Thursday 30 May 2024

Telling it like it isn't - and like it is.


It is plainly obvious  that the major domestic priority in the UK is to restore our badly run-down public services, and that somehow or other the next government will have to raise the money to do this.  Yet both the biggest parties have boxed themselves into "fiscal constraints" by which they will neither increase taxes nor borrow.  The Conservatives pretend they can square the circle by their "plan," which seems to amount to carrying on as before, and Labour speaks glibly abut "growth," something we haven't achieved in any significant measure for two decades. The only chink of light on this subject that I've heard so far was from Daisy Cooper on this morning's news, when she did reel off a list of (little known) taxes which could be increased to finance some  Liberal Democrat proposals.

Otherwise the great pre-election debate consists so far of "airy persiflage:"  (thank you W S Gilbert). Sunak will smarten up our youth by restoring National Service, Starmer was brought up in a pebble-dashed semi, and Ed Davey gained attention by  falling off a sailboard on Lake Windermere

Here are two contributions which make a serious contribution to the debate.

 “Corbyn is a member of a political grouping of candidates called the Collective who support the Peace & Justice Project’s five priorities: an above-inflation pay rise for public sector workers and a £15 minimum wage; public ownership of energy, water, rail and mail; a rent cap and mass council home building programme; a wealth tax to fund the NHS; and support for refugees and nuclear disarmament. “

(Quoted from he New Statesman's "Morning Call." )

Your can quibble with the detail (do we really want to give an above-inflation rise to permanent secretaries whose salaries already average  £150 000 or so?)  but it's something to get our teeth into.

 And here is a broader  appeal by the Director of Global Justice Now (which used to be the World Development Movement, WDM,  of which I've been a member and campaigner for 60 years or so.)


By: Nick Dearden
Date: 24 May 2024
Campaigns: General

In November 2019, we warned that the election of a Conservative government under Boris Johnson would be a gigantic step backwards for everything we believe in. It was unprecedented for us to issue to such a strong statement about one party during an election campaign, but that reflected the scale of danger we faced.

Today, as feared, we are looking back on four and a half years of a government based on imperial fantasy. A government which put corporate profits ahead of saving lives in the worst pandemic in a century. A government which signed away food standards in bad trade deals hurried through for headlines. A government which bolstered the slowly dying fossil fuel industry by authorising new oil exploration – and a new coal mine. A government which has slashed the aid budget, and then handed a large chunk of what was left to rich businesses.

And all the while, it was a government which blamed migrants and protestors for the distrust which these policies bred in our politics, enacting some of the most authoritarian, anti-social policies in modern British history.

It’s a shocking record. And while we’ve done our best to challenge this agenda – and even enjoyed some real victories along the way – it’s not been easy. The sooner we can put an end to this period, the better.

During the election we’re going to push all politicians on the most pressing global issues:

After the election we will continue pushing for these policies with all of our power. And that power will be greater with you. Together, we will have new opportunities to shift things.

The next government has an enormous task ahead. It must heal divisions, not only in our own society but also around the world, where there is a chasm of mistrust between the global south and global north.

This will require the sort of bold, radical policies which we haven’t seen for more than a generation. It isn’t a time for cautiousness. But to date, we have not seen the policies we so desperately require put forward by most party leaders.

We know that these political leaders will not deliver the agenda we need on their own. It is up to us to campaign, challenge and mobilise.

That’s why organisations like Global Justice Now are going to be so vital. Big changes have only ever come about by ordinary people demanding them. Grassroots activism is our lifeblood. That means our strength is in our numbers.

We rely on the support of passionate individuals like you to hold the powerful to account.

For the next six weeks – and in the coming years – let’s make our voices heard together.

Get involved

Sunday 26 May 2024

Lest we forget

The next few weeks will be dominated by much political froth, lots  of it meaningless (mandatory National Service, for goodness sake!) but some if it damaging ( eg as was Ed  Miliband's bacon sandwich).  Whatever distractions the parties and press conjure up, it is essential for us to have at the front of our minds just how awful the government of Britain has been for the past fourteen years,  and for that reason alone it is high time for "the others" to take over.

 Here's a list of reminders.

Lowlights of 14 years of Tory rule


Two child limit.

Premature axing of £20 Universal Credit supplement

Closure of Sure Start Centres.

Promised to end no-fault evictions 2019: by 2024, hadn’t had time.


Illegal proroguing of parliament.

Breaking of international law (in a strict and limited way?)

Contempt for the dignity and rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

Threats to leave the ECHR.

Rash of rash appointments to House of Lords.

Resignations of Permanent Secretaries.

Backlog in courts. (Justice delayed is justice denied)

Inhumane conditions in overcrowded prisons. (two people with unshielded lavatory confined to a cell designed for one for up to 23 hours a day.)

End of the “good chaps” theory of government.

Domestic Economy

Savage cuts to local government finance.

