Morality manifesto

British elections – indeed, most elections in western democracies – are won and lost on economic matters. Who can make money go further, fund public services better, guarantee jobs and investment, ensure taxes are fair, and so on. “It’s the economy, stupid” rings through history and permeates our futures.

Morality and moral choices tend not to envelop British elections particularly prominently. During the general election of 18 months ago, the repeated memes were almost entirely financial or fiscal; tax, funding for public services, cost of education. The tone of the election was markedly similar to those in previous years – tax bombshells, tax u-turns, only our party can be trusted on this, on that, on the other.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, tone during election periods has little resemblance to their British forefathers (and for the basis of most American elections across all layers of representation, ‘period’ means ‘all year round’). The rise of the Tea Party Movement and its infiltration into the Republican Party has changed irrevocably the manner in which USA elections are conducted. The rise of the morality brigade, avowedly Christian, right-wing, suspicious of the State, wary of welfare; there are very few British equivalents: imagine the very worst of UKIP and Tories combined with a script written by a greatest hits of Thought for the Day contributors.

Two people who represent the Tea Party ideals on English soil characterise two very different poles of their respective parties; Nadine Dorries (Conservative, Mid Befordshire) and Frank Field (Labour, Birkenhead). They could not be further apart in their political histories or heritages, and yet together they are spearheading repeated attempts to alter British law on abortion with language and attitudes not experienced in this country for generations. They represent the increasingly palpable sense of religious attitudes fighting back after years of secularisation within politics and political debate.

They represent the Tea Party in spirit.

We all know that the word “rape” has been adopted to mean a brutal result in sports (“They were absolutely raped out there”), and almost parallel to that, “abortion” has been similarly re-defined (“That bloke is an absolute abortion”). It is not with this redefining that I consider how Dorries is associated with the word “abortion” is much the same way as water is defined with the word “wet”. Her career as an MP has become inextricably linked to the issue and the wider discussion on sexual morality. You may recall her proposed Act of Parliament, which would force schools into teaching abstinence in sexual education classes, though only to girls.

Dorries (“At the next election, the Coalition will ensure the Liberal Democrats are wiped out, which is a good thing”) is passionate about driving abortion reform through the Health and Social Care Bill, and connected morality purposes fuel her campaigning spirit. Crucially, such issues require care and attention to debate them soundly. Dorries does not provide much chance of a reasonable debate; she has ridiculed the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists committee (“There is a specific committee which develops the guidelines for the care of women seeking terminations. They’re all abortionists. They earn their living from abortions.” (Source – the very good, albeit spiky, recent interview from The Guardian :

She protests too much – she is a religious extremist whose additions to this very tricky subject do far more damage than good.

Together with Field, the amendment aims to make what appears to be a modest alteration to current law. Their claim is that Marie Stopes or BPAS, who offer counselling to women who are pregnant and considering options available to them, pressurise the women into choosing the option of abortion for reasons of profit or financial gain. BPAS is a not-for-profit organisation, and its role as an advisor to women has been largely considered independent and fair-handed.

What Dorries is attempting to do is colour the debate with the red mist of her own permanently irate attitude. She is not as pro-choice as she likes to make out, pouring emotive descriptions of her time as a nurse into her anecdotes and examples, associating all experiences with the trauma of long distance memories. Her claims are so much rhetoric – when she claims “Women are given no advice, they are just spoken to and channelled straight into an abortion clinic where they have their abortion in a factory-like manner, then ejected into the street..”, she has not then continued to explain how moving from one state of affairs to another would resolve her view in one move. It’s all “from the very worst I can paint to the very best I can imagine”.

This issue is very complex and emotive, by its very nature. It is unsettling to see the debate bubble and stir in the way it is – not a reasonable exchange, but prejudice, insults, on both extremes of the political divide. It is the American accent sewn into the British debate which unsettles me more. I do not have a problem with people of faith throwing into any debate their opinions, views or suggestions; the issue gets harder to accept when those people desire to dilute facts with moral teachings. “This is my view based on what I have been taught by my religious teacher” is not comparable with “These are my opinions taken from a religious text I hold to be absolutely true”.

