LibLink… Nick Clegg: Labour need to tell us what they would cut

Nick Clegg has issued a challenge to Labour in today’s Times. Rather than, he says, oppose every single cut the Coalition has made, Labour should be saying what they would cut to pay for their policy priorities. If Labour want benefits to rise at the rate of inflation, then they need to spell out exactly how they would pay for it.

Firstly, he talks about what the Coalition has achieved for economic growth, and how it has been pragmatic on cutting the deficit, changing its plans as the global economic circumstances changed:

Here in the UK we have now paid off around a quarter of our deficit and we must continue down that path. But there’s still a way to go, and we need to strike a careful balance. Deficit reduction is necessary but not sufficient. It alone cannot deliver growth. Sound public finances are a crucial means to the end that we all seek: a rebalanced, prosperous economy. But they must be accompanied by responsible investments that boost confidence and jobs.

So, despite our fiscal pressures, we’re cutting corporation tax; extending capital allowances; creating German-style technology centres; delivering record numbers of apprenticeships; supporting firms across the country through the Regional Growth Fund; as well as providing unprecedented Treasury guarantees for new infrastructure.

And while we’re realistic that healing the economy will take time, we’re equally determined. Our economic strategy has restored and maintained stability in the economy. Last year we saw half a million more people in work. We must now stay the course.

Of course, to be unflinching is not to be unthinking. One of the greatest lessons I have learnt in office is that sticking to a plan requires government to be flexible rather than rigid, nimble rather than unyielding. And while our critics seek to present the coalition’s economic policy as stubborn and dogmatic, the last two and a half years tell a very different story: we’ve been pragmatic throughout. That’s what governing from the centre ground is all about.

He then goes on to take Labour to task. There’s a slight change from the language he’s used before, when he pointed out that Labour would have cut £7 for every £8 the Coalition has cut, which was an effective line – possibly more effective than the one he uses about the proportion of public spending to GDP.

The Labour leadership continue to complain about the coalition’s approach, but without providing any credible alternative. They’re learning the tricks of opposition and finding their rhetorical refrains. But where are the numbers? What are their sums? The country has undergone the biggest economic crisis in living memory, yet they offer no explanation of how they’d get us out of this mess, nor any admission of responsibility for their part in creating it.

Labour admit they wouldn’t reverse every coalition cut. They should tell us which they would keep, which they would lose and where they would find the money instead. They say they’ll vote against limiting the planned rise in benefits to 1 per cent. That means they believe welfare claimants should see a bigger rise than the 1 per cent that public sector workers will get on their wages — which they support. So Labour must show how they’d pay for it. Would they cut hospital budgets? Schools? Defence?

To oppose everything is to offer nothing, and the country will not be duped. The biggest divide in politics today — here and around the world — is between those who offer leadership and those who only offer dissent.

The article ends with those words we will get used to hearing a lot – “building a stronger economy in a fairer society”.  You can read the whole thing here if you have a Times subscription.

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90 Comments

  • FormerLibDem 2nd Jan '13 - 3:32pm

    Nick Clegg really does take the biscuit. Re Labour: “Where are the numbers? Where are the sums?”. Might I ask where were the numbers and where were the sums when he promised he would vote against any rise in tuition fees? I often ask myself why Clegg now makes me so despondent in a way that even Cameron and Osborne don’t. I think it’s because I, quite genuinely, feel betrayed by him. I EXPECT Cameron and Osborne to destroy the NHS, treble tuition fees and cut top rate income tax. After all, what does one expect from a pig but a grunt? But I didn’t expect this from Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems. I think it is anger at my own folly in being hoodwinked by someone who seemed so decent. And utter despondency at how he (and, let’s face it, the rest of the Lib Dems who troop through the lobbies with the Conservatives) have made a whole generation of young voters utterly cynical. My nephew embraced Nick and the Lib dems with real enthusiasm at the last election. He really felt you were different. And then tuition fees just as he went to Uni… From someone who was interested in politics and determined to make the world a better place – to someone utterly despondent with politics. Well done Nick Clegg. Does he realise what he’s done? And, more to the point, do Lib Dem members realise what they’ve allowed him to do in their name? I know this is a rant – but I’m just so didappointed with your party – and more so because I genuinely thought you had something new, and true and decent to offer.

  • Leaving aside the facts about debt / deficit Clegg is just wrong. Whether anyone here likes it or not Milliband does not need to say what they would cut, at the moment opposing without providing an alternative is working just fine for him. If things get closer towards election time they may be forced to do so but they will only do so if they need to.

  • Whether Milliband needsto say how he would make the sums add up, it is absolutely right that Nick Clegg should be putting the question. At one point before the election, Labour admitted that the economy faced cuts that were deeper than those imposed by Thatcher and we know what they said and did in government, so it is not difficult to guess what Labour would have been doing.

    The point is that the Tory cuts rhetoric often taints the Lib Dems. Nick Clegg needs to take action to put a stopper on the scroungers, fraudsters and malingerers talk, which appeals to the Tory core vote, and present decisions in more positive terms (e.g.making better use of the money, protecting the most disadvantaged, maintaining incentives and fairness)

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '13 - 12:42am

    FormerLibDem

    I think it’s because I, quite genuinely, feel betrayed by him. I EXPECT Cameron and Osborne to destroy the NHS, treble tuition fees and cut top rate income tax. After all, what does one expect from a pig but a grunt? But I didn’t expect this from Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems.

