed from politics.
  2. We want a more equal society. We demand immediate action to reduce the level of inequality.
  3. We refuse to have corporations and wealthy individuals influencing government policy without our knowledge. We demand proper reform of the lobbying system.
  4. We want to be properly represented and to be part of the political conversation, not just impotent spectators. We demand political and constitutional reform.
  5. We have had enough of a tax system that is biased towards the well off and penalises the poor. We demand total reform of the tax system.
  6. We want the financial sector to fulfil its proper role of fuelling and oiling the economy and working for the common good. We demand reform of the financial sector

 

More about the demands…

 

We demand the corrupting influence of money is removed from politics. We demand an end to the corrupt and corrupting system of funding political parties that has destroyed our democracy. A system that has allowed the wealthy elite and corporate capital to purchase politicians and political parties, to influence legislation to their advantage, and to seize the nation’s wealth. We must reclaim our democracy! We demand fundamental reform in the way political parties are funded. How? By limiting the total amount allowed to be donated to a political party in any one year to £2000.  By ensuring that only those on the electoral register are qualified to make a donation. By banning donations from companies, corporations and organisations of any sort. By ensuring donations to individual politicians, in cash or kind to their campaigns or causes are outlawed. The state should support political parties but that support should be geared to the number of members they recruit, forcing political parties and politicians to engage with the electorate.

 

We demand a more equal society. We demand an end to corporate welfare and the restoration of a welfare state that protects the most vulnerable in our society. We demand that the wealthy make a proper contribution to the society which supports their lifestyle and their endeavours. We demand that there should be no laws or taxes that favour or benefit the wealthy. We demand the minimum wage is a living wage. We demand an end to the inequality that is destroying hopes and aspirations, crippling social mobility, condemning millions to a life of poverty and hopelessness, suffocating the talents of our children, and dividing our great nation. The personal cost to individuals and the financial cost to the nation of this obscenity are not acceptable.

 

We demand proper reform of the lobbying system. The lobbying system is not open and transparent. Recent attempts at reform were used as a front to attack trade unions and charities. Nothing has changed. The system remains opaque. Rich and powerful individuals, corporations and institutions remain free to lobby ministers, government departments and politicians, to buy access and influence. The electorate are deliberately kept in the dark. It undermines the political system and distorts our democracy. We demand that all lobbying is transparent and open, and carried out within a lobbying forum: a forum which allows a complete record to be kept of all meetings, documents and discussions.  All this information would be available online, with lobbying requests notified in advance to inform, and to enable opposing views to be expressed.

 

We demand political and constitutional reform. We no longer have an effective way of devolving power from central government to the regions. Our current system of local government is outmoded and inefficient . We need an effective means of devolving power to the regions and for them to be able to govern efficiently, and for their interests to be properly represented.  We demand the regionalisation of England within a federal United Kingdom.  Each region should have an elected assembly that would join with the assemblies of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in sending delegates to a new House of Representatives, a constitutional body which would represent the regions of the Union at the heart of government. These regions would participate in legislation alongside the House of Commons. Votes in the House of Representatives would be be by region, not by individual. The House of Representatives would replace the anachronistic, unelected House of Lords.

 

 We demand total reform of the tax system. We demand a fair and transparent tax system, a simplified system that works for the common good. We demand an end to senseless complexity. We demand a system that maximises transparency, minimises tax avoidance opportunities and that gathers tax revenue effectively. We demand the scrapping of taxes that are directed towards the wealthy, such as reliefs on pension contributions, and investment income.  Taxes on health and education should be hypothecated and progressive. Corporation tax should be abolished and replaced with a progressive trading tax. We demand support for the introduction of a global wealth tax and the closure of all tax havens.

 

 We demand reform of the financial sector. After the crash of 2008 politicians promised us a reform of the banks and the financial sector. Little has changed, little has been delivered. Another crash is as likely as it ever was and the effects on us all would be as great, if not greater, than in 2008. Banks are still able to socialise their losses and privatise their profits. Intensive lobbying and political ‘donations’ have ensured that there has been no fundamental change in the way they operate. Retail and investment banking have not been separated, and this remains a threat to us all. The half measures that have been proposed have not sufficiently removed this risk. Banks remain self-serving. They are not fuelling and oiling the economy by providing investment and supporting enterprise, nor are they directing credit where it is needed. The market freedom they enjoy still delivers short-termism, guarantees low investment, works against building and supporting business and inflates house prices. They are managing our democracy for their benefit and to the detriment of everybody else. They are working against the common good. Banks are unique businesses, they have a social responsibility. We demand legislation and proper oversight to ensure banks honour that responsibility and along with all financial institutions, they act in the best interests of the economy and  society. They have to serve the economy rather than be its master. We demand fundamental reform that delivers real and lasting change. 

