Tag Archives: Liberal Democrats

Are we heading for a “GREAT RECESSION”, akin to the great depressions of our past?

Each day that passes, the narrative of politics and economics never ceases to become more interesting.  And so these interesting times continue with yet more bad news for our economy.

I remember some time ago, soon after the crisis of Autumn 2008, having a conversation with a friend who stated quite confidently that the only companies going to the wall were badly run businesses.  How house prices (one of his main concerns) would recover and there was plenty of money in our economy.

The conversation followed the belief that this would be a short blip on the economic landscape, and times would return to normal fairly quickly.  Indeed, within a few months the same person, along with various media publications were stating that the banking crisis was either “over”, or nearly “over”.

Several years down the line – 3 1/2 years since the queues outside of Northern Rock – if we look back we can see a timeline which is significantly longer than we were led to believe.

Today, no one knows how long the banking crisis will last, or indeed where it will lead next.

It seems like every week new news is broadcast casting doubt on any economic recovery with commentators always pointing to the fact that “technically” we are no longer in recession.  This however denies the seriousness with which the world economy is stumbling from one economic shock to another affecting the standards of living of billions of people.

We Avoided Going From A Recession To A Slump 

As we know, Gordon Brown “saved the world”, from the worst effects of the banking crisis, and we are constantly reminded how this action prevented a recession from turning into a slump or depression. (Please note the hint of sarcasm before people start giving me abuse!)

My reading of the action taken by world leaders at the time, including Gordon Brown, is that their action was decisive and needed to prevent a collapse of the capitalist system as we know it.  I am glad that Gordon Brown was actually in power at the time, the thought of George Osborne et al being in power, staring into the headlights fills me with horror.

However the structural problems have still not been dealt with and the terms behind the bailouts were poorly thought out.  Like the snooker player planning a centenary break, our esteemed leaders were only thinking as far as the next black.

The idea that we prevented a slump in my opinion is looking less and less like fact and more like propagandist rhetoric.

The more economic indicators are released across the world, the more the economic crisis continues, and for some gets worse and not better.

If I were living in Spain today would I be thinking that this is the normal “economic cycle” or recession, or would I be thinking that this was far more serious?

Spain has 22% unemployment and 45% youth unemployment – a country in debt – and had negative economic growth for 6 consecutive quarters and in the last 5 quarters has not grown more than 0.3% in any quarter. The economy is stagnant at best with now the prospect of enormous cuts in public expenditure, sucking enormous amounts of money out of the economy.

If you were living in Spain would this have been a recession or would you see this as a depression?  The prospects for the population over the next decade in terms of standards of living and general employment is bleak at best.

Spain is by no means the most badly effected economy in the world following the financial crisis, yet these figures give pause for thought after the recent elections and demonstrations there.

Spain though is possibly the most pivotal country within the Euro zone, the country that will have the most effect on the outcome of the Euro’s fate.

Whereas bail outs can be discussed and organised for Greece, Ireland, Portugal and maybe even Italy, to talk of bail outs for Spain would be a bridge too far.

The European Union is the largest economy in the world, a homogeneous trading area, overtaking the USA in GDP in the last decade with over 15 trillion dollars and over 20% of the worlds market share.  The US and EU account for over 40% of the GDP of the planet, so despite the rise in the growth of China and India, the old engine rooms of the world economy are still incredibly important.

Although the rise of these developing economies can aid world economic growth, the fact that these countries “make things” and sell them back to markets in the developed world means that if the developed economies are on their knees then the developing world will grow less as well.

In addition to this there is a massive discrepancy with debt and surplus as China saves too much and collects the debt of the largest single country economy in the world, the US.

The World Economy shrank for the first time in post war history by 2.031% in 2009 showing just how bad the economic crisis has been and how the words of Alistair Darling were so prophetic back in 2008, that this is the worst economic crisis in 60 years. 

Neo-Liberal Philososphy

The crisis appears to be worst where the neo-liberal philosophy was strongest and where the financial markets and economies are at their most mature.

Like 1929, the crisis originated in the US, but due to the spreading of the same ideology across the world by the IMF and World Bank and the ever increasing “Globalisation”, it exposed many interwoven economies and affected those in developing countries who are least able to cope with the fall out.