    Er yes, but perhaps you didn’t notice, Cameron and his party won the election, they got 306 MPs. The Liberal Democrats got only 57 MPs. We don’t have a 100% Liberal Democrat government, we have an 84% Conservative government.

    You may say that the Liberal Democrats have betrayed their voters by not blocking every single Conservative Party policy and insisting on 100% Liberal Democrat policies. But if the 306 Conservative MPs were to give in and say “OK, we’ll all become Liberal Democrats”, wouldn’t Conservative Party voters be moaning just as much about “betrayal”?

    My nephew embraced Nick and the Lib dems with real enthusiasm at the last election. He really felt you were different. And then tuition fees just as he went to Uni…

    Well, OK, but this does go back to the point made in the article. How do you and your nephew propose paying for universities? The Liberal Democrats have found the Conservatives – in some cases such as the misleadingly named “granny tax” aided by an alliance between the Labour Party and the right-wing press – blocking all their proposals to raise taxation to pay for things like this. To be fair to the Conservatives, they can say that lowering taxation is what they are about, they won five times as many MPs as the Liberal Democrats, so why should they back down and betray THEIR voters? Any argument that this is unfair because the Conservativs only won 36% of the vote was DESTROYED by the 2011 referendum, when by two-to-one the British people said they wanted to KEEP the electoral system which so distorted representation like this.

    The reality is that the tuition fees just pay for what universities cost – degrees would still cost the same even if they were not paid for in this way. So if they were also not paid for by higher taxation (which no-one but the LibDems supports), they would have to be paid for by more government borrowing and how would that be paid back? Why, by people like your nephew in the future when he’s graduated and goes out a job and his generation are the working people …

    So that’s why I think it’s fair enough to ask Labour “OK, you sit back and let us LibDems take the flak, but if you were in government, how would YOU pay for it?”. Steve Way says they don’t have to, they’re doing fine just by opposing. Well, yes, but isn’t that just the reason why we shouldn’t let them get away with it and get people to think a bit more about things rather than go back to the old assumption that everything that’s wrong with the current Conservative/Labour government can simply be resolved by putting in the Labour/Conservative opposition? Isn’t that how we ended up with this rotten government in the first place, because too many oeople thought “I don’t like the Labour government, so I’ll vote Conservative” without asking too many questions about what the Conservatives would actually do?

    And, more to the point, do Lib Dem members realise what they’ve allowed him to do in their name?

    Perhaps you should try reading some of my other posts. You will see in fact that I am one of the main opponents of Clegg in LibDem Voice. I think he has been a disastrous leader. I don’t believe in the Leninist model of political party, therefore just because I’m a member of the Liberal Democrats does not mean I accept uncritically the party line as passed down by the Glorious Leader. Why is it that most people in the country seem to think that’s how political parties work?

    Where I think Clegg got it wrong and got it badly wrong was to paint the coalition as a great success for the Liberal Democrats and to give the impression that the Liberal Democrats were almost equal in power to the Conservatives in it. Even worse, at one time the party president Tim Farron – who should have resigned in shame over this – was pushing the line that suggested the coalition was somehow 75% Liberal Democrat in policy. This has HUGELY damaged our party as it led to unrealistic expectations, which have led to the sort of attack you have made on us.

    The reality is that the distortions of the electoral system – backed, as I said two-to-one by the British people when the Liberal Democrats gave then a chance to express a wish to change it – meant there were not enough Labour MPs for a Labour-LibDem coalition to have a majority, so the only possible majority government was a Conservative-LibDem one, with the massive distortion in favour of the Conservatives (backed, as I shall keep on reminding everyone, by the British people two-to-one in favour, with many prominent Labour people arguing passionately in favour of this distortion) meaning the Liberal Democrats had only a small influence in it – and were and are unable to use the only weapon a junior coalition partner has to get its way “If you don’t give in to us, we’ll break the coalition and join the other side”.

    So, let’s have a sense of reality about this. We have the government the British people voted for. Why do you blame the LIberal Democrats for all it does when most people didn’t vote Liberal Democrat?

  • FormerLibDem 3rd Jan '13 - 2:23am

    Matthew

    Because without Lib Dem support the government couldn’t continue in office. The Tories wouldn’t have got their appalling NHS reforms through without Lib Dem support. Lib Dems have voted for the cut in top rate income tax – the Tories couldn’t have got it through on their own. I could go on and on but I won’t… You simply can’t abdicate responsibility as a party for policies which, but for the votes of your MP’s, would not be being implemented. You might only have 57 MP’s, but they are the 57 MP’s that give this God awful government a majority. You say we got the government we voted for? No. Show me the manifesto which outlined the NHS reforms? Who voted for that? Oh, yes, Lib Dem MP’s, that’s who!

    I’ve just re-read the paragraph above and it sounds very “ranty” so I apologise. Matthew, I genuinely appreciate your taking the time to answer my post in such a detailed way. I assume you are a left-leaning Lib Dem from what you have said in your post above (please correct me if I’m wrong) – so what is your answer re how the Lib Dems recover? i just can’t see how I can trust the party again – it’s like it morphed into a different political entity the day after I’d given them my vote. I mean, just watch Newsnight when Danny Alexander is putting in an appearance – it genuinely could be a Tory speaking. I’d better stop writing about Mr. Alexander or I’ll get cross again! Anyway, thanks for your response.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '13 - 3:15am

    FormerLibDem

    Because without Lib Dem support the government couldn’t continue in office

    Yes, but neither could any other party. As I said, the Conservatives have by far the most MPs, although that’s due to the distortions of the electoral system if people didn’t like it they should have voted to change it, which the LibDems gave them the chance to – but the people of Britain voted by two-to-one in favour of KEEPING the current electoral system after a campaign in which this distortion in favour of the largest party and against third parties was put as the best ting about our current electoral system.

