Author Archives: Joe Bourke

A manifesto for a post-pandemic Britain

A key message of the party’s general election review was listen and act for the average voter, not ourselves. This has long been a basic tenet of local community politics that somehow does not seem to always translate to national campaigns.

Yougov survey last month found strong public support for three economic policies – paying people a universal basic income (UBI) to ensure their financial security, introducing a jobs guarantee to keep employment stable, and bringing in rent controls to limit housing costs. The survey also found that 81% of the public felt the government was not prepared for the Coronavirus crisis and 60% agree Britain is not prepared to deal with climate change.

The survey analyses level of support across party affiliation; Brexit vote; Gender; Age; Social grade and region.

In the theme of delivering a manifesto that is in accord with the desires of the average voter, here are my top five policies.

1. Full employment through a  job guarantee scheme as proposed by the TUC. This scheme would provide a minimum six months job with accredited training, paid at least the real living wage. The scheme should be funded by national government but delivered at regional and local level.

2 A Minimum Income Guarantee was proposed in the policy paper ‘A fairer share for all’ last year. Detailed research has been undertaken on a revenue-neutral Citizens Basic Income by Malcolm Torry. His research encompasses both a Coranavirus Recovery Basic Income and a subsequent sustainable revenue neutral Citizen’s Basic Income

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Minimum Income, job guarantees and basic rental income

The Daily Telegraph reports today that between furlough subsidies, benefit claimants, public sector workers and pensioners more than  half of all adults are now bankrolled by the state

As the prospect of an end to the easing of the lockdown draws nearer thoughts begin to turn to dealing with the fallout from the economic damage and what needs to be done to sustain households over the coming year.

YouGov has undertaken a  survey  that finds strong public support for three economic policies – paying people a universal basic income (UBI) to ensure their financial

Posted in News | 39 Comments

How can the economy work for the benefit of all?

I received the sad news this week that Dr. Peter Bowman had been taken by COVID-19 in the prime of his life. Peter was Head of Economics at the School of Economic Science (SES).

The SES was founded in 1938 by Labour MP Andrew McLaren to teach courses on economics with a focus on Land Value Taxation policies. McLaren’s political hero was Campbell-Bannerman, and he often repeated CB’s pledge “… to make the land less of a pleasure ground for the rich, and more of a treasure-house for the nation …”.

The MP was firmly against the welfare state, believing it merely appeared to be necessary due to the prevailing inequities in the economic system. When not in parliament he poured his effort and talent into education, hoping to make people see how land value taxation could relieve society of many unhelpful economic tendencies, and provide economic freedom for the common people.

Dr. Peter Bowman followed in the footsteps of McLaren in giving freely of his time and energy in trying to make this world a better place. Peter was instrumental in developing the work of the All-Party Group on Land Value Capture under the Chairmanship of Vince Cable and overseeing the preparation of the group’s first report.

Social justice was Peter’s passion. Speaking in this ten-minute video Changing Paradigms in Economics: Economics as Relationships, Peter emphasises that a just economy is about relationships in society and how we treat fairly with people. Justice prevails in an economy that is based on honesty; trust’ loyalty; a sense of service and satisfaction. Too often what we have is the opposite.

Peter gave the 2015 School of Economic Science Annual Economics Lecture How can the economy work for the benefit of all? The lecture asks how can the economy work for the benefit of all and gives some simple propositions.

Posted in News and Obituaries | Tagged | 9 Comments

Coronavirus Bonds: Why we all need them

The World Bank issued pandemic bonds in 2017 after the outbreak of the Ebola Virus in West Africa. They are a form of emergency aid to the health systems of the poorest countries eligible for funding from the International Development Association. However, as Bloomberg reports Pandemic Bonds these take a long-time to pay out and the sums are relatively small and nowhere near enough to deal with the scale of the crisis in third world countries.
What is required in developed nations now both for their own needs and to aid the poorest countries are Coronavirus bonds.