I remember seeing an interesting debate on the current affairs programme “Newsnight”, before the catastrophic events of 2008, when it was argued that the globalisation and capitalist ideology of the past 25 years had reduced world hunger down to approximately 650 million, that is people who actually go hungry everyday.  Within 6 months of that interview, the amount of the people who go hungry in the world increased back up to 950 million or so.  25 years to decrease it by a third and 6 months to push it up 50%, back to the levels it was previously.  An excellent achievement!

The above graph shows the trend of those who are undernourished courtesy of the worldhunger.org website. Indeed this graph shows that the figures often banded about are actually worse than originally thought.  This graph shows that currently around 13.1% of the worlds population go hungry/are undernourished everyday, 1 in 7 people on the planet.

Globalisation has in fact created more vulnerability in the world economy and the well being of people than before.  Where as many countries were cushioned somewhat from economic strife in one area of the world, the interconnectedness now exposes everyone rather than spreading the risk.

Like the Sub-Prime housing market that started this mess, the spreading of risk added to the problems, hiding them in accounts, products and market values that no one could value or  understand.

The scandal that is the IMF, World Bank and WTO

There appears to be irony in every aspect of life these days, as the two institutions that were becoming almost irrelevant to the developing world prior to the credit crisis are now centre stage “saving” the developed economies of the western world.

Prior to the crisis, the IMF and World Bank were being side lined in trade agreements and loan agreements as developing countries would no longer accept opening up their markets to foreign companies to asset strip them, or deregulating fledgling financial sectors so that speculators could decimate their economies; or sell off their education and health services to the private sector in return for loans so that private companies could make money out of the poorest people on earth while allowing millions to go without education and health provision.  In short the “penny” had dropped.

The WTO constantly struggle to impose its will on developing countries now as deal after deal is scuppered by those who know the harm they do.

These organisations, dominated by the interests of western economies and especially the US, seek to open up markets for the benefit of developed countries with the spin that they will allow “inward investment” and open up markets for developing countries.

Yet the very same US and European Union constantly employ trade restrictions and in some cases the most restrictive practices in the world to prevent damage to their interests.  The US protects its Agriculture sector, steel industry, car industry and airline industry to just name a few.

Irony again rears its head as the IMF prior to the 2007 beginnings of the financial crisis recommended that all countries should follow the US and UK in their approach to light touch regulation in the financial markets.  Praising the US and UK and endorsing their economic policies.  This incidentally is the same IMF that every world leader mentions when justifying their austerity measures, including our own George Osborne.

The IMF was WRONG in 2007 over light touch regulation and DID NOT SEE the crisis coming.  The IMF was WRONG in the way it spread the ideology of neo-liberalism around the world and the WORLD BANK was WRONG in insisting in the liberation of fledgling markets and the privatisation of health and education institutions in developing countries.

Most of these criticisms are barely within the discourse of economics in the mainstream media or political parties.  Both the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats appear to be wedded to the same discourse.

The Effect of Cutting Public Expenditure

As we all know in the UK, we have a deficit that needs to be reduced.  As discussed here in the Truth About The Uk Deficit, the reason for the deficit is largely due to the reduction in tax take rather than simply “over spending” as the chart below shows:

Although outlays were higher at the time of the crisis than tax take by around 2.7% to 3.1% of GDP depending on how you measure it, this was within tolerance limits.  The reason for the decline in tax take and the ever increasing deficit is due to the lack of credit available in the economy and the realisation that much of the wealth created on Banks accounts were not real.  As credit reduced and money was effectively taken out of the economy the recession ensued and people were able to make less money and thus pay less tax.

If we are to bridge this gap we HAVE TO GROW.  If the economy does not grow the deficit will get bigger no matter how many cuts we inflict on our public expenditure.

Over the next 4 years the European Union is embarking on large cuts to public expenditure.  So to are other countries in the world economy like the US.  This will have the effect of deflating the economies in those countries effected, which in turn effect the countries they trade with as they will be able to buy less products, therefore importing less.

This is not a short term problem.  Japan has had mounting debts now for decades and has stuttering growth.

The current rounds of austerity will be affecting the next 4 years, even though most discussions appear to be focussed on the next 2 years.  Effectively the Euro zone average of anywhere between 1.86% to 2.4% of GDP depending on how you measure it (economic statistics are never straight forward!) as the Full fact shows here.

Note this diagram only projects cuts in the first 2 years and the cuts in the UK will be far more in the 2 years after this.