    I don’t think you’ve really answered my point that sure the LibDems with 57 MPs could block all Tory policies, but so could the Tories with 306 MPs block all LibDem policies. Reality is, we have to have a government of some sort, and we only get one if someone gives. I wish we didn’t have the distortion which means there isn’t an alternative viable coalition with Labour, but not only do we have that distortion, the British people voted OVERWHELMINGLY in favour of it. So why moan at the LibDems and not at the British people for the way they voted which forced all this on us?

    On the NHS reforms and on income tax, LibDem Parliamentarians have argued, and I think they have been honest on this that they pushed as far as they could for a compromise. I’m afraid that’s what democratic politics is about – people come together and make a compromise which is somewhere between what either side would regard as their ideal. The Tories wanted highest rate income tax cut to 40%, the LibDems forced the compromise of it remaining at 45%. The NHS reforms are silly, but they are not the complete privatisation that many have wildly painted them as, and in fact were pushed quite a long way from that by LibDem amendments in Parliament. If people want the compromises to be more to what the LibDems want and less to what the Tories want, well here’s how to do it – 1) vote LibDem and don’t vote Tory 2) don’t support an electoral system like the one we have which is so biased in favour of the Tories and against the LibDems. Sadly, many more people voted Tory than voted LibDem at the last election, and anyone who voted Labour implictly supported the Tory government by supporting the current electoral system with its idea that distortion so that one of the two big parties wins a majority is better than proportional representation. Although in 2010 the distortion did not quite give this Tory/Labour ideal it was actually enough to reduce the LibDems to only a minor influence.

    You may think the LibDems should just sit back and block everything, but do you honestly think they would be cheered on for doing so? If you look at the right-wing press (that is MOST of the newspapers in this country), they’re constantly ranting at the LibDems and accusing them of stopping Britain being governed properly for what they are doing to modify what the Conservatives want to force on it. I suspect if the LibDems brought the country to a halt by making it ungovernable, which in effect is what you are asking them to do so when you say they should not try seeking compromise solutions, they’d be torn to pieces. If the LibDems had more backing for what they are doing, I actually think they could do more to force compromises out of the Conservatives. But when everything they do is completely ignored by those on the left who write the LibDems off as “gone over completely to the Conservatives” while written off in horror by the right who make out the LibDems are ” a socialist fifth column in the government” (see most issues of the Daily Mail, Times, Telegraph, Express) it does kind of make it hard going.

    I’m extremely unhappy with the party leadership for the way they’ve portrayed this, exaggerating the real influence of the party in the government which just ends up us taking the blame for Tory policies – to the point that though I retain my membership right now I’m refusing to go out and campaign for them. However, I think many of the attacks on the party from outside really haven’t understood the reality of the situation given by the balance in Parliament.

  • jenny barnes 3rd Jan '13 - 8:58am

    Former LibDem: Clegg now makes me so despondent … I think it’s because I, quite genuinely, feel betrayed by him

    Exactly. If I’d wanted to join a neo-liberal party I would have joined the Tories. I am still a member; at least we got to vote about the secret courts bill – although our MPs seem to be ignoring that.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    The problem is though that Nick Clegg did show some backbone by standing up to the Tories on a policy area which was in the coalition agreement.
    Because Tories scuppered the HOL reforms, Nick Clegg pulled the plug on the Boundary changes, He stood firm and proclaimed that Liberal Democrats will vote against them.

    This did not make the coalition collapse and result in an early election.

    So why could Nick Clegg not take this stance on the NHS and real terms cuts to welfare by only raising them by 1%

    In the electorates eyes, it appears as though Nick Clegg’s priorities are totally wrong, welding power and backbone when it comes to reforming politics, but totally rolling over bellly up when it comes to taking a stance against the NHS reforms and Welfare reforms.

    It gives the impression of a party that is self centred and only prepared to fight for policies that is in their own interest.

  • Julian Tisi 3rd Jan '13 - 2:34pm

    Re Matthew Huntbach

    Where I think Clegg got it wrong and got it badly wrong was to paint the coalition as a great success for the Liberal Democrats and to give the impression that the Liberal Democrats were almost equal in power to the Conservatives in it. Even worse, at one time the party president Tim Farron – who should have resigned in shame over this – was pushing the line that suggested the coalition was somehow 75% Liberal Democrat in policy. This has HUGELY damaged our party as it led to unrealistic expectations, which have led to the sort of attack you have made on us.

    This is perhaps the best analysis I’ve seen here on why the Lib Dems have done so badly and the huge mistake the party leadership have made over the first couple of years of this Parliament. I totally agree with the rest of your response too .

    My only point of disagreement is that I can understand why Nick and Tim and the party campaigns team tried to say the coalition was a success for us – they wanted people to be impressed and counter the “we’ve sold out and received nothing for it” brigade. In a way this was a lose-lose situation; damned if they claimed we weren’t winning out of the coalition agreement, damned if they claimed they were. A better strategy would have been a more candid approach, admitting where we weren’t getting our way, bragging when we were. Perhaps they chose NOT to do this because by bragging they wouldn’t get their way very often. The irony I believe is that in so many ways, Lib Dems have indeed had a huge influence in government – read a right wing paper any day if you don’t believe this – but only because they’ve allowed the Tories to “own” some of our policies .