I have always held the opinion that women deserve to have the final say on their bodies, their babies, their lives. There is a line in the process from “before sexual intercourse has occured” to “making the decision on whether an abortion should be performed” at which politicians must stand the heck down. Our elected officials push so much judgement on those babies which are born – to single mothers, who are judged; to immigrants, who are judged; to a father who is over 60, who tends to be judged very differently…..What we really need is an isolation tank, a forcefield, behind which is the collated directions from Government, and in front of which is the mother who must be allowed to make up her own mind. Dorries would like to smash the forcefield into tiny pieces, and I cannot accept her notion that it is better for everyone if she succeeds.

And just when we probably need it least, another question of morality and freedom of thought is threatening to run parallel with abortion in the lead-up to the 2015 general election. Martin Green, a government advisor to the Department of Health, has suggested the right to die be a subject to parliamentary debate or even referendum.

I am in favour of decriminalising the right to die. The debate must be held, much as a rational debate on abortion must also be allowed to be aired.

My unease through all of this is drawn from the background noise, the quietened corner of Britain now returning, voice slightly altered but attitude totally reborn. We see through many prisms the natural disquiet over Islamist extremists – whose warped, inaccurate version of the Islamic faith has lead to such tragedies and deaths. News media rush to hear the latest garbled morality fetishism from self-appointed Muslim ‘faith leaders’, no more representative of mainstream Islam than David Icke or my kettle. We are a small island whose political debate has lost its Christian accent; I fear for what other consequences could follow if the Dorries experience means the voice which roars back is not so much Priests as Palin.

We would be better not having the Tea Party dump its wares in our waters.


A new dawn has broken…has it not?

The country has got what it voted for, Labour defeated and LibDem policies at the heart of Government. Nick Clegg, Deputy PM? Vince “Fibre Optic” Cable in charge of banking reform? Is this the real life, or just a fantasy?

It is, of course, the result of the historic Conservative/LibDem coalition, replacing Labour’s 13 years of peaks-and-troughs (sorry, boom-and-bust). The final legacy of Gordon Brown – a surge in unemployment – just indicates the challenge ahead.

Labour’s final record really is abysmal. Record government borrowing, massive public debt into which millions must be poured immediately to avoid a Greece-style meltdown.

Of course things are going to be tough, I am not hiding from the facts. Sadly, I guess VAT is going to have to rise, and local government funding will be cut in such a way that some sacred cows will have to see the action end of many knives. Something must be done to steady the ship; we as a nation cannot continue to overspend. While billions of tax payers money shores up the banks, the companies make mammoth profits and dish out mega-bonuses. This cannot continue. Let me borrow a phrase from our new Prime Minister; we cannot go on like this.

I have no doubt that Nick Clegg’s fairness agenda has a place in the centre of this new coalition. Look at some of the agreed policy decisions; the phasing in of the £10,000 income allowance, scrapping ID cards, scrapping the planned NI increase, reviewing the DNA database, enhancing freedom of information, scrapping the planned inheritance tax changes, promising a fully elected House of Lords…

I remain a loyal Liberal Democrat, and a liberal from top-to-toe. There is no point in being stuck in the past, using the Conservative Party’s previous lives as some kind of stick with which to beat the present. Using “Thatcher!” as a warning from history is no more useful in 2010 as my use of “Winter of Discontent!”. I am frustrated that this new administration is not being given a chance. The problems put upon this country by Labour’s 13 years cannot be covered up by the catch-all phrase “Global Recession”. It’s like the Family Guy episode where Lois whips up a crowd with the words “Nine Eleven”.

This new Government already shows great promise. The challenges are going to be tough, of course they are, and when errors are made there is no doubt I will comment on them. But this country could well plunge into deeper trouble if the exhausted, bankrupt Labour Party are given half a chance to return too soon.