The US is cutting even quicker and plans to decrease the deficit by $4,000 billion or 2.2% of GDP by 2015.

If the 2 economic areas of the world cut between 2% and 2.5% of GDP how will this affect the economy of the areas affected or the world economy?

Nobody really knows is the true answer, the same as no one really knows what will happen next with the banking crisis.

The UK Position

The UK position is perilous at best.  Over the past two days we have had yet more bad news for George Osborne and his plans for growth and reducing the deficit.

Yesterday it was shown that the deficit is increasing under George Osbornes leadership rather than decreasing, and yet growth is also on the wane. Every month we get a further downgrading of growth expectations, today was the turn of the OECD who have down graded to 1.4% this year.  This is after the UK economy has not grown for 6 months and recent figures showing not only consumer confidence is low but that consumer spending is decreasing and is technically in recession after declining for the second quarter in a row by 0.6% in the last quarter, the lowest since the technical recession in 2009.

The “good” news for the UK economy is that the great “re-balancing” of the economy is happening with the stuttering recovery being led by exports.

Many, including the OECD today are calling for the rising of interest rates steadily to counter inflation.  Inflation is not home grown as the depressed wages show, but rather due to commodity markets and increased costs of raw materials.  However, it is argued that increasing interest rates to a more “realistic” level will strengthen the pound and therefore help counter inflation.

Yet it is the weakness of the pound which is helping our exporters, making them more competitive.  If they lose that competitive advantage will that not damage the fragile recovery?  Is this not the classic sign of what happens when you have an effective devaluation?

Further Shocks Will Knock Us Off Course 

We have many more shocks to the economy over the next few years, and which ever way we look at the economic figures they look bad.

Over the next 4 years both the EU and US will go through massive public expenditure cuts and with it probably massive unemployment to go with it.  This will suck out money from the economy causes more stress for consumers and businesses.  If interest rates increase, this will again add costs to businesses, put pressure on households making it harder to pay mortgages that has been the saving grace for many people over the past few years.

This will increase the value of the pound and probably reduce our exporting capacity further having a negative affect on the economy.

Further shock will come as the debts of Greece are most probably going to have to be “re-structured” and Italy may well be the next domino to fall in the Euro zone”.

Speculators have now gravitated to the commodity markets causing further hardship to the real economy and will add to inflationary pressures, putting more pressures on interest rates.

Food riots due to rising prices are likely yet again, while the natural disasters, sadly effecting many areas of the world (including our own, with crop yields looking to be significantly lower this year due to drought), will cause more hardship.

Then we have the prospect of Peak Oil on the horizon.  This is more worrying as it will affect every part of modern life, and is inescapable. No planning has been put into effect by European and western governments generally, it is a forgotten problem, put on the back burner, always something that politicians can come to later.

So are we heading for a Great Recession? Some commentators have already dubbed it as such, but basically without meaning.  If you were living in Spain, Ireland, Greece, Portugal or Italy I would say they already think so.

Other than the odd anomaly like Germany, who seem to be well placed to profit from an export led recovery, with the help of a deflated Euro caused by the southern European countries in crisis, the recovery will likely be in two spheres. The developing countries growing somewhat while the developed countries stutter and stumble trying to get back to normality.

The neo-liberal model is still with us, it has not been challenged economically or politically and continues to hold sway.  Banking reform, though essential still appears to be on the back burner, while those benefiting from high commodity prices like Australia make hay while the sun shines.

This is NOT about economic cycles in a text book, rather an ideology of madness that has taken over undemocratic institutions like the IMF, WTO, World Bank and the Banking Industry that have a disproportionate amount of power in an increasingly interdependent world.

A crisis of democracy is likely to follow, as seen with the recent protests throughout Europe.  This is just the beginning of austerity Europe, and the chances of a “Great Recession” or a “Slump” seem to be closer every day.

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For George Osborne the Economic News gets Worse

So we have austerity Britain, and the narrative is set.  David Cameron and George Osborne insist on the biggest cuts seen since WWII, the deficit must be eliminated within this parliament, and the UK economy will be stagnating for some time.

The Labour Party have contributed to this ridiculous narrative by also stating they would halve the deficit within 4 years and these alone would have been bigger cuts to public services than Mrs Thatcher achieved in the 1980’s.

