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Are we radicals, or conservatives?

January 6, 2010

So it’s started…

Not just the new year, and the new decade. But finally, the election campaign that has been waiting to happen since Autumn 2007.

The voters will at last have the chance to have their say.

All the punditry from the Westminster village may sell newspapers, but it is the views of the electorate that really matter.

I am pleased that Nick Clegg, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, has put our party’s respect for democracy, and the election choice of the British people, at the heart of what we will do (as a party) after the results are in.

It is increasingly likely that a hung Parliament is in the offing.

It is for this reason that, after the votes have been counted, Lib Dem parliamentarians, Lib Dem policy and Lib Dem actions will matter more than ever before.

In his article in The Times yesterday, Nick Clegg said that the British people deserve to know what the Lib Dems will do in the event of a hung Parliament. He writes,

‘We have two basic principles that I will uphold.

‘One, we will respect the will of the public… [so] the party with the strongest mandate will have a moral right to be the first to seek to govern on its own or, if it chooses, to seek alliances with other parties.

‘Two, regardless of the post-election arithmetic or whatever power we are granted, there are four objectives that we will unwaveringly pursue.

‘First: fair taxes. Our plan would mean that the first £10,000 you earn would be free of income tax. This would be paid for by taxing income and capital at the same rate, phasing out special pension subsidies for highest-rate earners, switching tax from income to pollution and introducing a mansion tax on the value of homes above £2 million.

‘Second: a fair start for all our children. We will cut class sizes and provide more one-to-one tuition to children by introducing a new “pupil premium” in our schools.

‘Third: a fair and sustainable economy that creates jobs. We will use the money from one year’s cuts in current spending to create tens of thousands of new jobs in public transport, a national programme of home insulation and new social housing. We will be honest about where savings must be made to balance the books and we will break up the banking system.

‘And finally, fair, clean and local politics. We will introduce a fair voting system, ensure that MPs can be sacked by their constituents if they break the rules, return powers to local communities and stop tax avoiders from standing for Parliament, sitting in the House of Lords or donating to political parties.’

These are the kind of changes we need in order to help our country be fit to face the new decade.

Here in Hastings & Rye, our Labour MP seeks re-election on the back of his local activism, but not a reputation for genuine political radicalism.

Michael Foster has been a hard worker. But he has also been a loyalist to a Government that has been a profound disappointment to social radicals.

Labour has on many and various counts been conservative in its approach to the real changes we need in British politics, and in the fight against inequality.

And it is on that basis that Labour deserves to lose the next General Election.

The question that remains is what ethos of government do we want to replace that of Blair and Brown’s New Labour?

Will we plump for conservatives again, or for a more radical option?

The choice, after all, is ours.


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