Election 2010 – solitaire on speed

British elections have been known to throw up some unexpected, unusual results in the past – “They’ve elected a Labour government! The public will never stand for this…” – but polling day 2010 is something else entirely. It’s not just a shake-up of the political map; this was a deconstruction. When you order a bacon and egg sandwich, you do not expect to receive two thin slices of toasted brioche, a poached quails egg, slivers of Prosciutto, atop droplets of a tomato and basil jus….

Well, that is what seems to have happened on May 6th….

No patterns emerged. The anti-everything vote saw the Greens win Brighton Pavilion, their first ever MP; but saw both independents in Wyre Forest and Blaenau Gwent lose. George Galloway failed in his attempt to be re-elected; so did Esther Rantzen, who at one point was favourite to win Luton South. She barely reached 2,000 votes.

The north-east stuck solidly Labour, as would be expected. But hang on, there’s Redcar (REDCAR!), former seat of Mo Mowlam now LibDem controlled, the 2010 equivalent of Hove in 1997.

(It was Jeremy Paxman who spotted it first, in 1997, seeing “LABOUR GAIN HOVE” run across the bottom of his screen. “Are your ready to drink hemlock, yet, Mr Portillo?” )

The BNP were roundly, soundly, fantastically, undeniably defeated, struck down by sense and reason, hope not hate.

And now there is the hung parliament situation, with “grubby 1970s style deals”, to use the Daily Mail phrase. Nothing of the sort, of course, but then again Nick Clegg isn’t a baby eating Nazi. As Clegg has consistently said throughout the campaign, the party with the most votes and seats has been given the mandate to attempt to form a government. I still agree with Nick. The Conservatives won more votes and seats, Labour lost nearly 90 along the way, Gordon Brown cannot claim to have the moral argument on his side, never mind the mathematical one.

Simon Hughes told Radio 4 this morning that Tory and LibDem ideologies are, by their very nature, different. He sounded concerned, although not enough to put any credence to the rumours that he is about to defect to Labour.

In this new age, without a uniform swing, the idea that any party can exist in isolation is outdated nonsense. The choices Nick Clegg has to make this year are hard; our party does not have everything dove-tailed with the Conservatives, and the electoral arithmetic makes it almost impossible to join with Labour. Compromise and consensus are the watchwords; blind ideology has no place in this reshaped political situation.

I want Clegg to push through our fairness agenda into the governance of the country, whoever is ultimately in charge. Supporting a Conservative administration will be difficult for some to take; we may lose votes in the short-term, we may have arguments with our supporters and members to contend with in the coming months. Britain needs help – our economy is suffering after years of Labour misrule. Change is a concept, not just a word or slogan, and although there could yet still be a Labour minority administration, I just cannot support Brown continuing to run the country.

This mad, crazy sport of politics often elbows from the centre of the screen the real issues; there are people, employees, mothers, doctors, teachers, students, who need to know there is a government focusing on their needs. The closed doors behind which the talks are happening need to be opened soon. Whatever happens, let’s get on with running the country.

Election 2010 – my prediction

It’s all over bar the postal vote rigging allegations, and injury claims against RisoGraph manufacturers.

History will decide which factors from this election will fade into footnotes – the arguments over the increase in National Insurance, Mrs Duffy, the strength of Peter Hain’s tan…What matters now is the direction of the country after May 6th. From the real truth on public spending and how to slow down the rate of Government borrowing, through to the consequences closer to the home of the ongoing Greek financial crisis and relations with the USA and Russia, this country is facing one of its most uncertain futures. A vote tomorrow could change your life in a way no election has done for a generation.

This election has had many highlights, especially for Liberal Democrat supporters. But the important day is tomorrow – not the “I Love Nick” memes or anecdotes about meeting black men or Alex Salmond whinging like a drunk on a platform; the simple act of a “X” on a piece of paper could well decide the fate of millions.