Abuse of “levelling up” money (some to Sunak’s constituency).

Hardest possible Brexit....

Bidding system for government grants.

Vanity Projects – HS2, Hinkley Point.

World Economy

Cuts in overseas aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP.

Use of up to a third of that to house refugees in UK...


Grenfell Tower disaster.

Grenfell Tower enquiry (delays).

Post Office Scandal (and delays with enquiry).


Slow start to lockdown.(Johnson glad-handing; Cheltenham Festival went ahead).

Test and Trace.

Eat out to help out.

VIP procurement…….

Contempt for their own rules: Partygate, Dominic Cummings’s trip to the North East to “test eyes.”

The “Truss Debacle”

Trashing of UK’s international financial reputation.

Subsequent higher interest rates and hikes in mortgage repayments.

Inadequate Regulation

Of banking system (2008 crash).

Of water companies (sewerage in rivers).

Planned "affordable" new house builds not delivered.

Environment/Global Heating

Licences granted for exploration of fossil fuels in North Sea.

Backward steps in democracy

Totally unnecessary ID cards required for voting.

Second preference vote for Mayors and Crime Commissioners discontinued.

Harassment of BBC.



Thursday 23 May 2024

Election: early thoughts


Given the terrible cards he has been dealt (some of them by himself) I think poor Rishi Sunak puts on a pretty good show.  He took on the premiership after twelve years of Conservative  rule with very little positive to crow about, other than, perhaps, equal marriage; followed the two most scurrilous and disastrous prime ministers in our history; and with only one of the five pledges for his own time in office (bringing down inflation, the one over which he had least control) having any measure of success.  

In such circumstances it takes considerable chutzpah to be optimistic.   His courage reminds me of Comical Ali, the Iraqi Minister of Information who continued  to assure the news media  that Sadam Hussain’s forces were triumphing even as the sound of the Allied guns drew nearer and nearer.

In his opening salvo Sunak described himself the Chancellor who had nursed us though the Covid pandemic with his generous Furlough scheme. There was  no mention of his subsidy to those who could afford to “Eat Out” whose “helping out” probably helped to spread the virus; the billions wasted on “Test and Trace” and procurement via the VIP line; and the 10 Downing Street partying at which be connived. On the basis of his record the future would be safe in his hands.

 The grounds for this he based on the Tories’ reputation for economic competence, for which the evidence is negative, and our security from external perils, for which the evidence is slight.

His bid to remain in office  is based, therefore, on one false premise and one imponderable.

Sunak claims that the alternative, Labour, has no plan, which is a bit rich since  Sir Keir Starmer has  only this week  expanded his five point “Mission” to a six point set of “First Steps.”  They are not very good ones (see previous post) but they do indeed constitute a plan.

Starmer’s riposte is to emphasise the past 14 years of chaos and issue as few hostages to fortune (ie policies for the future) as possible.  This as a good plan and I hope he sticks to it. It is easy to be blown off course during an election campaign, as Theresa May found out with her “brave” (and necessary) plan to finance the care of the elderly.

 So for the next six weeks the politicians will done Hi-Viz jackets and helmets and  will say as little of substance as possible, spin doctors on all sides will take over and most people become bored to death.  That incudes me: for the first time in my life I sympathise with those with the means and ability to  take themselves abroad until the shouting is over.

The wild card which could change the likelihood of a substantial Labour victory is if the Reform Party decides to imitate its predecessor, Nigel Farage’s UKIP/Brexit Party and withdraw from contesting Conservative-held seats.  We shall see. 

My hope is that we Liberal Democrats will gain enough seats to re-establish ourselves as the third party in the Commons. Since we were booted out of that position by the Scot-Nats poor Sir Ed Davey has had great difficulty in gaining any attention (instead of a Question and comeback  every week at PMQ he’s been getting just one question every month or so), the party’s MPs don’t get their share of Question Time panels on the media and we don’t get the references we need in the news bulletins.  However, there are many seats  where we have a genuine chance of winning, the SNP are on the back foot, so here’s hoping.

The Liberal Democrats will have a candidate in all, or almost all, seats.  I hope that, in those where our support is only around the present derisory 10% we don’t waste the literature and door-stepping on trying to promote  candidates with little connection with the place as a doughty fighter who, if elected, will campaign hard for such popular  local projects as the re-gilding of the hands of the town-hall clock.  Rather we should use the opportunity to promote the party’s values. 

Liberal Democracy, which Fukuyama assumed had prevailed at the fall of the Berlin Wall, and thus brought “the end of history” is now in grave danger, in this country (the demise of the “good chap theory of government” under Johnson), in  Europe (eg Hungary,) and most frightening of all, in the US, with a win for Donald Trump an almost inconceivable  possibility. 

We need to use this election to attract activists to come out and fight for its preservation.*

*for those interested I hope a post on this topic here.

 With any luck someone at LDHQ will have read it and prepared accordingly.