Opinion: Delivering a stronger economy and a fairer society

Liberal democrats

The Liberal Democrat pre-manifesto contains a lot of good policy, but what it is lacking is the narrative to pull all those disparate threads into a single powerful statement of who we are and what we stand for.  In this short article I will try to provide just that.
In 2010 we knew that our country was headed for a major recession and that the first priority of the Liberal Democrats in government must be to protect the poorest whilst setting in place the infrastructure necessary in order to re-grow our economy, close the deficit and start to repay the national debt.  That is why we have invested so heavily in cutting taxes for the poorest, improving education for all our children and ensuring that we research new technologies to keep us at the forefront of innovation so that as the world comes out of recession this country is able to meet the new demands.

The next phase of recovery will be to use the new technologies we have been researching to take this country back to the forefront of international technological manufacturing.  This government has invested millions into bio-medical and technological research, and now we must secure the movement of that research from the British Laboratory to the British factory floor.  Just as we have done with our motorcar manufacturing we must now take our electronics, our white goods, our steelmaking, our shipbuilding and our railway manufacturing back to the point where the whole world wants to buy them because they are the best.
It has been the support from the Liberal Democrats in Government that has led to the highest levels of employment in British history; the doubling of our manufacturing base; renewables contributing nearly 20% of our energy base; investment in educating some children from our poorest families through the pupil premium; and protecting the funding of our NHS.  This though is just the beginning of Britain’s revival, in the next government we must improve the quality of the jobs that are available by:
·        Building decent homes for everyone for 21st Century living
·        Providing education that matches the future needs of industrial and commercial business;
·        Ending zero hours contracts for the core work of companies and securing decent living wages for all our citizens lifting working people out of benefits;
·        Parity of mental health provision with physical health provision; and
·        Continued action on environmental protection, protecting our planet for our children’s children.
The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair free and open society in which nobody shall be enslaved by ignorance, poverty and conformity.  Only the Liberal Democrats in Government can deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society providing opportunity for all.

* Chair of Manchester Gorton Liberal Democrats, a member of the NW Regional Executive and the English Council and Vice President of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats

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43 Comments

  • Simon McGrath 28th Oct '14 - 12:45pm

    “In 2010 we knew that our country was headed for a major recession”
    Well no. We were in a recession which we hoped to come out of – which we have thanks to the work of Lib Dems in Coalition

  • You’re both wrong. We weren’t in a recession in 2010 and far from expecting to go into recession the Coalition was predicting growth at 2% over the subsequent 5 years.

  • AndrewR is right. The economy had been growing for a year when the coalition took office. Growth in Q2 2010 was 1% – it’s never reached that high a level since.

  • Paul in Wokingham 28th Oct '14 - 1:18pm

    AndrewR is correct – the last quarter of negative GDP growth before GE 2010 was Q3 2009. The next 4 quarters were positive. In May 2010 we were not in a recession nor was the ONS predicting one. In fact according to the emergency budget of June 2010 we were supposed to have eliminated the deficit by now. That’s not to undermine the work of Lib Dems in government, but we need to get the verifiable facts right before progressing to subjective judgment.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Oct '14 - 1:29pm

    The message I have just received from Ryan Coetzee is playing the same game the Tories played in the 1980s – making out the problems of the previous government were entirely due to the political party of that government, and nothing to do with the global economic situation, completely ignoring the fact that similar problems were experienced in other countries at the same time. Using this line is fundamentally dishonest, and a break from the position we should have of neutrality between the two main parties, and I want nothing to do with it. I shall remain a member of the party, but I do not wish to be involved delivering dishonest literature or funding its production, so I shall not be giving money to the party or be involved in its campaigning activity in the general election if this is the line it is going to take.

  • Helen Tedcastle 28th Oct '14 - 1:44pm

    ‘ In 2010 we knew that our country was headed for a major recession and that the first priority of the Liberal Democrats in government must be to protect the poorest whilst setting in place the infrastructure necessary in order to re-grow our economy, close the deficit and start to repay the national debt. That is why we have invested so heavily in cutting taxes for the poorest, improving education for all our children…’

    Let’s not mention the Bedroom tax, top-down, botched re-organisation/marketisation of the NHS, the destruction of local governance of schools. Let’s not mention performance-related pay for teachers ie: payment by results (teaching children is like being a used-car salesman after all) and the setting up of numerous straw men, with selective evidence, in order to make non-mandated changes in schools. Don’t mention flying-hit squads of Ofsted inspectors, moving the goal-posts of inspection-criteria and fast-track, high speed sackings. Yes, things are getting better and better – and this is the mark of a fairer society?