I have never known an election like it. So predicting the result was never going to be easy. With my finger in the air, the runes and stars consulted, tea-leaves studied, and such like, my gut feeling is below….Let us see what happens when the real votes are counted at 10pm….

CONSERVATIVE 35% (BBC Prediction – 238 seats, Electoral Calculus Prediction – 241)
LABOUR 33% (BBC 310 , EC 305)
LIB DEM 25% (BBC 73 , EC 73)
Others 7% (BBC 29, EC 13)

BBC – LABOUR Short by 16 EC – LABOUR Short by 21

Lives of Others

Nick Griffin MP, anyone?

Already further down the rabbit hole than previous General Elections, this year appears to be glaring out towards us from somewhere beyond the looking glass. It’s the least predictable, most unusual campaign for generations.

And it could get awfully more weird…

The British National Party are standing candidates in more seats than at any previous election including here in Lancashire a candidate called Rosalind Gauci, who becomes the first candidate for the BNP in South Ribble since that seat’s formation. “Did she marry into the Gauci’s?” I have been asked by curious folk. I could not possibly comment.

The BNP manifesto is full of quotes no mainstream news channel would dare broadcast for fear of reprisals. Bring British is, “to belong to a special chain of unique people who have the natural law right to remain a majority in their ancestral homeland“, says their policy document. It gives the impression of these British Isles lifting from the oceans some three or four hundred years ago without a single brown or black face among the population. Or indeed the Welsh, or anyone with a passing knowledge of Gaelic. As most broad minded individuals note, the economic wellbeing of this nation is on dodgy ground enough without the sudden mass expulsion of every working immigrant or third-generation British Asian to their “home country”.

However – and this point is more true today than usual – the national opinion poll ratings showing the BNP flatlining on 3% or 4% does nothing to hide the possible (probable?) success of their leader Nick Griffin in Barking. His party is the official opposition on the Barking & Dagenham council; his main opponent is Margaret Hodge, a woman with a tarnished reputation. The mood of the country, if it is any guide to this specific seat, is of a rock solid Labour vote turning away from their party; no more certain bloc votes of the working class, for whom “New Labour” turned out to be an affront to their morals and expectations.

Griffin must be defeated. His presence in the House of Commons would be a dark day for this country’s democracy, however salient a lesson he may present to the commentariat already bruised by his MEP victory last year. For Barking he would be a disaster, encouraging division where none currently exists. It would do no good for voters to assume that a UKIP or LibDem vote would defeat him. The only person able to defeat him here is Hodge; a vote for Labour in Barking is the best advice anyone there can take.

Why Griffin is treated as a genuine threat in Barking is worth acres of analysis. All mainstream parties have failed to deal with immigration, job security, the alleged democratic deficit in England compared with Scotland and Wales. These are not points to be whispered or tip-toed around; exactly that kind of misunderstood, mishandled ‘liberalism’ has enhanced the BNP into the current, unwarranted, status of credible party.

It is worth noting that Griffin is the only possible BNP victory anywhere in the country; all other 300-odd candidates will struggle to save their deposits. A far-right Party whose Leader goes for the winnable seats? I could not possibly comment.

A few hundred miles away in deepest Buckinghamshire is the Speaker John Bercow, in a typically British struggle against former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. In the seat of Buckingham “convention” means sitting Speakers do not face any mainstream opposition. Hence Farage turning up, who knows how to attract media attention if not exactly reason to his arguments. Anyone who has witnessed his “speeches” in Brussels will acknowledge that Farage has brains and political savvy…but the 10-year old “YouTube Been Framed” clips on Russel Howard’s Good News have more lasting effect.

You may recall my attempt to cover the UKIP manifesto launch some weeks ago. The Party has not exactly made much of a serious dent in the election since. UKIP, like their distant cousins in the BNP, suffer from being a one-man band, with hundreds of foot-soldiers standing with shallow pockets and no chance of victory (or for that matter, support from the party command).