    But by not taking the candid approach they’ve cost us badly in credibility and popularity. A big mistake.

  • FormerLibDem 3rd Jan '13 - 5:33pm

    Simon

    But, speaking as someone utterly disillusioned with this govt, who on earth is going to believe a word Nick says? The sooner the Lib Dems realise that Nick Clegg’s credibility with the electorate has been totally destroyed the sooner they will be able to try to recover whatever they can from the wreckage before the next election. Britain needs a Lib Dem party. Desperately. But, as things stand, and after what you’ve let the Tories do, I simply can’t support you next time. I could try holding my nose, I could try looking the other way… I just can’t support a party that has allowed that wretched NHS Bill to pass. This was your chance to show us what contribution the Lib Dems could make. Your leadership have blown it for you. It’s a shame, because I sense many of the Lib Dem rank and file are decent, and as dismayed by this horrible govt as I am.

  • FormerLibDem 3rd Jan '13 - 5:45pm

    Simon

    Exactly, your problem as a party. You are effectively telling former supporters that you and your Leader no longer even want to “aim their comments” at us! It’s a brave party that actively turns voters away. I voted for you lot last time! Good luck with your strategy in 2015!

  • @Simon Shaw
    Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that I disagree that Labour should tell us more of their policy, just that they do not need to, and since we now have 5 year fixed parliaments there is little to be gained by doing so so far from an election. As to whether it is working well, the fact that with a dreadful leader and even worse shadow chancellor they are still ahead in the polls is why they think it is working.

    The other thing that is missing is what the Lib Dems would be doing now if in power on their own. Challenging Labour to tell their exact plans, when they cannot implement them, leaves Clegg open to be challenged to do likewise. The Government have told us lots have changed since 2010 so presumably there will be a change in economic strategy. This road leads to problems for the Lib Dems as they would either have to adopt the Government position as their own, or expose a weakness to be chipped away at by the opposition.

  • John Broggio 3rd Jan '13 - 10:27pm

    @Matthew Huntbach “Cameron and his party won the election, they got 306 MPs” – in what sense is being the first loser, winning? They don’t have a majority on their own part (until you count the turncoats that gleefully thumped the table as they completed the privatisation process on the NHS).

    Back to Clegg’s question though, I’d like to see Labour cut the appalling cuts that this coalition is making to health, education and welfare. I’d like to see Labour commit to cutting austerity and cutting the number of unemployed to 0. I’d like to see Labour cut Trident. I’d like to see them cut the cuts to the HMRC workforce so that they can cut the £70bn of tax dodging pa to as close to £0 as possible. I’d like to see them cut the corporate benefit scroungers by cutting the workfare programme, zero-hour contracts and making all companies pay a decent, living wage. I’d like Labour to cut the amount chargeable in rent. I’d like Labour to cut the liberty of those responsible in the City & the banks for our sorry mess like they did in Iceland with their “bankers”. I’d like to see Labour cut Blair’s liberty for his invasion of Iraq. I’d like to see a cut in foreign ownership of our media. I’d like Labour to cut the monarchy (not at the neck, just abolish that system of governance, their property & income “rights” etc). I’d like to see Labour cut the number of outside jobs an MP may have to 0. I’d like Labour to cut all donations to political parties. I’d like to see them announce a cut to fracking and a cut in the amount of non-renewable energy production. I’d like to see them cut the number of schools not solely funded by & accountable to local authorities to 0. I’d like Labour to cut the number of train companies operating UK only routes to 1. I’d like Labour to cut the number of de-facto employers in the NHS to 1. I’d like Labour to cut the bishops from the House of Lords and the CoE from being an established church.

    I could come up with more but hopefully that’s enough cuts to be sharpening the odd axe…

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '13 - 10:33pm

    Julian Tisi

    My only point of disagreement is that I can understand why Nick and Tim and the party campaigns team tried to say the coalition was a success for us – they wanted people to be impressed and counter the “we’ve sold out and received nothing for it” brigade.

    Sure, I can understand why, but it hasn’t worked, has it? I do at least have consistency on this – I’ve been saying it since the coalition was formed, that while I reluctantly accept the balance in Parliament meant we had little alternative but to go into it, presenting it as a triumph and looking very please with ourselves over it would come out looking very bad for us on the ground. Go an look at some of my posts in 2010 here and see. I said it would look bad, I sad why it would look bad and I have been proved right, and all those smart PR boys who our party membership fees pay to produce our image have been proved as wrong as wrong could be. It all comes down to this idea, as Tony Greaves has just put it condemning the rubbish that comes from the top of our party, that politics can be worked like selling bars of soap. It can’t.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '13 - 10:39pm

    John Broggio, I don’t think the expenditure cuts you want to reverse are balanced by the extra revenue your suggestions would raise. Seriously, nice ideas, but in practical politics one does have to balance money in against money out.Which is the point here, lets see practical proposals and not just pipe dreams. Plus, as LibDems have already discovered, there’s a surprising amount of resistance that can get whipped up to things which sound good amongst fellow left-liberals. E.g. personally I’d like to see “tax inheritance at the same levels as income” added to your list, but listen out for the howls if you try that one.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '13 - 10:46pm

    FormerLibDem

    But, speaking as someone utterly disillusioned with this govt, who on earth is going to believe a word Nick says?