  • Frank Booth 28th Oct '14 - 1:50pm

    The government has invested millions in technology? Where do we start with this. Millions is not very much, particularly over 5 years – we should be investing billions. £350bn was put into the base of the banking system! Doubled our manufacturing base? Really? And what does that mean? Services are about 8% bigger than they were pre-recession, production about 10% less. Some rebalancing!

    The best the Lib Dems can do is point out that my god would things have been worse if the Tories had been left to it on their own. Ryan Coetzee obviously wants to do Osborne’s dirty work for him. I agree with the comments above. The Lib Dems should play no part in this.

  • @ Stuart

    Growth in Q2 2010 was driven by a massive pre-election splurge of extra borrowed government money as the deficit went up by an extra 3% of GDP in one year. Calling that growth is like me saying I’m rich because I’ve spent a lot by running up a big overdraft.

    The undershoot of growth since then has been due to a number of factors, including slumping North Sea oil and gas output, a massive hike in oil and other commodity prices including food, which is now thankfully unwinding, and the crisis in the Eurozone which poleaxed our exports. None of that was due to government policy. Let’s not try to resuscitate the dead corpse of this fruitless debate. We are where we are.

    I wholeheartedly support all of Iain Donaldson’s aims, but the problem is, how to fund them at a time when the deficit is rising, not falling.

    We need to move towards a long-term focused ecomomy, based on higher investment all round, better productivity, greater stability and a financial sector geared to serving the UK economy’s interests as a whole, rather than the short term objectives of a very few individuals, which are often toxic to and destructive for the remainder of society and the economy.

    Our economy, although apparently recovering, is still fundamentally very unsound, with high household debt levels, a massive external and budget deficit and poor levels of productivity. It will take decades to put right. Certainly a plan is needed as never before.

  • @Frank Booth

    “£350bn was put into the base of the banking system! ”

    By the last government, because otherwise it would have collapsed, dragging with it the rest of the economy. Is that what you would have preferred?

    “And what does that mean? Services are about 8% bigger than they were pre-recession, production about 10% less. Some rebalancing!”

    Production includes North Sea oil and gas, which has been slumping. Manufacturing has been hit by the Eurozone crisis which has reduced our exports to our largest market, but is still growing, with employment in the sector rising. Under Labour it halved from 20% of GDP to 10%, with millions of often well paid jobs being lost.

    It sounds like your perspective on the UK economy needs rebalancing more than anything.

  • Frank Booth 28th Oct '14 - 2:24pm

    RC – you outline plenty of weaknesses within UK plc but virtually nothing the coalition has done to rectify it. My point about £350bn of QE was merely to point out how investing ‘millions’ is small beer. The point was obviously lost on you.

    ‘the deficit went up by an extra 3% of GDP in one year. Calling that growth is like me saying I’m rich because I’ve spent a lot by running up a big overdraft.’

    No genius behind that but at least the Brown government understood the need for counter-cyclical policy. The coalition’s foolish attempt at austerity flew in the face of almost all the evidence of financial crisis as Nobel Laureates like Paul Krugman repeatedly pointed out. You talk about what a bad hand the coalition has been dealt though no mention of the biggest devaluation of sterling since we left the gold standard. The response to which has been desperate.

  • Simon McGrath 28th Oct '14 - 2:24pm

    @helen “Let’s not mention performance-related pay for teachers”
    You think teachers should all be paid the same regardless of how good they are at their job?