UKIP are as deluded about their place in the country’s affections as most “major minor” parties. The fact that they came second in the European Elections misses the point; the General election is not voted on in the same way: and in 2005 they managed just over 603,000 votes across the country, finishing fourth overall, just about 4 million short of the third placed LibDems.

Farage could win, of course, proving that national opinion polls mask such one-off results thanks to the unique way the nation elects its MPs. Bercow is neither a traditional shire Tory, nor the kind of MP who can walk away from the expenses scandal with his reputation unscathed. Farage – who shakes off claims about his £2million Euro expenses without being awfully convincing – could attract enough protest votes and traditional C/conservatives under the current circumstances. One MP from UKIP will not drag the country out of the EU (not a single UKIP MEP has managed that yet, despite that being thier only policy), but again, what a sign to the ‘establishment’ if the Speaker was defeated in his own back yard.

The third likely win from the “others” in this election – no, not Esther Rantzen in Luton South – is the Green Party in Brighton Pavilion. Caroline Lucas – now the sole leader of her Party following years of inexplicable “duel leadership” – has steered the Greens from mavericks to mainstream, proving that they are more than just environmental mouth-pieces.

Her victory in Brighton – now favourite with some bookies – would be more of a significant blow than either Farage or Griffin. No, her presence would not herald a sudden reversal in environmental policy in Westminster. No, one Green MP would not alter the course of the country. However, unlike BNP and UKIP, no mainstream media coverage has ever frothed at the mouth whenever their name is mentioned. No breathless coverage a la Griffin whenever Lucas appears on Question Time.

Are the Greens more likely to be elected elsewhere, unlike the one-man-bands of the “others” ? It’s not likely at all, such is the problem of having so little resources, so much faith in the once in a lifetime chance of our electoral processes. Green policies are not without their faults – the total cost to ordinary people has not been worked out at all. It is refreshing to think that our perverse, unfair voting system could yet suffer a minor flesh wound.

It is worth noting that this 2010 election has broken all records – more candidates than ever before, more registered Parties, more “independents”. Despite everything thrown at the election from the duck houses of Westminster, democracy in this country appears more alive and compelling than ever. The Leaders Debates have changed the face of the election campaigns for ever. Now all this event needs is some guests. There is no truth in the lazy observation “they’re all the same”. Voting in 2010 really isn’t an optional extra among the hours of your lazy Thursday, I would be awfully pleased if you went out and did so…

Clegg Factor

God damn, it’s a good time to be a Liberal Democrat.

Above most serious and considered reasons, we’ve got the Daily Mail spitting feathers. I will warn you, it’s Daily Mail at about Level 5 on the “Palin Scale”, so if this is against your current medication, allow me to summarise their complaints about Nick Clegg and our party;

1) The LibDems are going to enforce socialism onto this great nation of ours (like Barack Obama did, FACT).
2) All LibDem MPs are so incompetent and untrustworthy that not a single one of them flipped their homes (the only thing we could drag up was claims for lipstick and a trouser press, how CORRUPT and TWISTED must these LibDems be?)
3) Despite claiming they want to clean up politics, not once has the LibDem party been successful in forcing through reforms past a stubborn and corrupt Labour Party and a solidly establishment Tory opposition (Clegg is dripping with principle, it STINKS)
4) They were actually against the Iraq War long before we all twigged that it was pretty much an illegal turkey shoot (so what else do they know that we haven’t been told yet, HMM?!?)
5) Apart from Liverpool, Bristol, Sheffield, Newcastle, and countless other places, oh, and Scotland for a time, they couldn’t run a whelk stall.

So, anyway, the Daily Mail is shit scared. And shit. Also, scared.

There shouldn’t be a surprise to any of this, of course, for the red/blue consensus has been sleepwalking into exactly this kind of disaster for years. If any of them thought the expenses scandal would slap them around the face for a bit, they haven’t learned a thing about the British peoples’ ability to hold a grudge.