The phrase, “cutting too far too quickly”, is becoming as sickening as the insistence that every single policy of the government is justified on the basis that we have a deficit.

However, figures out today have both the left and the right rather questioning their own rhetoric.

Over the past few months we have seen the blame for bad news in the economy blamed on the wrong type of snow; the late Easter holiday; too many bank holidays; and even a dry year! Every growth forecast is revised downwards and every time we think the last bail out has been carried out, another one comes onto the horizon.

Today figures for government borrowing show that despite the flat lining of the economy; no growth for 6 months; higher taxation; the cutting of funding to countless charities; the reversal of promises on not increasing VAT – not getting rid of EMA, Sure Start or reducing family allowance; that the deficit is INCREASING.

As the diagram below shows, kindly provided by the Spectator, borrowing is increasingly rising.  In short the rhetoric is not matching reality.

Over the past year, each month the government has spent MORE than in the equivalent month under the previous government under Gordon Brown.

The austerity narrative has been written and people are scared about their jobs and their standard of living is constantly reducing, yet the problem that the government has said is their main priority, is not being dealt with.

So far, we are experiencing all the downsides of an austerity Britain, but not any of the upsides – the deficit is still growing.

This is especially hard to take when many are now worse off than they have been in the last 7 years, yet the actual real austerity measures have not even taken effect.

The question has to be asked, when they do finally come through, how bad will it get?  If the economy is already flat lining, will we be plunged back into recession?

Time after time we are told that we avoided a slump.  Yet the evidence may not support this view.  It is 3 1/2 years since the crisis started in the financial sector and there is no end in sight.  There are many more shocks to the world economy still to take effect and we are yet to employ the stringent medicine advocated by the IMF and others to reduce the deficits in the UK and elsewhere.

The Labour party have nothing to offer either.  Their policies are incredibly similar to  the governments, yet you would never believe it with the rhetoric we are offered.  Both parties are so hell bent on providing a rhetoric of difference between them, yet in reality there is little difference.  Just where is the alternative?

In recent weeks David Cameron has started changing the governments tack on this as they are pointing out just how similar the spending cuts would be.  The government has recognised that they have been so successful in their rhetoric and publicity machine that they are taking the flack of austerity that the Labour party should be at least taking in part.

So people are scared and confidence is low; banks are still not reaching their lending targets to small businesses; consumer behaviour has already changed affecting growth – yet the real cuts are yet to bite.

I think the understatement would be “This will be a tough year”.

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The Cameron Government Losing the Faith of it’s Followers

A very interesting article today in the Spectator, with an excellent picture that really somehow fits my image of the government.

I think many would applaud this picture of the government, but perhaps not for the reasons Fraser Nelson would wish!

His article shows, as with much of the criticism levelled at Ken Clarke earlier this week, that it is the Cameron supporters who appear a bigger danger to his government than any opposition.

The right wing of the press see the Cameron government as not going quickly or far enough in it’s policies and wants to get rid of it’s so called more progressive elements.

Everyone is waiting for the first domino to fall to make a reshuffle inevitable, and that of course is Mr Huhne.  David Cameron made a big play over how it was wrong to make so many reshuffles  when Labour was in power.  But like much that he said before the last election, he is likely to be eating his words.

The problem for Cameron is clearly the lack of talent in his midst.  He cannot trust is nearest and dearest and is constantly left making U-turns or sorting out badly made policies.  Like his insistence that government should have fewer advisers; more de-centralised decision making and letting ministers get on with their jobs – all this lack of policy detail and supervision has left a disjointed government with inept people doing bad jobs and making bad policy.

If indeed there is a reshuffle – who will he bring in?  Is there really more talent to be utilised.  Another thing to bare in mind for the next election – there will be even fewer MP’s to chose decent talent from to fill government posts due to the reduction in seats in Parliament.  He may live to regret that one as well.

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KENNETH CLARKE, RAPE and SENTENCING REFORM: He gives his enemies within his own party ammunition

We live in strange times.  What the storm over the remarks by Ken Clarke have shown is just how many on his own side of the political debate want to knife him in the back.

In today’s papers it appears that Ed Miliband and the Labour leadership has signed an unholy alliance with the Daily Mail and others in the right wing press.  While the more left/liberal leading publications appear to be the only ones backing him.  Not for his form of words yesterday, but rather there is something else going on.