  • Nigel Cheeseman 28th Oct '14 - 2:37pm

    Iain, on your first point, concerning decent homes, yes, indeed, but how? Governments don’t build homes, nor, these days, do local councils (in any number). The market hasn’t built homes to keep pace with demand for a variety of reasons. Those reasons include planning law, the requirement to include affordable housing in developments over a certain size, the absurdly high value of housing land, particularly in the hotspots of the south-east and a complete lack of political will to do anything significant about it by any government to date. As a long term structural issue, this needs to be dealt with across party boundaries, to ensure continuity of policy through changes of government. In the meantime, vast sums of money are spent on housing benefit, much of it going straight into the pockets of landlords at rental prices kept artificially high by the level of benefit.
    On your second, concerning education to meet the future needs of business, I’m not sure where you want the focus to be. Is it in the vocational sphere, post 16, or earlier? If it is in further education, would you propose a partnership between government, business and industry? We’ve never had more education than now, with many more 16-18 year olds remaining in education and greater numbers of graduates entering the workplace. This has resulted in much grade inflation, not necessarily a good thing.

  • Helen Tedcastle 28th Oct '14 - 3:01pm

    @ Simon McGrath

    Pre-performance-related pay (by results), teachers were not all paid the same. Gove mythology.

  • @ Frank Booth

    “No genius behind that but at least the Brown government understood the need for counter-cyclical policy. The coalition’s foolish attempt at austerity”

    So when were we supposed to cut the deficit then? Presumably you are arguing for:
    1) No defined plan to cut the deficit at the beginning of the parliament;
    2) An even higher deficit now.

    I would also add that the “foolish attempt” at austerity was within £6bn of the foolish attempt set out by Labour i.e. in the context of a a £1.5 trillion UK economy, virtually identical.

    “no mention of the biggest devaluation of sterling since we left the gold standard”

    Which pushed up import prices and delivered little benefit to exports because demand was low due to the Eurozone crisis.

    Like I said, you seriously need to rebalance your view of the UK economy and its performance since 2010 to factor in the outside world and not the single influence of government fiscal policy.

  • Jenny Barnes 28th Oct '14 - 3:56pm

    I’d like a Fairer Economy and a Stronger Society.

  • Simon McGrath
    Taking exam exam results as an indicator of the strength of a teacher is a crude methodology and not a fair reflection of the teacher’s worth.

  • ” The next phase of recovery will be to use the new technologies we have been researching to take this country back to the forefront of international technological manufacturing.

    That’s essentially the same idea as Harold Wilson advanced in his “White heat of technology” speech back in the 1960s. It’s an appealing idea but it didn’t work then so why do you suppose it will now? Please understand that I’m not against it; I just want to know what you think is needed to take it from being a pleasant daydream to reality.

    “Just as we have done with our motorcar manufacturing …

    But it’s no longer ‘our’ motor manufacturing is it. Like much of ‘our’ industry it works only because we imported some critical element from overseas. Interestingly it not people – the management in foreign-owned firms are overwhelmingly British AFAIK. So what is the missing ingredient?

    I suggest the finger of suspicion points at a culture among our ruling elites that is focussed on extracting wealth rather than the much more difficult task of creating it and the long painstaking business of taking an invention from the lab into commercial production. The easiest way to extract wealth is financialisation and that I suggest links back to the origins of the crisis – quite simply in its efforts to hoover up even more of the national wealth the City over-reached itself and fell flat on its face. That should have been the opportunity to force change – for instance ending TBTF and jailing those whose business plan revolves around breaking the law – but instead this government has done its level best to restore the City to the position it was in before the crash which sends it a clear message that it is above the law.

    So, we have replaced the divine right of kings to be above the law and extort more or less at will with the divine right of finance and oligarchs to do the same. This is NOT a liberal turn in our history.

  • Do you expect anyone to take the Lib Dems seriously on that pitch? You’ve just helped out the most economically incompetent government in the last 40 years, maybe longer, fail to deliver every economic promise it made and delay recovery for three years whilst blaming the poorest and weakest in society and targeting them with every cut and nasty policy the Tories could dream up.

    The fact is that the Lib Dems pitch for the next election needs to square with your record in government. You’re going to be viewed as hypocrites and knaves if you try to do anything different.

  • @Simon McGrath: “You think teachers should all be paid the same regardless of how good they are at their job?”

    No, I think that there is no good way to reduce the quality of a teacher to a single number and then grade their worth based on that number. Moreover I think that all suggested methods of doing so will distort the system so badly that it is will result in considerably worse teaching.