The Leaders Debates, which began last week with Dave “I met a black man, once” Cameron failing to shake off his Blairite “Look….” sentence structures and public school smugness, and Gordon “I agree with Nick” Brown, have clearly shaken up the 2010 general election in a manner nobody really expected.

If “Jennifer’s Ear” and “Prescott’s Punch” did anything to their respective elections, the media seemed to have declared Eyjafjallajökull and Lord Adonis’ game of Texas Hold ‘Em with the Civil Aviation Authority as the game changers for this one.

Not so fast, news media. For Nick Clegg had something up his sleeve; personality and policies. Tomorrow night should be even better for him, for the Sky News Debate is right up the LibDem street – on international affairs and terrorism, our party holds almost every trump card. From the like-for-like renewal of Trident, through to ID Cards, DNA Database and the truth on MoD spending, it’s the LibDems winning here, and here, and over there too.

David Cameron will fail to argue the point on his relationship with Europe after leaving the EPP for a group of RATHER dodgy extremists; while Brown will suffer from being forever associated with holding the purse-strings while Tony Blair marched into Camp David for a good session of one-sided instructions.

I am under no illusions; the LibDems cannot sustain over 30% in the opinion polls for the entire election. Now, however, is the best chance we have had since the first reawakening of the Liberal Party under Grimond to shake the tired old Establishment from its very high but rotten tree.

The Daily Mail telling voters to “wake up” to the LibDems proves that we’re doing something right. It’s a very good day to carry the membership card of such unconventional troublemakers.

Election Fever, part 94…

Nick Clegg emailed me today. Well the address was from “LIBDEMLEADER-SUBS2010@emarketing…”, but with the Leaders Debates starting tomorrow, appearance is everything. He’s a very busy man.

Yesterday was the launch of the UKIP manifesto. Never knowingly intentionally hilarious, the basement venue meant the quad of joint leaders – for that is how it looks – squashed together like naughty schoolboys outside the head’s office. I concede very well tanned, wrinkled schoolboys, although it has to be said their current down with the kids leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch closely resembles Monty Burns on ether…

It was “Honest Malcolm” who seemed to get the most laughs yesterday. He bumbled along with pretty heavy handed delivery of every over-rehearsed line – something about not wanting to order the octopus at a Brussels restaurant, or at least not to claim expenses for it – then tangled himself in knots over the policy on tactical voting.

In short, UKIP would prefer voters to choose the Tories, but not too many Tories, because that would cause a Conservative victory, thus causing the end of the nation as we know it. I assume, therefore, that m’Lord would prefer UKIP voters talk to each other by means of telepathy to ensure that, like Goldilocks, the number of votes given to each Conservative candidate is “just right”.

Lord Malcolm of Used Cars then had a manifesto blank. On the proposed burqa ban, a journalist asked about the intention to extend the ban to private buildings. “We haven’t said private buildings,” protested Malcolm. “Yes we do, it’s on page 15,” whispered one of the joint leaders. “I will hand you over to our policy chief,” blustered Lord Octopus.

It was this “policy chief” – Duncan, a normal name to offset his double barreled surname – who turned up on SKY News later in the evening to sink into a quicksand of interview failure.

“You say in the first line of your manifesto that, in year one, you will reduce public spending to 1997 levels…?” barked the interviewer
“Yes” answered Duncan
“Can you tell me what public spending levels were in 1997?”

There will be no UKIP hilarity tomorrow during the first ever Leaders Debate, live on ITV1. Despite the constraints strapped onto the debates by the 76-point rule book – which includes, bizarrely, one rule indicating exactly when the three men can shake hands – I remain optimistic that something good will come from this new curiosity to our election campaigns.

Lord knows this has been a pedestrian campaign so far.