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Coranavirus and the Minimum Income Guarantee

As the economic impact of the Covid-19 lockdown becomes clearer day by day the necessity of ensuring that millions are not left destitute by gaps in support systems becomes ever stronger.
The UK was already teetering on the edge of recession, as business confidence dried up in the face of a potentially hard Brexit.
Now, with a global recession underway, economists are predicting a slump in GDP of between 7.5% and 24% this quarter and we have already seen over 1m new claimants for registering for Universal Credit.
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) has published a policy document for a new proposal to …

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Bailing out the Airline Sector

Earlier this month, the UK regional airline Flybe became the first victim in the airline sector of the coronavirus outbreak, after failing to secure a £100 million government-guaranteed refinancing package.

This week UK airline bosses are calling for an immediate multibillion-pound emergency bailout to prevent the industry from potentially being wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.

Virgin Atlantic’s chairman Peter Norris has written to the Prime Minister y saying the airline industry needs emergency government support worth 7.5 billion pounds or risks the loss of tens of thousands of jobs,
British Airways has warned, …

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Minimum Income Guarantee

The purpose of politics can be said to be to resolve conflicts among different groups in society that arise from conflicting economic and generational interests. Developing compromise solutions that can promote harmony and good societal relations are the raison d’être for political parties.

The post-war welfare state delivering health and education services free at the point of use is such a compromise. So too is the social security safety net.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 26 Comments

Rentier Capitalism

The Financial Times  (on Wednesday, 18th September) carried an article by Martin Wolf “ Why rigged capitalism is damaging Liberal Democracy “ .He writes “Economies are not delivering for most citizens because of weak competition, feeble productivity growth and tax loopholes”

Guy Standing in his 2016 book “The corruption of capitalism” explained how capitalism has been corrupted as the security of the many has been weakened to strengthen the position of those who hold the bulk of society’s wealth. He wrote, “we have a rigged system that leaves those without much property with few rights”. He borrows from John Maynard Keynes’ critique of the rentier class — broadly, those who live on income from property, including patents and copyright, and investments. And like Keynes, he wants to see the end of the rentier on the grounds that the system they have created is both inefficient and grossly unfair. Those at the bottom Standing calls the precariat — the workers most exposed to the insecurity typical of this era of rentier capitalism driven by globalisation.

The unfairness of housing policy in the UK, one of the more egregious examples of the power of the rentier, is highlighted as are labour conditions in the era of apps, where data are used to monitor and control a workforce with little by way of employment rights. Standing writes that “the precariat’s vulnerability today is everyone’s tomorrow.”

Wolf asks the question “Why is the economy not delivering?” The answer lies, he says, with the rise of rentier capitalism. In this case “rent” means rewards over and above those required to induce the desired supply of goods, services, land or labour. “Rentier capitalism” means an economy in which market and political power allows privileged individuals and businesses to extract a great deal of such rent from everybody else.

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The coming General Election

The Times today (Saturday, 24th August) published an article with the headline “Pimlico Plumbers boss Charlie Mullins turns on money tap for Jo Swinson’s Lib Dems.”
Charlie Mullins, a former high-profile Conservative donor has said that “he will help boost an election war chest being built by Jo Swinson.”.
It has been a heady few months for LibDems, following good local and EU election results and waking to the news on 31st May that a yougov poll had put the party top of a Westminster voting intention poll.
Westminster voting intention (Britain elects 30/05/2019)

LDem: 24% (+6)
Brex: 22% (+4)
Con: 19% (-5)
Lab: 19% (-5)
Grn: 8% …

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The strange death of municipal England

The London Review of Books published a piece on Tom Crewe’s The Strange Death of Municipal England in 2016

The piece makes the point:
“Because councils have little political ‘ownership’ of the cuts they make – they are seen, rightly, as a consequence of central government decisions – normal accountability mechanisms cannot operate. Voting one party out of their council seats and another in won’t make much difference: whichever party is in control will face the same financial situation, and will have as little choice about reducing services. Labour and the Liberal Democrats won control of Walsall council from the Conservatives in May , having campaigned to protect the town’s libraries from closure: in October they announced plans to close 15 of its 16 libraries, admitting that the budget restrictions were ‘more severe’ than anticipated.”