    Plus, you know, I’ve actually bothered to read the research into performance-related pay and thus know how dramatically poorly it achieves it aims. If your job is as simple as making X numbers of widgets an hour then performance-related pay makes sense, for a complicated professional job such as teaching it – at absolute best – replaces valuable intrinsic motivators with poorer quality monetary motivators.

  • Jenny Barnes says “I’d like a Fairer Economy and a Stronger Society”. I think that’s bang on, actually.

  • Linda Forbes 28th Oct '14 - 5:00pm

    I agree with Jenny!

  • I also agree with Jenny.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Oct '14 - 5:25pm

    Yes chaps and chapettes, we can go back to the fair economy and strong society of the 70s.

  • Well done Jenny, now it’s just agreeing the meaning of fair take a random hundred people probably get a hundred different definitions

    Would be nice though I like the idea of utopia

  • @Eddie Sammon: I love your “cute” assumption that somehow a fairer economy and a stronger society means that people will be worse off. Instead of our country becoming more like, say, Denmark which has happier people, lower inequality and a higher GDP per capita.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Oct '14 - 6:46pm

    Jack, I want to tackle inequality, but in a sustainable way, that is what the Lib Dem leadership are planning on doing with Stronger Economy and Fairer Society.

    When it comes to the article, It’s OK, but I’m a bit underwhelmed by it. Building lots more houses might reduce the housing bubble, but there is a stock market bubble too – why are people lending at such low rates? Partly because growth prospects elsewhere are so low! There is also a risk of a foreign affairs crisis during the next parliament, but where are the Lib Dem plans for security and defence?

    I want broad based politics, not people focusing on their favourite concerns. Let’s have around a dozen major ideas on the front page, from defence to gender issues.

    I’m going to try and stay off here for a bit. Speak later. Thanks for the article, Iain.

  • Jenny Barnes 28th Oct '14 - 7:04pm

    Ok – less financial inequality, for a start, and more social cohesion. When it comes to definitions, I don’t see any in the slogan that’s been adopted. If Stronger economy just means more growth, and the already rich hoovering it all up, what’s the point for the 99.9% left out of that?

  • David Evershed 28th Oct '14 - 7:56pm

    Iain is right to say “what it is lacking is the narrative to pull all those disparate threads into a single powerful statement of who we are and what we stand for”.

    However what is need is not a list of specific policies but a concise statement of Lib Dem principles from which the policies can be shown to derive.

    Something like:

    Liberal Democrats believe in
    – Freedom for individuals
    – Free markets for business and consumers
    – Free health care
    – Care for those who can’t look after themselves

    I will allow one further nomination for an additional item but no more!

  • Stephen Donnelly 28th Oct '14 - 8:40pm

    I found the letter from Ryan Coetzee to be sterile and despiriting.

    It would have be easy to frame the specific campaigning points inside a call for a more liberal society. To say ‘this is what we need to do, to make progress toward that’. But he didn’t. Does he perhaps take the direction of travel as read, as perhaps it is with the DA in South Africa? Or is this just a marketing exercise devoid of a political direction? Is this a political party, or is about staying in government at all costs?

    Most of us are volunteers, and without a cause to fight for, we may simply not volunteer to fight.

  • “Providing education that matches the future needs of industrial and commercial business;”

    That’s going to be an interesting one!
    With the benefit of hindsight from having seen the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and subsequent events, we can see the stupidity of Margaret Thatcher’s swipe at Universities and reducing funding for Russian language/studies courses in 1979/80, but at the time it obviously made sense to her view of the future needs of our country…

  • A Social Liberal 28th Oct '14 - 11:39pm

    RC said ‘the deficit went up by an extra 3% of GDP in one year. Calling that growth is like me saying I’m rich because I’ve spent a lot by running up a big overdraft.’.

    No – rather saying you are rich because you’ve spent a lot getting a mortgage (where is the rolling eyes emoticon when you need it)

  • Paul In Wokingham 29th Oct '14 - 12:07am

    The Guardian is reporting a poll by YouGov that was commissioned by a trade-union funded group. It asked if the country is now “more fair”, “less fair” or “about the same” than in 2010. Of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010, 60% said the country is now “less fair” compared with only 6% who reckoned it to be “more fair”.

    How much research was done on the “fairer society” slogan? If these numbers are to be believed then our own supporters overwhelmingly don’t believe it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Oct '14 - 10:57am

    Jack

    The fact is that the Lib Dems pitch for the next election needs to square with your record in government. You’re going to be viewed as hypocrites and knaves if you try to do anything different.