“I’d rather watch paint dry,” comments my mate on the prospect of watching tomorrow night. “No, actually, I’d even watch dry paint, just stare at the walls for an hour, to be honest…”

Nick Clegg, having successfully seen off a petulant Jeremy Paxman on Monday night, is in the strongest position. He needs to polish off a few soundbites, otherwise all is well. Gordon Brown has the most to lose, given how disastrous he is during live television, with his almost autistic preference for answering with pre-prepared lists of statistics.

David Cameron needs a good showing after a rather ho-hum reaction to the hard-backed “power to the people” manifesto on Tuesday. If he can avoid starting every sentence with the very Blairite “Look…”, he could be onto something…

It’s not looking good, though, this election. Still seems distant and abstract. It’s missing a vital policy difference – National Insurance contributions just ain’t snappy enough – or an incident around which the campaign can turn. Unlike American elections, from which the Leaders Debates have been adopted, an election over here happens in shorter, sharper bursts. We’ve just been lacking the burst so far…

Is it a measure of the election – or your humble Doktorb – that the excitement could come when the 90 minute interview starts tomorrow night ?

Change That Works For You

May 6, 2010. The next United Kingdom general election.

I’ll be voting for the Liberal Democrats, the only credible choice this year to offer a real alternative from the red/blue consensus that for over 65 years has pushed the country from one side of the road to the other. I genuinely believe the country can be pushed along that road towards a better future rather than constantly tripping up into the verges along the side.

Locally and nationally, people cannot afford to vote Labour on May 6th.

Many claims are made by Labour supporters in the run up to the closest, least predictable election since 1974.

“More school buildings, more teachers, higher standards!” come the cries, like so many tractor manufacture statistics. “Higher levels of truancy, increased education mortgages suffered by University students, continued lack of standards in English and mathematics amongst boys” hint and splutter the statistics under so much spin. It’s Balls, you see, Ed Balls, he of the Department for Chaos and Stupid Fads, the government ministry responsible for asking children to interview teachers to give the impression of improving standards.

Nearly 13 years after Tony Blair was elected in 1997, the nation slowly reaches out from the longest, deepest recession in modern times, optimism remains low and forecasts bleak.

The red/blue consensus were rightfully shamed into silence by Vince Cable, MP for Twikenham, and the man whose warnings against ‘casino banking’ years before the British economy slumped into near catastrophe went unheard by the so-called ‘big two’ experts in Alistair Darling and George Osborne.

Across Great Britain, the Liberal Democrats have proven themselves at local and national level. We delivered our promises working with other parties in the inaugural Scottish Parliament, disproving the lies about unworkable coalition governments. Right here in Preston, it is the Liberal Democrats keeping the minority Conservative administration in check which ensures continued value for money for Preston’s tax payers. Labour continue to sneer and insult.

From your doorstep to your tax bill, the change that works for you comes from the alternative to over 65 years of ‘one last chances’, ‘devils we know’, ‘fresh new leaders’.

In 1979, the people of Britain voted for Thatcher’s Conservatives as the broom to sweep away a discredited, bankrupt, exhausted Labour government.

In 1997, the UK chose Blair’s Labour Party to run out the discredited, sleaze ridden Conservative Party.

In 2010, the choice seems so depressingly familiar. Choose David Cameron to end the tired, discredited, bankrupt Labour Party?

Why run the same broken record every 5 years?

I’m voting Liberal Democrats – for fairer taxes, for increased funding for public transport, for a fair, transparent, and local politics relevant to you, a sustainable economy (proven by our record at local level with frozen and low-level council tax increases).

See more at

Much ado…

Gordon Brown, so controlling and demanding, and reportedly high on the autistic spectrum, has never understood how the economy fell from out of his grasp. Having inherited the golden economic legacy from the Conservatives in 1997, nothing his clunking fist could get hold of stayed the way he wanted. Through political fudges and not exactly subtle stealth taxes – and let us not forget such highlights as the gold sell off disaster and unforgivable 10p tax abolition – Brown will be recorded by future historians as one of the least credible economic figures in British political history.