 

We need to work together and confront power with ideas that can change our nation for the better!

 

 

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Passé political popinjay breathing death into the life of Labour

Who he? He Peter Mandelson. Perhaps the description of this ex Labour grandee is a little harsh, but I despair at the twaddle that the political class of both main political parties, both past and present, are spouting about the economy and about austerity in particular.

Mandelson has been imploring the Labour shadow cabinet to come clean about the Labour version of austerity, to be honest and ‘speak with a single voice’ about their version of this ludicrous and wholly unnecessary policy. Does he think we will love Labour more for dressing up austerity in a new suit of clothes? If he does then someone must have cut the connection to his ivory tower.

Labour politicians seem to be totally hung up about being seen to be ‘responsible’ about the economy. They are fixated about convincing us that they will maintain an iron discipline over spending and exercise financial probity. That this will grab our imagination and persuade us to vote for them. But if this means that Labour are intending to try and sell us a sexier version of Tory austerity then they are heading for a fall. Who are they trying to sell this half-baked policy to exactly, themselves or the Murdoch press? If it’s the electorate they’ve got it seriously wrong.

The electorate are not blind to the fact that Osborne deliberately trashed growth in 2010 in order to install his austerity Trojan horse. A policy disguised as a means to ‘deal with the deficit’ (which it has failed to do), but with a deeper, nastier purpose, to shrink the state, trash the welfare system and consolidate the corporate dictatorship that now rules Britain. If Labour honestly think the electorate are going to buy into more of this nonsense, they are mightily mistaken.

What the electorate want from Labour is an alternative to cruel austerity. They want new, fresh ideas, not re-hashed, dressed up Tory policies.  How about addressing the £100 billion given away each year in tax reliefs? (£20 billion is given away in pension contribution tax relief for the already well off). How about insisting companies pay their taxes first and dispute them later…at least the delaying tactics would be reversed. And then there’s the annual £35 billion in uncollected taxes, why not recruit more tax inspectors to sort the problem rather than cutting the numbers at HMRC? And for a really innovative idea, what about a ‘solidarity tax’ similar to the one the Germans introduced to pay for reunification? It’s a specific tax for a specific problem. Our specific problem is the deficit and it would be paid for by those who can afford to pay not by those who cannot. (It is a tax levied on taxed income – between 5 and 7%. Since the Germans introduced it, it has raised over £130 billion)

Governments have to get out of the habit of penalising the poor for the errors of the few, of introducing taxes that cripple consumption. They need to address tax distortions caused by a ridiculously complicated and divisive tax system and institute reform.

Unless Labour do something new, come up with exciting, innovative ideas that capture our imagination, the electorate is going to speak with a single voice and give them a good kicking.

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Luvs, Labour’s Lost!

Is the mistake is ours? Maybe we assume that our so-called ‘leaders’ are exceptional people, that their ordinariness is just a mask, and that buried deep inside their unimpressive forms  there’s a Churchillian spirit waiting to be unleashed. I wish it were so!

The reality is that our leaders are clever, but they are also really very ordinary and very unimpressive. Leaders? Mmmm…they have the responsibility of leadership, they understand what it is, but have very little idea of its practice. The reality is that our leaders are political technocrats. They work to predetermined party formulas that are meant to give us the impression that they are in control and have the measure of things – and that they are working for the common good, which they are not. Their prime motivation is personal and political survival. They work harder at this than anything else…until….well, until circumstances lay bare their inadequacy and they have to deliver something big to survive.  That’s where we are now.

Today, Miliband cuts a rather pathetic figure. Everything is catching up with him. His technocratic instincts tell him that he must fight his political opponents point by point. (Blind to the fact that his agenda is being set for him!) Viewed from inside his Westminster cocoon that might seem the right thing to do, but from the outside it’s a very boring, uninspiring spectacle. And the worrying thing is that he doesn’t seem to understand why we find it so unutterably boring and uninspiring.  Even more worrying is that it appears he doesn’t know what the answer is…and it’s really not all that difficult!

Swingeing austerity should have been a gift to a Labour opposition. They should be fifteen points ahead in the opinion polls. Loyal Labour supporters have been waiting in anticipation for big new ideas, but they have failed to materialise. As the election draws closer it’s becoming more apparent that there are no big ideas, no radical new policies. All that Labour supporters are going to get are technical ‘tweaks’ to existing coalition policies. To be blunt, Labour has been more than useless, they have been utterly, utterly wet, and they are about to pay a heavy price…actually, we are about to pay a very heavy price, which hurts – a lot!

Is there still time? Just, but the dead weight of the party machine and the ‘cleverer than thou’ Hampstead Labour elite will probably sink any new initiative or any new big idea. Look what happened last weekend when Ed announced that he was planning to scrap the House of Lords and introduce some better form of regional representation. A big idea if ever there was one! The announcement happened on a Saturday and hardly anybody noticed. Reason? Because it was a hastily dredged up ‘big idea’ that Ed had been frightened to voice.