The right and the core support for the Tory party do not like the way the new law and order reforms are going.  They don’t want to “educate” or give out “community sentencing”, they want to “hang and flog” and “lock them up and throw away the key”.

15 years ago if someone would have told me that the Labour party would be seen as more tough on crime than the Tories I would have laughed.  If someone would have said that labour would have a more right wing criminal justice policy than the Tories I would have had pains in my stomach laughing.  These however, are the times we live in.

Blairism has done something strange to labour, it has stripped away the liberal veneer and has made it ok to scare people over security, national defence and crime.  90 days detention; identity cards, and the ever increasing prison population is labour’s right wing policy, that is ever moving further in that direction.

The Ken Clarke debacle shows who his friends are, or rather who they are not.  David Cameron is rumoured not to particularly like the policy but is using the deficit to justify all that the government does.  The core vote of the Tory party does not like it, Labour does not like it and the over whelming press that politicians court everyday don’t like it.

In their minds, the cutting of public services is fine; reducing pensions and devouring   the NHS is fine; but giving people shorter sentencing or educating the criminal classes;  cutting the Police force and reducing prison places is certainly not.

It is ironic that David Cameron, WITH the support of the Liberal Democrats is destroying the Tories own core support by attacking the areas that traditionally they always defend.

Theresa May got a rough reception at the Police Federation conference yesterday and now the right rather than the left wants to oust Ken Clarke, who would be a Europhile scalp.

What this puts into focus is the actual policy of the government on the criminal justice system and law and order.

There is no doubt in my mind that there will be fewer Police on the streets or in any capacity fighting crime in 3 years time than there are now.  Efficiency savings can only account for a small number on the savings scale.  To go to 20% cuts will cut services.

People ignorantly talk about cutting administration and back room staff.  Back room staff that has been employed because they do a job that has to be done and can be employed for LESS and will cost less to be trained.  Take away a substantial number of these people and all that happens is that Police Officers have to do their job.  Ironically this turns an EFFICIENT SERVICE into an inefficient one.

With prisons, Ken Clarke on the one hand wishes to introduce a more effective criminal justice system, and most other than at the fringes agree this is a good thing.  The problem arises when he brings in the arbitrary numbers to justify policy decisions.

First he cuts 3000 prison places, not on the basis that they are not needed but because it will save money.  Then he wishes to bring in bigger cuts in sentencing for guilty pleas. Criminals already get a third off their sentence for this and then only serve around half their sentence anyway.  Is there rhyme or reason, other than money, why we should go further down this road?

The language used by Ken Clarke yesterday, has brought into focus, not just his lack of understanding over the technicalities of the crime of rape, but also details of a proposed policy that neither the government or the public really want.

The New Dynamics of the Coalition Government: David Cameron and Nick Clegg have a New Relationship

Digesting the real outcomes of the recent elections takes time.  A lot of commenting in the media has speculated wildly in a predictable pattern.  The right saying Cameron is now stronger than ever; others saying Nick Clegg and the LibDems are done for; while some point to a new strategy for Nick Clegg and others point to a return to “old politics”.

If we did not know it already, the rhetoric of a “new politics” so often quoted by the leading members of the government is complete nonsense.  What the Tory led No to AV campaign showed is that cynicism and negative campaigning with personal attacks are at the forefront of British politics and at the heart of government.

I stated after the elections in May that the real winners were most certainly the Conservative party, and I stand by that assessment.  The wider effect though is more complicated.

Those that have sought to talk up the demise of the LibDems are being premature.  The LibDem vote has indeed reduced to 15%, which could be seen to now be their core vote.  Although, I do not think they will reach the 24% watermark seen at the last general election, I think they will recover some of their support, largely because the dynamics of government have now changed, and many will not have anywhere else to go in some constituencies.

Some have said that the demise of the coalition is now more likely, but in reality I think this is far from the truth.  If Nick Clegg calls time on the coalition his political career is over and so is his leadership of the Lib Dems.  He has only one option to him, and that is to get more out of the coalition.

Whereas Cameron’s political strategy has worked well, Nick Clegg’s has been diabolical.  He put up a united front, not a a coalition but a partnership in the national interest.  Thrashing out policies in private to have a consensual approach and a united policy front.  This has worked into the hands of the Tories, as the differences have been masked and the Tories take the plaudits for policy and the Liberals take the flack from their supporters.