    But it’s not a Liberal Democrat government, it’s a five/sixths Tory government. That is what the people voted for in May 2010, and they confirmed that when they voted in May 2011 to retain the electoral system whose distortion gave us that and ruled out any other government.

    What do you expect the LibDems to have done? Sit back and expect all the Tory MPs to give up their strongly held beliefs and vote for LibDem one instead? If all parties did this, refused to budge an inch from their own policies, we would not have a government. So in order for us to have a government, the LibDems had to agree to support what the people had voted for, which is not necessarily what they would have wanted had there been a majority LibDem government.

    I agree the LibDem leadership has made a big mess out of this, by giving the impression that what this government has done is what they would have done had they been the main party. However, I think even if they had been more clear about the situation, in reality the compromise between the extreme right-wing party which the Conservatives are and the Liberal Democrats would still be far from the LibDem ideal, so you would still be making this sort of attack.

    What actually do you think should have been done instead? If your answer is “supply and confidence”, please note that this still means LibDems voting for right-wing Tory policy and right-wing Tory budgets, only having no influence on them at all.

  • “Stronger economy, fairer society” is just so much hot air absent the one historically liberal policy that can get anywhere toward achieving those enticing slogans.

  • @Matthew Huntbach: “But it’s not a Liberal Democrat government, it’s a five/sixths Tory government” – and? The Liberal Democrats still voted for these policies and, in most cases, still stood up and defended these policies. this is the record that the Liberal Democrats need to defend. Your record will speak much louder than any protestations that you were in coalition.

    Voting record counts.

  • It may be five-sixths Tory as far as policy goes, but as far as responsibility goes both partners are 100% responsible.

    That was obvious from Day 1. The Lib Dems are equally responsible for every measure they agreed to.

  • SIMON BANKS 29th Oct '14 - 5:53pm

    Mostly I agree, but my reaction to this list is: so education is about meeting the needs of “industrial and commercial business” and continuing with present environmental policies will be enough?

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Oct '14 - 7:50pm

    Jack

    The Liberal Democrats still voted for these policies and, in most cases, still stood up and defended these policies. this is the record that the Liberal Democrats need to defend. Your record will speak much louder than any protestations that you were in coalition.

    That does not answer my question. If you are saying that the Liberal Democrats should have made Britain ungovernable by blocking anything that was not 100% in accord with Liberal Democrat policy, then please confirm that.

  • @Matthew Huntbach: it’s interesting that you don’t want to accept the Lib Dems responsibility for the policies they voted through. Why is that?

    I do not, as it happens think the Lib Dems, should have blocked everything that wasn’t 100% in accord with the policies I’d expected them to support when I voted for them all these years – frankly, anyone who votes for a party who actively support PR cannot oppose coalitions – I do expect them to be able to hold their heads up high and stand up next to everything they voted for and supported in government.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Oct '14 - 11:49am

    Jack

    I do expect them to be able to hold their heads up high and stand up next to everything they voted for and supported in government.

    But that’s in direct contradiction to what you wrote just previous to it in the same sentence.

    You are not allowing for the possibility of voting for a compromise which is far from one’s ideal but is as far as the other side were willing to move from their very different ideal.

  • @Matthew: there is no contradiction. I compromise with my girlfriend all the time; this does not mean we do things that either of us are unhappy doing. Instead it means that we reach a mutually agreeable position that we are both happy with. I am quite happy to accept that the Lib Dems were unable to get through specific policies; I am not happy to accept that the Lib Dems supported and helped through a whole serious of extremely unpleasant and harmful policies – e.g. tuition fees, the bedroom tax, the welfare cap,etc. – and I’m even less impressed that having delivered these things in government they apparently now want to pretend it was all the Tories doing.

  • Matthew Huntbach 31st Oct '14 - 12:42am

    Jack

    I am quite happy to accept that the Lib Dems were unable to get through specific policies; I am not happy to accept that the Lib Dems supported and helped through a whole serious of extremely unpleasant and harmful policies – e.g. tuition fees, the bedroom tax, the welfare cap,etc.