We are witnessing a race to the bottom of the political mini-talents. What the country needs is a new political order, new political parties and new big ideas. Too much to ask? Just wait and see!

 

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Scotland could hold the balance of power at Westminster – the ultimate irony!

Mirror, mirror“This castle has a pleasant seat; Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses”

Words that Alex Salmond, leader of the 40+ victorious SNP MPs could be uttering as they enter Westminster next year having demolished Scottish Labour in the general election –  and it could be that they hold the balance of power in their hands. Possible? Not only is it possible, it is becoming increasingly likely as support for Scottish Labour tanks.

For more than half a century most of Scotland has been tribal Labour, but now all that is changing. Labour supporters in Scotland feel they’ve been taken for granted by the Labour leadership and many are beginning to realise that years of blind, unquestioning support for Labour has done them little good. Housing in the east end of Glasgow is terrible; there is still real poverty in the city and the level of unemployment remains stubbornly high. Scottish Labour councils are as bureaucratic, corrupt and self-serving as they ever were. Lazy, knucklehead Labour councillors reign supreme, but have delivered little. Labour has been sussed. It is about to pay a very heavy price.

But is the catalyst for this mass desertion just about a general dissatisfaction with Labour? Not totally. It’s about a betrayal of trust, but it’s even more about people believing that their vote can make a difference. The referendum proved that to them. The ‘Yes’ vote might not have triumphed, but it mobilised support for its cause in a spectacular manner, particularly in Glasgow, and somehow it was a like a liberation, people felt free to trash their traditional voting habits. Having done it once, they will be quite prepared to do it again. The referendum ‘Yes’ vote was a vote in favour of Scottish independence, but it was also a vote against the established political order and against Westminster.

The Westminster political establishment threw everything in its armoury to secure a ‘No’ vote. It succeeded. It may have won the battle, but it is losing the peace. Within hours of the ‘No’ victory, ‘perfidious Dave’ was busy reneging on his promises. This may have been a tactic to precipitate a problem for Labour, but the outcome of his perfidy may not be quite what he is expecting. Why? Because it’s the ‘No’ voters who feel the sense of betrayal the deepest. At the general election it will be their votes that send 40+ SNP MPs to Westminster.

The outcome of the general election is going to be fascinating. Without its Scottish Labour seats it’s unlikely Labour will have a majority. The Tories may be overwhelmed by UKIP, the English political Ebola. The Libdems? They will probably disappear into oblivion. And the ultimate irony is that we could end up with a Labour / SNP coalition. Wow! That’s an outcome no Scottish Nationalist would ever have thought possible – except the clever wee bastard, Alex!

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Ed is proud to announce the arrival of a ‘Big Idea’!

Big IdeaWe’ve waited a long time for a ‘big idea’ from Labour and then out of the blue comes the announcement that it’s going to abolish the House of Lords…no  fanfare for this momentous news, it dribbled out over the airwaves on Saturday morning almost apologetically. Why be so coy Ed? This is something that needs to be shouted from the hilltops. Be bold, for heaven’s sake!

We need radical new thinking about the way the Union is governed and we need bold new ideas. Abolishing the House of Lords is long overdue. It is anachronistic, unelected and well past its sell by date. It should be replaced by a House of Representatives – Senate if you like, but it’s not the best description. The new House needs to be filled with representatives from Regional Assemblies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Yes, we do need regional assemblies in England. The regionalisation of England is long overdue. The current system of local government is cumbersome complicated and inefficient. England must have a means to devolve power to the regions effectively, and regionalisation is the best way to do this.

A House of Representatives means that there would be regional representation at the heart of government. Having it outside London is a nonsense. Look at the Bundesrat example and copy it!  It works well, it should do because we helped to set it up after the last war.  Let’s not have some appalling British compromise where we try and take everybody’s opinion into account and produce a dogs dinner. Let’s not shovel money to cities. Cities belong in a region, they are a regional focus point, they don’t need to be some separate entity.

Abolishing the House of Lords and establishing a House of Representatives will really resonate with the electorate. They really hate the House of Lords. It stands for everything that is wrong with Britain today. Regionalisation is so badly needed, not some mealy-mouthed compromise, the real thing. It needs courage and determination to drive through this reform. Does Labour have the bottle?

 

 

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Austerity, a cruel, but deliberate deception

Nearly five years into the ‘Osborne austerity’ and we are faced with the unedifying spectacle of the two major political parties competing to see who can deliver the best austerity. “Vote for us, we can deliver better misery, more bankruptcies and greater inequality”.  Are we really going to buy this nonsense? Clearly the Tories believe we will, and Labour don’t seem to have, or dare to have, any better ideas.