    Er, sorry, but you still do not seem to have got the point that much though I dislike the man, unlike you I can see that with 57 MPs out of 650 he’s not going to be able to get every jot and tittle of his manifesto through Parliament. So it seems a bit unfair to accuse him of being someone who can’t be believed if he doesn’t manage to do so. After all, Labour have 255 MPs and how much of their manifesto have they been able to get through? If you expect the LibDems to be able to force the Conservatives to drop all their policies and adopt LibDem ones and only then will you call Clegg “honest”, why don’t you ask the same of Milliband, as shouldn’t he find it easier with 255 MPs to push to get the Conservatives to change to support his policies?

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '13 - 11:02pm

    John Broggio

    @Matthew Huntbach “Cameron and his party won the election, they got 306 MPs” – in what sense is being the first loser, winning?

    In the “first past the post” sense – which the British people voted, last year, by two to one, to support. By two to one, the British people voted for the idea that we should have our current electoral system, whose supporters including many prominent Labour Party people, put as its best aspect the way it distorts representation so that the largest losing party (in the terms you use) gets enough MPs to form a majority and gain complete control. I do not remember a single Labour Party MP coming out and saying “No, I disagree with this sort of distortion, I disagree with the way it has given the Conservatives far more seats than their share of the vote and so given us a Conservative dominated parliament, and in fact ruled out a coaltion in which we would be the main paryty”. Anyone who think the current government is wrong because it is too dominated by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are too weak in it should have come out and voted to change the electoral system that led to this. But did they? No, some, bizarrely, used that as an argument to do the opposite, which made about as much sense as voting BNP as a protest against racism.

    Let me make this quite clear. The British people had a chance to vote AGAINST this rotten government LAST YEAR when they could have voted to reject the electoral system that twisted their votes and gave it to them. But instead they voted FOR that electoral system, and so then by simple logic, they voted FOR this very government. By two to one. Never forget that. Last year the British people voted in support of THIS government TWO TO ONE IN FAVOUR. With Labour MPs prominent in the campaign to support, in effect, THIS ROTTEN GOVERNMENT.

    Of course, I didn’t personally vote for it, I voted to change the system, but that’s democracy, as ever I was on the losing side.

    Just maybe next time people might THINK a little bit more deeply about what they are doing when they cast their vote …

  • FormerLibDem 3rd Jan '13 - 11:25pm

    Er, Matthew, I get the point. believe me, I have managed to grasp it (you have, after all, made it often enough). I just don’t AGREE with it. A crucial difference.

    To suggest that somehow Miliband is responsible for the conduct and policies of this government really is the last resort of the desperate. I’m no Labour fan, but at least Miliband (and his MP’s) voted against the disastrous NHS reforms, the cut in the top rate, and (shortly) the benefits freeze – which is a darn sight more than the Lib Dems have done. It is simply not good enough to whinge that the Lib Dems only have 57 MP’s. Those 57 MP’s are currently CRUCIAL. They give Cameron his majority. Clegg made a stand over House of Lords Reform and blocked the boundary changes as a result of the fracas – if he can make a stand over that, why not over the NHS? They Lib Dems CHOSE not to do so. That’s the real issue. The Lib Dems could have forced the health reforms down – they didn’t. The Lib Dems could have prevented the trebling of tuition fees – they didn’t. The Lib Dems could have voted down the cut in the top rate of income tax – they didn’t. They CHOSE not to. You sound as if the Lib Dems are just innocent bystanders! Essentially, the message is “don’t blame us – it’s the voters’ fault”. As a party you could pull the plug on this government whenever you choose. But you don’t. You CHOOSE not to. Therefore, it is legitimate to hold the party accountable for the choices it makes.

    Clegg made a stand over boundary changes because it is in the Lib Dems best interests. Shame he didn’t make a stand over the NHS in the country’s interest, isn’t it?

  • FormerLibDem, Hear hear. I agree with everything you have just said.

  • Matthew

    I think we all feel your passion for PR and get a good sense of your frustrations.

    But I do think you need to acknowledge that a massive factor in losing the AV vote was down to the actions of Liberal Democrats in government.
    Not just that the AV campaign was poorly ran.
    The main contributing factor to the electorate rejecting AV was because the party leadership failed to show how plural politics could work.
    Nick Clegg’s complete love’in with the Tories, embracing all policies and owning them as part of the parties policies and not just as a consequence of coalition, Failing to show distinction between the 2 parties and any details of negotiations.
    The picture it portrayed to the electorate was, well what’s the point of plural politics, how is this coalition different to a Tory Majority?

    That is the main contributing factor for losing the AV referendum, the fault lays at the feet of Nick Clegg and the leadership.

    I know you are no supporter of Nick Clegg and have expressed so many times on these forums.

    The best thing that could happen now for this party is for someone to put forward a motion of no confidence in Clegg at the next conference. The problem is though, there are to many people in the party that are still behaving like rabbits dazed in the headlights of oncoming traffic, hoping that if they just stand still they might just dodge the bullet.

  • Former LibDem

    Like Phillis I agree with you 100%. I too am a former LibDem voter who may as well voted tory, because that is what we have now – a right winged tory government.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '13 - 7:50am

    matt

    But I do think you need to acknowledge that a massive factor in losing the AV vote was down to the actions of Liberal Democrats in government.