    You are missing my point. Most of politics ISN’T about specific isolated policies. It’s about achieving a balance between competing demands. As I’ve said many times now, tuition fees can’t be taken in isolation. You can’t just have them or abolish them as a policy on its own with no knock-on effects. It is a substantial expenditure item – abolishing tuition fees has to be accompanied by a large tax rise to pay for it.

    Neither is the situation like you and your girlfriend, you presumably stay together because you have a fair amount in common, but if you split up because you find you don’t, no-one else suffers. The Coalition is not like this, it is more like a forced marriage. There was no other stable government that could be formed apart from it. It is not like a situation where you have a choice of potential partners.

    Under these circumstances, yes, one does often have to agree to something one finds unpleasant and try to modify it to make it a little less unpleasant because the other side is very much in favour of the unpleasantness. The situation with tuition fees is that the Tories were certainly not going to agree to raise taxation to pay for full subsidy of universities. They would have allowed the Liberal Democrats to meet their pledge of this only at the cost of paying for it with massive cuts elsewhere, or massive cuts in the number of university places. Under that situation, perhaps negotiating a system whereby everyone is entitled to a tuition fees loan and there are very generous repayment and write-off conditions is perhaps the better compromise. Agreeing to it does not mean thinking it is wonderful, it is just an acceptance of being the least worse of the options the other side were prepared to offer, all of which were bad.

    If you look at my comment early on in this thread, you will see that I am so unhappy with the present Liberal Democrat leadership that I am refusing to carry on with active support for the party. So can you see that I am not writing the above out of some sort of Clegg-fan-club support of whatever he decided is the party line this week? I think Clegg and those surrounding him have made things a whole lot worse by making out they are so happy with the sad compromises we have had to make as if they are what we wanted in the first place. Their evident bias in the party towards its right-wing has destroyed the “necessary compromise” argument, because it has allowed the argument “you are just saying it is a compromise, but in reality you are happy with it” to succeed.

    Nevertheless, comments like “I do expect them to be able to hold their heads up high and stand up next to everything they voted for and supported in government” mean you rule out the possibility of having to vote for something one doesn’t like because if it were not for that the other side would only offer even worse things. We have the problem that so much of the opposition to what Clegg is doing to the Liberal Democrats comes from people who seem only really to want to destroy the Liberal Democrats, and so aren’t interested in rational debate about what was possible and what was not in the situation following the May 2010 general election.

  • @Matthew:

    Politics is not all about specific isolated policies, you’re quite right – which is why, for example, the £10k personal allowance is bad policy in context – but these specific policies matter too and they especially matter in the wider context. You seem to be imagining I think the Lib Dems should not have compromised: I don’t. I think that they should be able to stand proudly next to their record of compromise and feel that they achieved a better country. I think that’s straight-forwardly untrue.

    You talk about being tied in, but that too was a choice the Lib Dems made. The five-year term was a bad idea; the LDs should have been ready and willing to tank the Tory government and force an election if necessary. Instead we’ve seen them assist in implementing a string of particularly unpleasant right wing policies and then defend these policies. It’s one things for the Lib Dems to, say, go “yes, we voted against our views on tuition fees but – look – this is what we got for it and we think it’s a worthwhile trade”; it’s quite another for Clegg and Cable to argue on national TV that students should be pleased that they’ll still be paying for their own education when their children go to university because they’ll make slightly smaller payments each month.

    To respond to your specific point about tuition fees: “The situation with tuition fees is that the Tories were certainly not going to agree to raise taxation to pay for full subsidy of universities” – firstly, we don’t know what the Tories would or wouldn’t have agree to because the Lib Dem negotiating team made no attempt to argue for the policy in negotiations but simply abandoned it. Secondly, I didn’t expect the Lib Dems to get that policy through but a compromise position isn’t a tripling of fees! A compromise would be protecting university funding and maintaining the fees at the previous level, or agreeing to a slight rise so that funding could be extended to part time students, say.

    We haven’t got anything I recognise as a reasonable compromise between the Lib Dems and the Tories; we’ve got a Tory government that has accepted a handful of the most right wing Lib Dem policies and had a handful of its sharper edges knocked off (e.g. the retention of the human rights acts). I think there is very little reason to think we would not have had better government if the Lib Dems had refused to enter coalition with the Tories.

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