For five years now we have been fed the line that austerity is the only way to deal with the deficit. There is no alternative if the deficit is to be reduced. This has been a cruel, but deliberate deception.

Fed half truths and blinded by a fog of political verbiage, we have been duped into believing that austerity is the only answer. It isn’t. There are alternatives, alternatives that would not have put thousands of businesses out of business, driven hundreds to suicide, destroyed the welfare state, condemned millions to a life of penury and allowed  the wealthy few to accumulate even greater wealth. But there was never any mention of alternatives. No, austerity was an opportunity that no true blue Tory could pass by. Milton Friedman and his Chicago free market gangsters would have been proud of the boy Osborne. He grasped the opportunity that crisis offered and the trauma of shock to drive through his selfish, destructive, dishonest agenda – and we swallowed his medicine with hardly a peep.

What is so appalling about the austerity programme is that a. It isn’t necessary, there are better alternatives and b. that Osborne and his party cohorts are prepared to see through an austerity programme that does deliberate harm to the poorer members of society to satisfy a twisted party ideology.

Osborne’s cry that “we’re all in this together” is very much part of his cruel deception, for in together we are not! For the very wealthy and most of the middle class, the real pain of austerity has been skilfully manoeuvred passed them. The tribal Tory constituency must remain inviolate.  And yet it is in the hidden advantages allowed to this constituency, and beyond the knowledge of ‘ordinary’ folk, that the alternatives to austerity exist.

So what are some of the alternatives to austerity?  Let’s take tax reliefs, there are nearly 1300 of them. The total annual cost to the Treasury is estimated to be nearly £100 billion. £20 billion of this is pension contribution tax relief, a very middle class perk. There must be at least £50billion to be saved from tax reliefs. Tax. Every year HMRC fail to collect £35 billion in tax revenues, an enormous sum. Reason? An over complicated tax system that is crying out for reform, and a Chancellor who deliberately slashes HMRC funding resulting in fewer tax inspectors. And what of a specific tax to deal with the debt problem? The Germans introduced a ‘solidarity tax’ to pay for reunification. This is a very fair tax because it is based on taxed income so those who pay more tax contribute most. So far it has raised over £120 billion. Surely a specific tax to raise revenue to deal with the debt crisis would have been a far more sensible thing to do than to impose a cruel austerity on those who are innocent of the crimes that caused the financial crisis? And to introduce an austerity that crippled confidence and slashed much needed tax revenues has got to be one of the stupidest reactions to the crisis. But then there is Osborne’s party political agenda, that is clearly more of an imperative than the common good of the British people.

There are alternatives to austerity, there always have been, but this government has chosen to ignore them and impose a cruel, but deliberate deception. They must pay the price in 2015.

 

 

 

 

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Many Happy Returns!

Dave 2

The book isn’t finished, but I can’t be doing with the restriction of 140 characters any longer! There’s a lot going on and things are starting to heat up nicely. Check out ‘AN AGENDA FOR REFORM’ in the menu bar above, and let me know what you think. Pass it on to others if you agree.

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I’m taking time out!

I’ve got a book to finish and I need to give it my full attention…I’ll be back – probably in about six months.

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The British Constitution needs booked into the Priory

I came across this brilliant white board animation of Professor Stein Ringen’s assessment of New Labour and the state of the British Constitution purely by accident. It’s fascinating and his conclusions are absolutely on the money. See if you agree!

Stein Ringen is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Oxford

 

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Why would anyone ever vote Libdem again? What might change peoples’ mind?

Regardless of the result of the Eastleigh by-election, it’s a racing certainty that the LibDems are going to be annihilated in 2015. Political oblivion beckons, and it may be that the party will cease to exist. So, if you were a Libdem, what would you do?

The current leadership seems to be in denial, convinced that ‘something will turn up’. Like most politicians they believe in miracles. If you’re a Libdem right now, you have to, there’s nothing else…or is there?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. There needs to be a coup. Yes, a good old fashioned coup. A coup to get rid of the tarnished Clegg, and to set the ‘new Libdems’ apart from their Tory appeasing fellow travellers. Who should lead the coup and replace Clegg? Cable is the only real option because he’s one of the few Libdem MPs who has managed to retain some of his credibility over the past two and a half years – and one the public believe.

But the cunning part of this plan would be to orchestrate a very public attack on the Tories. For the new leader to set himself apart from the Clegg era,  from the disastrous Tory policies they have endorsed, and engineer the downfall of the coalition to…wait for it… to save the nation!

By really saving the nation from the idiot Osborne and the feckless Cameron, the Libdems could hang on to some of their credibility and live to fight another day. It would take careful planning and need to be choreographed to a tee.  This about the survival of the party. The Libdems need to get moving. The window of opportunity is very small.

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