    Yes, I acknowledge many people voted “No” because they thought this way. But, and sorry for repeating myself, what they did was about as sensible, and impresses me as an opponent of Clegg, about as much as someone who said “I voted BNP as a protest against racism”. Sorry, that is how I feel about anyone who voted “No” in the referendum as some sort of protest about Clegg. If that is you (anyone reading this) – this is what I think of you, I think of you as I would think of someone who said “I hate racism – so I voted BNP to protest against it”. OK – is that clear?

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '13 - 8:10am

    matt

    Nick Clegg’s complete love’in with the Tories, embracing all policies and owning them as part of the parties policies and not just as a consequence of coalition, Failing to show distinction between the 2 parties and any details of negotiations

    If you read any of the right-wing newspapers, you get a completely different picture. If you listen to the leader of the Tory group on my local council, you get a completely different picture. They are all complaining about Clegg and the LibDems being such a big block on what the Tories in government really want to do.

    You know, I’ve said it many times and I’ve been saying it since the coalition was formed, that I think the idea of “owning the coalition”, of looking so pleased about being in it, of grossly exaggerating the real influence we could have with 57 LibDem MPs to 306 Tory MPs – this tactic being pushed on us by the supposed PR (public relations not proportional representation gurus) who we ordinary party members are supposed to bow down and worship due to their superior knowledge on how to win votes (or at least sell bars of soap) – is as wrong as wrong could be, a tactical disaster.

    You know also, I have said it many times, that I never had any regard for Nick Clegg, that from the day he burst on the scene (pushed there by the right-wing press) as “obviously the next leader of the party”, that I warned against electing him for leader, that I called him “the great right hope”, that (unlike far too many others) I was NEVER taken in by his claims to be a “great communicator” or any of that rot.

    But I still think what you have written is very unfair. It does not take into account the real weakness the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary group has due to their low numbers and the lack of enough Labour MPs to use the alternative coalition threat. It does not take into account the way the Conservative Party has moved so much more to the right even since the days of Margaret Thatcher so that a compromise between their ideal and what the Liberal Democrats can do to stop it still looks very right wing. It does not take into account the way the Labour Pary has cynically backed the right-wing press in an alliance to do down the Liberal Democrat (because the Conservative leadership can’t do it directly) rather than backed up the party’s demands in the coalition so giving them a greater chance of being pushed through.

    So, yes, I too am VERY disappointed that the LibDems have not been able to achieve more (though, to be honest, I didn’t expect them to achieve more – look, I ‘ve been there, I’ve done this, at least at local level, I know how very difficult it can be to be a small party ground down between the other two). However, I think to claim that the Liberal Democrats have achieved nothing whatsoever that they’ve just given in completely to the Tories, is wrong. And when people like you keep saying it, it does NO GOOD WHATSOEVER to people like myself who are trying to push the Liberal Democrats back leftwards. You are making our job harder. You are helping the Tories. Yes, when people are doing something, but they are constantly being denounced by those who ought to be in favour of it, everything they do ignored – which is how I feel after this sort of attack from you – all it does is cause demoralisation.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '13 - 8:12am

    malc

    Like Phillis I agree with you 100%. I too am a former LibDem voter who may as well voted tory, because that is what we have now – a right winged tory government.

    There have already been several cases where the Tories have made big gains at local council level thanks to people like you, Malc. If, thanks to people like you, we get a Tory majority government next time, then we’ll see what a REAL Tory government is like without the restraints the Liberal Democrats are able to put on the current one – it will be very, very nasty.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '13 - 8:36am

    Former LibDem

    Er, Matthew, I get the point. believe me, I have managed to grasp it (you have, after all, made it often enough). I just don’t AGREE with it. A crucial difference

    Yes, well we may have to agree to differ.I hope I’ve said enough to show I’m no fan of Nick Clegg. Yes, I find him and those around him far too right-wing. Actually, yes, I do wish they could have been more forceful on many of these things. But, having done the job myself (well, leader of a Liberal Democrat group on a major council), I know how frustrating it is when people form outside who don’t have a clue how things work on the inside make completely unrealistic demands on you and denounce an abuse you because you are unable to meet them. So I’m reluctant to go down the route of accusing Clegg of having done nothing at all to stop the Tories, or of making glib remarks which suggest he could very easily have got then to support any Liberal Democrat policy you care to choose if he so wished.

    Let’s take one example. You say “The Lib Dems could have prevented the trebling of tuition fees – they didn’t”. Politics doesn’t work just by stopping things. If you stop a cut in one place, you have a budget, you have to say what you would do in its place. You cannot just say “Stop this cut” and nothing else. The Tories COULD have said “Right, we won’t treble tuition fees, instead we’ll cut the number of university places by a third”. Indeed I have a bit of inside info which suggests something like that (OK, not so dramatic, but still on the lines of “if you push us on this, the alternative will be large scale university closures”) was used by the Tories to get their way. The Liberal Democrats took the decision instead to work on the original Tory proposals, to make the loans absolutely guaranteed for anyone who got a university place, to make sure they would only be paid off when the graduate had sufficient income, to have them written off after a period of years, to have them not treated as normal loans, that they are actually very close in the way they work, if not in name, to a sort of graduate tax, and the loan payoff terms are so generous that the scheme now looks like it will actually provide more state subsidy to universities than what was there before.