The change in electoral fortunes will see, and is already seeing, a significant change to the way the Coalition and the Libe Dems in particular present themselves.

Ironically, the outcome of the election that was excellent for David Cameron, will actually make his life harder and increase the power and influence of the Liberals.

We have already seen the flexing of muscles by Nick Clegg in recent days, this is largely a knee jerk reaction though.  Over time we will see far more of the differences between the two parties and more spats in public as the Liberals try take credit for the Liberal side of cameron’s policies and where they have genuinely watered down Tory ideology.

Electoral fortunes of all the political parties are in the balance as the public are increasingly sceptical of anyone who asks for their vote.  Some commentators like to claim if Cameron went for a snap election he would win a majority.  But he needs the changing of the boundaries to help him get elected.  Indeed if labour polled their 38% of the vote seen in May they could end up winning.

The truth however, is that the council elections are a snapshot in time and a chance to protest.  This will continue for another 2 years as the cuts bite.  Any percentages gained in the last election will not manifest itself at a general election.  Labour would be unlikely to be able to get 38% if we had a general election tomorrow, and the Lib Dems may well do better than expected in the seats where there is no alternative to the Tory candidates.

In truth the most likely outcome of a snap election would be a dogs dinner and another coalition, much like we have now.

In the face of a 5 year parliament, the Lib Dems have an opportunity to really hold the Tories to account and show their metal.  They now have nothing to lose.

The Labour Party has nothing to offer and their policies are increasingly moving to the right, so the only party who can really hold the Tories to account is the LibDems.  Only now they have to show, more than ever, exactly what they are unhappy with.  Gone is the consensus united approach, this will just not work.

The first casualty will have to be the NHS reforms.  However, the astute amongst the electorate will note that it was Nick Clegg who tried to claim credit for the NHS reforms earlier this year, stating they were actually in the LibDem manifesto. How times change!!

The dynamics are extremely complicated as the government’s strategy among the liberals and conservatives is being put under scrutiny by events dear boy.   Yesterday we heard that the 1922 committee gave un-wavering support to Andrew Lansley over NHS reform and how these reforms must go ahead.

This appears to be a direct challenge not just to Nick Clegg but also to David Cameron, and give him little room for manoeuvre.  The NHS policy is a massive indication over the confusion within government as to how to formulate policy.

David Cameron has run his government based on a decentralised approach, without micro management.  This has led to uturns and embarrassing problems with Forests; sure start, EMA and law and order policies.

Allowing ministers to go off and do their own thing is turning out to be a bit of a disaster for Cameron.  One of his biggest problems is his fixation on the failures of the Blair government.  He wants to get things done quickly while he can after Blair squandered his majority.  The problem is that Cameron neither has the necessary mandate or majority and rushing through badly thought out policies is a recipe for disaster.

He also saw the special advisor culture as corrosive, which he is now back tracking on and employing more advisers.

David Cameron is a shrewd politician, but he is so often let down by the people he has around him, and the ideology, within wings of his party which will undermine him.  Today we see that the right wing is attacking Ken Clarke after his inept performance yesterday.  Perversely it is the left within the newspapers and commentators who are more sympathetic to Ken Clarke.

Which makes Ed Miliband aligned with the right rather than the left on law and order, more than ever before.

We live in interesting times and anyone who makes predictions over the fate of this government or who will win the next election are simply fools.  The dynamics of government are intriguing.  One thing is for certain, Nick Clegg and his Liberals have nothing to lose and must show their political nouse by talking up the differences and fighting for the people who actually voted for them.  At worst they will get trounced in the next election, but if they don’t flex their muscles they will anyway.  At best they may just save their political futures.

NHS REFORM: The Penny is Dropping for David Cameron

The ideological madness that are the NHS reforms, has suddenly hit the top of the Coalition Agenda and Andrew Lansley could be ready take the biggest fall from grace in British politics.

Even in the right wing press, and those of who are the most ideological opponents of the ethos of the NHS are beginning the ground work for an acceptable U-turn on NHS policy.

First David Cameron put a well publicised pause on proceedings, while Andrew Lansley did his tour of the media insisting that he would listen but essentially the reforms would proceed.

Wheeling out the big guns of David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Andrew Lansley in a three pronged attack and charm offensive was thought to be a good strategy.  However, in reality the intellectual arguments against the reforms have simply not changed.