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Living Standards Audit 2019

The  Resolution Foundation has published its annual report on living standards. Key findings include:

• Average disposable household incomes have roughly tripled since 1961, after accounting for inflation. But the last two-year period (2017-18 and 2018-19) looks to have been the worst on record outside of recessions.
• This period of weak growth post-referendum comes on the back of both the financial crisis as well as an earlier mid-2000s slowdown for some, with only a short period of healthy income recovery between 2012-13 and 2016-17.
• The groups most at risk of relative poverty have also changed. Parents living in couples, up …

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Grounds for Change: The case for land reform in modern England.

Grounds for Change is an important new book for all those who campaign for economic justice.
The price of land in impacts on Local Council’s ability to increase the supply of homes for rent. This is particularly the case in London and other major towns and cities. Southwark’s Cabinet Member for Social Regeneration, Great Estates and New Council Homes notes:
Council has over 20,000 thousand people on its housing waiting list. Many of those ‘waiting for a home’ are children… thousands have no prospect of finding an affordable, secure and decent place to live unless it is provided by their local Council. …

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Inequality in access to land – the most neglected issue in British politics?

George Monbiot has published an article this week on a report he has co-authored Want to tackle inequality? Then first change our land ownership laws

His opens with a question “ What is the most neglected issue in British politics? I would say land. Literally and metaphorically, land underlies our lives, but its ownership and control have been captured by a tiny number of people. The results include soaring inequality and exclusion; the massive cost of renting or buying a decent home; the collapse of wildlife and ecosystems; repeated financial crises; and the loss of public space. Yet for 70 years this crucial issue has scarcely featured in political discussions.”

He recounts “Since 1995, land values in this country have risen by 412%. Land now accounts for an astonishing 51% of the UK’s net worth. Why? In large part because successive governments have used tax exemptions and other advantages to turn the ground beneath our feet into a speculative money machine.”

“We pay for these distortions every day. Homes have become so expensive not because the price of bricks and mortar has risen, but because the land that underlies them now accounts for 70% of their price. Twenty years ago, the average working family needed to save for three years to afford a deposit. Today, it must save for 19 years. Life is even worse for renters. ”

Monbiot writes “A Labour government should replace council tax with a progressive property tax, payable by owners, not tenants. Empty homes should automatically be taxed at a higher rate. Inheritance tax should be replaced with a lifetime gifts tax levied on the recipient. Capital gains tax on second homes and investment properties should match or exceed the rates of income tax. Business rates should be replaced with a land value tax, based on rental value.”

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Liberal Democrat Branding and Relevance

Mark Pack recently addressed Hounslow Liberal Democrats on his views concerning growing party support. During his talk he focused on branding and relevance
Listening to Mark I was reminded of the work of Michael Porter and his approach to strategy development. Porter in the 1980s determined that there are only three possible strategies that any commercial organisation can adopt – Low cost, differentiation or focus (market niche). Within a focus strategy, a low-cost or differentiation approach can be adopted.
According to Porter, what is fatal for any organisation is to get stuck in the middle. Essentially, organisations must seek cost leadership …

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Reforming Council Tax

Manchester Lib Dems have launched a local manifesto calling for a reverse of Labour’s 22% Council Tax increase for the least well off in Manchester.

The 2018 report of the APPG on Land Value Capture http://bit.ly/APPG-LVC-Report-1 concluded that: Council Tax …is overdue for replacement with a fairer system of property taxation.