His attempt today to force Alistair Darling into yet another ventriloquists act has done nothing to rescue his reputation one inch. The Budget today is a middle of gimmicks and aspirations; above all else, it is the equivalent of treading water. Darling did not want the end of his career to come like this, reading out Gordon Brown’s words, coming up with sticking plaster solutions to the serious debt and unemployment issues facing the country. But Darling had no choice.

Today’s budget has few highlights. I welcome the tax-break scheme for British video game developers, an overdue recognition. The increase in the ISA limit is one I genuinely applaud.

I certainly don’t welcome the sneeky “freeze” on personal tax allowances, the oldest trick in the book, one to increase Government tax intake.

Freezing Inheritance Tax at £325,000 could cost an additional £37,000 in real terms.

And as for the 10% hike in the cost of cider – what exactly is this going to achieve? Oh yes, that’s right, the Brown “new puritan” drive, the same “ban everything, tax everyone, full naked body scanners for all!” mantra we have heard year after year. “Has he taxed curry, music and sunshine?” asks a work colleague.

The problem with this budget, of course, is how shallow it is, from the moment Darling stood to the minute he was duly patted on the back by his Master. There is nothing in this budget because Brown needs yet more breathing space before calling the election. His hatred of uncertainty, of things out of his control, will soon catch up with him. An election cannot be delayed much longer, and everyone in the Chamber knows this to be true.

This was the introduction. Now the main show. Time to show the depth to the slogans, the meat on the bones, and call the election.

Fall of Gordon

Peter Hennessy’s “Prime Ministers – the Job and its Holders” is one of my most well-thumbed reference books. Each post-war PM is treated with care and consideration, with a chapter heading as concise as they are cutting. John Major is the “solo-coalitionist”, Tony Blair introduced by “command and control”.

So what if Hennessy updates his book to include Gordon Brown? What chapter heading then, what treatment given through the window of recent history? “Flawed by design, floored by events”, perhaps?

It was always clear before the relaunched Observer gave up its pages to the newest allegations that Gordon Brown is a man of short-temper and bullying tactics. It’s how he got the job of Prime Minister in the first place; influential blogger Guido Fawkes has been detailing these allegations for years.

That Brown has mental instabilities is not the sole reason behind wanting him to lose the next election. Pick any of the disastrous policies of this Government from 1997 to the present day for more than enough – from the billions wasted on Trident renewal to decrease in civil liberties through the continued scandal of child poverty levels, lack of funding for public transport, and of course the £800bn national debt. Every failure of the Labour “regime” has Brown’s fingerprints all over them.

The “clunking fist” can barely keep a grip on the ramshackle, tumbledown caboose that is the current Government, of which he has been the over-controlling keeper of the purse for too long.

That Downing Street has been in smear mode for most of today should come as no surprise, either. This Government has run a parallel news agenda to the rest of the media since Tony Blair became its leader; there is the news, and there is the New Labour Reality Information Service, and occasionally the latter will force the hand of the former while rarely vice versa.

Brown, as a leader, is finished after the events of this weekend. He has been lucky to have lost so many Blairites from his Cabinet, so as to dampen the blow of any backbench rebellion, but regardless of this quirk of history, the man has very few friends left to rely on. The allegations of bullying have been around for too long for them to be so easily dismissed by Harman and Mandleson; and events from the “election that never was” and the 10p tax shambles prove Brown can not be trusted to make a single decision without flapping around in a haze of indecision.

Were he a good leader with a short-fuse, very little of this mud would stick. But he is far from a good leader. He has dragged this country to about as low as it can possibly get. Nation-changing, life defining general elections rarely come around very often – after 1979, and 1997, this forthcoming 2010 vote is one of those rare moments.

Show Labour that you cannot afford to trust their policies or unreliable leader any more. Use your vote in 2010 to remove them from power.

The picture comes from this entry in Iain Dale’s blog