However, the irony of the overwhelming victory of the Tories in the local elections and the decimation of the Liberal Democrat vote has now galvanised the LibDems into fighting their corner.  After all, they have little to lose.

It is true that in one way they are in a weak position if a snap election was called, however, the Tories could not guarantee an overall majority and may end up in a worse position than they are now if they take the gamble.

The Coalition has set out its stall for a 5 year Parliament and the whole strategy, which incidentally, I think will succeed, is to ride the storm, wait for the economy to pick up and go to the polls ready for a Tory majority.

Now, however, the LibDems have nothing to lose now the debacle of he AV referendum is well and truly behind us, they have to show how they can affect the policies of the government.  The next important target on the horizon is the NHS reforms.

The LibDems have to show they are able to change policy for the better, and Nick Clegg appears to have found a small part of his back bone and is changing strategy to disagree in public and to show the differences between the LibDems and the Tories rather than have a show like a national unity government.

Even the likes of Fraser Nelson are saying it would not be the end of the world if the NHS reforms were thrown out.

Andrew Lansley is now trying to defy the laws of gravity by arguing against the Labour party on the basis that their reforms are more left wing than labour! Defying all the coalitions arguments and policy rhetoric of the past 12 months.

Andrew Lansley has been arguing that Labour would cut more money from the NHS than the coalition intends and this would lead to less nurses, doctors, beds etc.  However, when the left argue this we are told it CAN be done by not affecting front line services and by efficiency savings.

So, as usual, it is one rule for one, and another rule for others.

The truth is that the public do not and will not trust the Tories with the NHS.  They WILL NOT win this argument, so the right is arguing they could still re arrange the NHS, bring in privatisation, without a large unwieldy bill.

More stealth and less rhetoric is the order of the day.

Andrew Lansley has been working on this for the past 7 years, and is seeing his ridiculous ideological madness falling into the abyss of failed political careers.  He must be in line for an award for the most years spent in politics without achieving any outcomes whatsoever.  If I was cutting waste in government I know where I would start, and I think David Cameron may be having the same idea.

Meanwhile this is the first week of a new look Lib Dem coalition partner.  The NHS bill will either be severely changed or ditched all together.  There is no other way, and there is no other direction for the Lib Dems than to insist on this.  Whether that will be enough to save them from annihilation is unclear.

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The NO to AV campaign have it: The end of constitutional reform for a generation

So the official result is nearly in, but the NO VOTE has already now officially passed the 50% mark.  The Yes to AV camp had given up and gone home some hours ago, and the first gloating has begun in the largely right wing press.

The Spectator was one of the first off the mark and the inane commentary has begun.  Narrow mindedness and self preservation of the 2 main parties has won out and many are now saying openly that thankfully that will be the end of constitutional reform for a generation.

It is likely that I will be dead by the time real constitutional reform comes to the fore, which it surely will one day, it is just that in Britain we are always the last to drag our traditions kicking and screaming into the modern world.

The Alternative Vote was never the best system, everyone knew it, but we also knew that it was always the only reform any of the major players could consider stomaching. But they were able to fight off the challenge to their unfair advantages built into our system.

Nick Clegg made a massive gamble in his coalition agreement and sold his soul for AV.  In the end, much of the public could not stomach what he gave up for this.

The No campaign acted disgracefully and it will be hard for many to be able to look on some figures within that campaign in the same light.  Baroness Warsi playing at extremism was an absolute disgrace.  As was the way the Tories stabbed Nick Clegg in the back with the no campaign and the targeting of him personally.

The lies told over funding and people having more than one vote; and it helping extremism will go down in the political pages of history showing just how to run a cynical and negative campaign. If you repeat a lie often enough people believe it.

In the end, the vote for AV gave the chance for those who like FPTP; those that wanted PR; those that could not forgive Nick Clegg; and those wanting to put strain on the coalition, to all campaign for a no vote.

The Conservative Party, BNP and Communists, and the old guard of the Labour Party won out.

If this is the end of our constitutional reform, it is a sad end to the progress of pluralism seen over the past 15 years.  With the partial reform of the House of Lords, devolution and mayoral elections, the benefits of local democracy and a more proportional system can be seen, as with the Scottish elections tonight.

A country should never stand still in a false belief that the past is best.  We should be looking forward to see how we can improve.  A better more accountable and transparent political system will always improve the quality of govenorship   even if those clinging onto power do not think so.