The IPPR report on council tax reform https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/a-poor-tax-council-tax-in-london notes:
“…leaving council tax unreformed is becoming ever more unsustainable. Local authorities across the country are increasingly cash strapped as a consequence of government cuts to their core grant funding and limits on their ability to raise funds through council tax and other sources.”

The resolution foundation report https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/blog/its-time-to-properly-abolish-the-poll-tax/ suggests council tax reform would leave a large majority of people better off even while raising enough cash to …increase funding for health and social care and reverse government cuts to council tax reduction schemes.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2014 report After the Council Tax: impacts of property tax reform on people, places and house prices https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/after-council-tax-impacts-property-tax-reform-people-places-and-house-prices found that:
– A progressive property value tax would reduce the size of median gross bills by £279 a year compared to the council tax.
– The bills of almost two-thirds of households would fall by more than 10%, while less than one quarter would see increases of more than 10%.
– A progressive property tax would reduce the gross median bills for the poorest tenth of households by £202, and increase them for the top tenth by £184.
The housing economist Professor Muellbaeur argues “that a radical reform of property taxation makes economic sense and could be more acceptable politically than tinkering at the edges, by adding a few more bands to Council Tax.

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Fiscal Rules and Land Value Tax

Much of the debate around austerity has focused on three principal areas; the underfunding of key public services at both national and local government level, welfare reforms and the adverse effects of constrained public spending on economic growth.
As a general fiscal rule when the economy is operating at what is considered by the Treasury as normal capacity with relatively low levels of employment, tax receipts should be sufficient to cover outgoings including the amortised cost of prior capital expenditure i.e. there is no structural deficit. In normal times, capital expenditure and the associated borrowings will be budgeted to allow for …

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The Planning (Affordable Housing and Land Compensation) Bill

In between all the furor around Brexit, there is continuing cross-party work on other issues of import in Parliament.

In a press release this week, Vince Cable noted:

“…the major effect of Help to Buy is to drive up demand while having no effect on supply. Prices go up and buyers are forced off the housing ladder. The result is not help for those who need it, but a boost to the profits of big developers.
Liberal Democrats have set out how government could be delivering 300,000 homes a year over the next decade, by creating a British Housing Company as a dedicated, not-for-profit body to build on land acquired compulsorily without profits from land scarcity.”

Also this week Norman Lamb co-sponsored a ten-minute rule bill concerned with affordable housing to rent. The bill was presented by Helen Hayes, Labour member for Dulwich and West Norwood, with cross-party support, and is available on the BBC Parliament Channel https://tinyurl.com/y5zfdfs3.

The bills principal aims are to:

1. To re-establish the link between the definition of affordable homes for rent and income, replacing the current definition of up to 80% of the market price with a definition of:
“No more than 35% of net household income for lowest quartile income groups in each local authority area.”

2. To create a new requirement in planning law for local planning authorities to have a duty to include a policy in their local plans to capture betterment values where they arise, formally establishing a legal duty in the planning system to capture land value to be used for the benefit of communities.

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The Impact of Business Rates on Business

The Treasury Select Committee has launched an inquiry into Business Rates, to examine their impact on business, including Business Rates retention and alternatives to property-based taxes, such as the proposed digital services tax. Crucially the inquiry will consider the impact of changes (proposed and actual) of Business Rates on Local Authorities and Councils, and the High Street.

Sebastian McCarthy in City Am quotes Nicky Morgan MP, chair of the treasury committee: “Many high street businesses are struggling to remain competitive. It has been estimated that 10,000 shops will close this year. Unless action is taken, closures could continue and job losses …

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A Land Value Capture approach to Social Housing Provision

Shelter has published the final report of its cross-party commission on  Social Housing setting out the need for 3.1m new social homes over the next 20 years.