    Maybe that was a bad tactic, they shouldn’t have tried to do this, they should have just taken the “no compromise” stand you want, and fallen off some sort of UK equivalent of the fiscal cliff the USA nearly fell off. Maybe. But I don’t think they are 100% bad people and indistinguishable from Tories to have decided instead to work for some sort of compromise, bearing in mind the reality is that the only compromise they will get is one that is supported by at least a large minority in the Conservative Party, even if the Tory right-wing is against it.

  • Actually, former Lib Dem, it isn’t the 57 MPs who are crucial, there have been times eg, on the crucial Tuition Fees vote, when the “backbench” Lib Dems have voted against the Government line. No, the crucial votes are the “front bench” Lib Dems, who at around half the total are the crucial swing group that give Cameron his majority. So you could argue that it is precisely in accepting the “bums on seats” offer in the Coalition Agrement which has led us to this. As Matthew well knows (I have said this often enough, too!) I supported the idea of coalition at first, even voted for it at the Birmingham special Conference. At that Conference several amendments were passed which sought to restrain Lib Dems in the Coalition, with regard to aspects of our principles and policy. I believe there were others proposed which were stronger, and might have had real effect, but were not allowed by Conference Committee. I have looked back since at the amendments, and it is easy how the Leadership could stand up now, hand on heart, and say they have stayed within the parameters agreed by the party. We trusted them to hold the line. They did not. Again, having written this so many times, the crucial area was the economics, which the Tories had disastrously wrong, which is now so obvious. If we still hold to our principles, we should have put up more of a fight initially, and refused to allow red lines to be crossed.

    Matthew’s argument that we we would have been subject to a Tory called second election if we hadn’t gone along, which they would have won comprehensively, is I believe wrong, and it has certainly been wrong since 2011 (if not late 2010). I am quite worried that we cannot argue any election message on Lib Dem principles now, but if the membership were of one mind on this the government line could be changed, and the Lib Dems would have strong reason to come out of the Coalition. The Tories wouldn’t call an election now – they would be comprehensively thumped. Labour haven’t the power to win a vote of no confidence, so they couldn’t do anything.

    So, Matthew, you are so wrong in saying that Matt and the others are weakening your position – their existence and strong voices are strengthening your position. As someone with plenty of campaigning experience over the years, like you as a radical Liberal, please take my word for it. These people need to be on side – if they just drift away, and make their comments in private without engagement in politics, the “right”will have won that particular struggle, and I know you don’t want that!

  • @Matthew

    I am disappointed that you feel my comments are an attack on you. That is not the case and I have always said on threads that I admire you.

    I think you are missing my points. It is has nothing to do with only having 57 MP’s and the electorate should have voted more Liberal Democrats into government, giving them a stronger foundation on which to stand up to the Tories.

    I think the majority understand that the parties hand was weakened when it came to the proportion of Conservative MP’s and Liberal Democat MP;s

    But it is not about numbers, it was about the “relationship” of the 2 parties whilst working in government together. Especially Nick Clegg who came across as a loyal puppy towards the Tories.
    We were given no details of negotiations on policies. When a policy was announced, it was normally a libdem who was sent out into the media to defend it and own it. Then come out with some nonsense like what would Labour do differently, when what should have been happening was, what liberal democrats would be doing differently if they were governing alone.
    It was that lack of transparency that turned off people voting for AV, not protesting about Nick Clegg, but they were voting on the governments record and the image portrayed of how the coalition was working, which lacked openess and transparency between the 2 parties.

    Governments across Europe that are in coalition together manage to operate in this way, airing differences in public, but that does bring coalition to it’s knee’s. Look at Germany for example.

    So my point is, because Nick Clegg wanted to keep all negotiations on polices a secret and hide any differences between the Tories and Libdems. That image is what turned the electorate off AV.

    You need to stop feeling as though these comments that are critical of the party leadership and Nick Clegg are being critical to you and taking them to heart. That is not the case at all,
    but in your frustrations of feeling that way, you seem to vent your anger towards the rest of us and seek to blame us for the failure of AV and I don’t think that is warranted IMO.

  • …………………………..When a policy was announced, it was normally a libdem who was sent out into the media to defend it and own it. Then come out with some nonsense like what would Labour do differently, when what should have been happening was, what liberal democrats would be doing differently if they were governing alone……………….

    So, so true!
    I felt Danny Alexander had become the official coalition spokesperson on R4…His ‘line’ was always so enthusiastic that it is impossible to believe that there was ANY reluctance by LibDem ministers in embracing policies which were, at least to my mind, pure Tory.
    The LibDem ministers seem either to have found their real values or to be so naive that they are being used ‘both ways’ by Conservative ministers….To those left-of-centre they are trotted out as enthusiastic believers in ‘Tory values’ and to the Tory right they are portrayed as the reason that more draconian measures are unable to be enacted; a win/win for the ‘Cameroons’ and a lose/lose for LibDems in the eyes of the general electorate.

  • Mathew Huntbach:

    “If, thanks to people like you, we get a Tory majority government next time, then we’ll see what a REAL Tory government is like without the restraints the Liberal Democrats are able to put on the current one – it will be very, very nasty.”

    Why would changing my vote from LibDem to Labour lead to a Tory government? Surely the voters who are leaving the party are those with mainly centre or left of centre views. The right of the party – I never realised there were so many – seem fairly content with Clegg’s leadership so would most likely remain LibDem. I don’t see much advantage to the Tories in this. As for LibDems puting restraints on the Tories, I just don’t see any sign of it. I have lived through many Tory governments, but I can’t recall any being more right winged than this coalition.