The report makes the case that council houses and social housing should be available to more than just the people in greatest need and those saving to buy. As well as the 1.3 million people it estimates are in greatest need because of hazardous homes, overcrowding, homelessness and disabilities, the new homes should be accessible to a further 1.2 million young people and 700,000 older people trapped in private rent. The commission puts the provision of housing on a par with health and education.

The plans have been costed at up to £225bn. But savings to the £21bn annual housing benefit bill and the economic boost created by the programme means it would pay for itself inside 40 years, according to fiscal modelling for the commission by Capital Economics

The analysis suggests that that two-thirds of the annual investment cost of £10.7bn a year would be clawed back through housing benefit savings and extra tax revenue and the programme would pay for itself in full after 39 years.

Delivering 3m+ social homes by 2040 will require half of the 300,000 annual house building target to come from the public sector.

Key to this objective is the cost of Land. Build costs of new developments have increased by more than 40% since the financial crisis almost entirely due to the cost of land.

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A Residential Land Value Tax approach to Funding Adult Social Care

Sir Andrew Dilnot in his evidence to the HCLG select committee on funding of adult social care said:
“there is no consensus on where the money should come from. That is what is always politically most toxic for Governments. The debate is much more now about where the money should come from than about what the money should be spent on. My advice for any institution trying to build consensus would be try to focus on that.”
Council tax in its present form and the supplementary social precept creates an inequitable distribution of the tax burden. A Land Value Tax is not …

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Homelessness and Universal Credit

Panorama this week revealed large numbers of social housing tenants on Universal Credit owe more than double in rent arrears on average than benefit claimants on the legacy Housing Benefit scheme.
The new benefits scheme is sending many council tenant’s rent arrears spiralling. Research conducted by the show revealed that across much of the UK, Universal Credit (UC) claimants owe local authorities an average of £662.56, compared with £262.50 on the Housing Benefit scheme…

Universal Credit was rolled out in Flintshire, North Wales in April 2017. UC claimants there owe the council an …

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Housing First

Housing First is an approach to homelessness that focuses on housing homeless people immediately, whatever their needs, and giving them direct control over their own support and treatment. The programme works by putting people in touch with housing providers, health workers, social care staff and other services.

While there are about 4,750 rough sleepers in England (many with mental health and addiction problems), there are far larger numbers of homeless families in temporary accommodation. Few homeless families have the high support needs of rough sleepers; most are poor. What these families need first and foremost is an adequate, affordable home.

Housing First …

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All Party Parliamentary Group on Land Value Capture calls for urgent action on housing crisis

Tacking the housing crisis requires a concerted cross-party effort at all levels of government from Downing Street to the parish council.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report Capturing Land Value for the Public Benefit to be published on 31st October 2018 says:

There needs to be greater devolution of Land Value Capture mechanisms to mayoral and local authorities. Following the announcement by the Prime Minister of the government’s intention to remove the cap on local authority borrowing, consideration should be given to a netting of land assets from existing prudential borrowing limits; reform of the 1961 Land Compensation Act, to provide

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Radical Liberalism and Taxes

Radical Liberalism is a distinctive philosophy that presents a superior alternative both to capitalism in its established form and to socialism. Existing capitalism, as propounded by the Conservatives, and socialism as proposed by Labour, are systems both based on the concentration of property and power in few hands.
The central principles of capitalism in its purest form are the free exchange of goods in an unregulated market; limited taxes to pay for limited government, and
private ownership of property.
The central principles of socialism are government control or regulation of the market; high taxes to pay for expanded government services; and government ownership …

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Legacy of Grenfell

One year on from the tragedy of the Grenfell fire a public inquiry is underway to ascertain how such a thing could have happened in a modern building in the middle of London.

What has struck me about this whole event is the frustration and powerlessness that tenants and leaseholders express over the ability to control their own lives and safety.

Property tenure has changed greatly in recent decades. Right to buy has changed the composition of public housing developments. They will frequently include a mix of leasehold apartments, shared ownership and traditional …

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Money in Switzerland

Switzerland’s system of direct democracy includes the right to submit a federal initiative and a referendum, both of which may overturn a parliamentary decision.
Last year they held a referendum on a Universal basic income and last Sunday they had one on re-establishing sovereignty over money creation as per this economist article https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2018/06/09/a-referendum-on-the-way-money-is-created.

The proposal would have brought an end to the fractional reserve banking system in Switzerland. The central bank would have become the only provider of Swiss francs in a full reserve system. In other words, commercial banks would no longer …

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Land Value Tax – Where are we as a party?

ALTER will address this question in our conference fringe at Southport next month to be held on Friday, 9th March at the Ramada Plaza, from 20:15 to 21:30 in the Promenade room.

Leading the discussion will be two LVT experts and experienced Liberal Democrat campaigners – Michael Meadowcroft and Tony Vickers.

All mainstream parties are now beginning to address the Land problem in the context of an ever worsening housing crisis. The Chancellor announced a raft of measures in the last budget including the Letwin review that is to be informed by a number of consultations.

Among these consultations, the Communities and Local Government Committee (CLG) are conducting an inquiry into the effectiveness of current land value capture methods and the need for new ways of capturing any uplift in the value of land associated with the granting of planning permission or nearby infrastructure improvements and other factors . ALTER’s submission will argue that attempts to capture uplifts in land values by one-off levies have largely been unsuccessful and that an alternative is to go for annual levies as with a site value rating.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 90 Comments

Vince speaks at launch of All Party Parliamentary Group on Land Value Capture

Sir Vince Cable opened the proceedings by emphasising the importance of approaching this fiscal reform in a way that was not “tribal or sectarian”. They valued the fact that representatives of four political parties had agreed to form the Group – Liberal Democrats, Conservative, Green and Labour. He noted the idea, in different forms, has been around seemingly forever” but that “very little in reality has happened.” The message was “for goodness sake let’s do something that takes this forward. Let’s have a practical route map”.

Vince noted that the proposal for land value taxation was supported by “a long history of economic reasoning that wants to base taxation on land.” He referred to the report chaired by Nobel laureate Sir James Mirrlees which had argued for “shifting the tax base in this direction on standard economic grounds as well as the practicality of this approach”. But there was also “the social justice point of view: inequalities of wealth, underlying which were land values”.

Vince stressed the problems associated with property development, including distortions in the planning system, the issue of who captures land values, and how to finance infrastructure. He pointed out that an obvious approach to funding was “to look at the appreciation of land value”.

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Christmas Books and Grenfell


In the introduction to his second book on the financial crisis, Vince noted:
“…one of the main tasks of opposition parties to redesign the archaic, inequitable and unpopular system of property taxation… to make council tax more closely proportional to the value of property. A more radical and far-reaching reform would be to give practical substance to long-mooted ideas for the taxation of land… The practical problems of valuation and making the transition from a land market massively distorted by planning have so far frightened away reformers. But such a reform is …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMark Blackburn 28th May - 9:41pm
    To those who question prioritising this: I have seen far too much young potential in the party be discouraged by sexist, ageist and/or inappropriate sexual...
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 28th May - 9:34pm
    So many worthy words and what do they all boil down to? More money. Instead of putting our hands together every Thursdsy evening, we, or...
  • User AvatarVivian Achwal 28th May - 9:33pm
    I totally agree with your comments. We must engage with BAME communities, they are extremely interested in politics it’s part of their DNA and 9...
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 28th May - 9:30pm
    Some of you need to get out more. Mr O’Brien used occasionally to host ‘Newsnight’. I believe that LBC has allowed Nigel Farage considerable air...
  • User AvatarChris Perry 28th May - 9:26pm
    David Raw. Absolutely, could not agree more.
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 28th May - 9:11pm
    @ Chris Perry Thank you for confirming my own feelings, Chris. Time to roll back the rocky offshore privateers. The old people should be the...