  • Don’t be naive, malc. Whether or not a Tory Govt gets in, these days, is most often down to the precise distribution of left of centre votes, nothing to do with the distribution (usually) of left vs right. Extremes like 1983 or 1997 the latter certainly had an effect, but generally, the more tactical voting by leftish voters, the weaker the Tory performance.

  • @Tim 13-so what are you suggesting?is it centre left voters vote for a centre right lib dems to keep the right out,comments from your leader and posters on here have made it clear you are not a centre left party and you are not a home for the left,I voted for lib dems in 2010 but never again,in 2010 I thought I voted for a centre left party and got a right wing Tory government so will not reward you my vote again

  • politically, it’s quite right that Mr Clegg should ask what Miliband and Balls would cut. But realistically, they don’t need to answer beyond saying it depends on the economy and any way thay could just commit to an emergency budget review.

    Matthew Huntbach,
    I share some of your frustration with former Lib Dem voters. But here’s my problem. Nick Clegg made it pretty clear in his conference speech that he does not want the Centre Left Vote and there are existing Lib Dem Members who believe that the Orange Book marked a sort of right wing coup, with the aim of forging a semi permanent alliance with the the Tories. This makes it very difficult to see why anyone with a centre-left / progressives / radical liberal perspective would actually vote for the party under it’s current leadership. Without that fundamental change , there is no reason for those lost voters to drift back and clobbering them for it doesn’t help matters.

  • Well you have a cut now – higher rate pension tax relief. Clegg is being slippery when he claims Labour want a higher than 1% raise in benefits coupled with a 1% freeze on those working in the public sector. As he knows, that is a freeze of 1% overall, which is weighted towards the highest paid management positions in the public sector. Also, it’s rather foolish to be clinging to that 1% benefits freeze anyway, since the rise is an automatic stabiliser effect given the current economic situation. It’s stupid economics but good politics for Osborne, at least he thinks it is.

  • FormerLibDem 4th Jan '13 - 5:10pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    “If, thanks to people like you, we get a Tory majority government next time, then we’ll see what a REAL Tory government is like without the restraints the Liberal Democrats are able to put on the current one – it will be very, very nasty.”

    What, and this wretched government isn’t? Not even Thatcher demonised the poor in the unbelievably crude way Grant schapps et al are trying to do. Claiming their real-terms benefits cuts are actually about “fairness”!!! And Nick Clegg is every bit as culpable – he backs this government’s ghastly welfare reforms. Which makes those who continue to support him culpable as well. My flabber was truly gasted when I listened to Osborne’s nausea-inducing budget speech – especially when he described the hard-working people leaving the house before dawn and leaving the scroungers next door to have a long lie-in. Doubtless, when they finally did awake from their slumbers, the scroungers (which, naturally, in Osborne’s foul eyes, includes anyone in receipt of benefit at all) would probably crack open a pot noodle, put their Nike clad feet up, and watch a few episodes of Jeremy Kyle. Probably on a state-of-the-art Sky television). The fact that six out of ten people in receipt of benefits or credits live in a WORKING house-hold doesn’t seem to have registered with the malevolent Bullingdon-Bertie who is charged with running our finances at present.

    How can you justify a cut in top-rate income tax, at the same time as introducing a freeze in benefit for the poorest and most vulnerable? And we are not talking scroungers here, we are talking about the low-paid, and (in the main) people who are desperately looking for work. Are you, as a party, going to let THIS happen as well? God’s teeth and gums, will SOMEONE in your leadership kindly develop a backbone? Or, at the very least, a sense of common decency?

    Matthew (and I don’t blame you personally – you are, after all, a severe critic of Clegg and his clique) you have to understand that many of your former supporters no longer see any difference whatsoever in Cameron and Clegg, Osborne and Alexander… I am reminded of the last passage in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. The animals gather outside the farm-house where the pigs and the humans are having a conference. And they look from the pigs to the humans and from the humans to the pigs and they can’t tell the difference any more. Sadly, and I say this with sadness not with glee, I know exactly how they felt.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '13 - 10:31pm

    Tim13

    Matthew’s argument that we we would have been subject to a Tory called second election if we hadn’t gone along, which they would have won comprehensively, is I believe wrong, and it has certainly been wrong since 2011 (if not late 2010).

    I am not and have never argued that a second general election NOW would result a comprehensive win for the Tories. Indeed, my position from the start was that though conditions forced us into the coalition, we should have allowed it to last only for long enough for people to see what today’s Conservative Party is like, and then pulled the rug on them.

    However, had the Conservatives formed a minority government in May 2010 because the Liberal Democrats refused to join a coalition with them, I think it very obvious how they would have played it. They wouldn’t have made any big expenditure cuts or any other policy they knew would be unpopular. They’d have proposed big cuts in taxation for ordinary people, as a bribe to get them to support the Tories. Anything going wrong with the economy would be written off as due to “We can’t govern properly as we don’t have a majority, thanks to the existence of the Liberal Democrats”. The Tories’ friends in the right-wing press would be tearing into the Liberal Democrats, accusing them of running scared from responsibility by refusing to take a share in government, of wrecking the country by leaving everyone in uncertainty as the Liberal Democrats dither on every Parliamentary vote, and the Liberal Democrats would be derided as losers, “what a cheek” it would be said “this silly little party with just 57 MPs, less than one in ten, thinks it can run the country by having the final say on everything, while refusing to take on the load of actual serious government jobs”. This would be let go for six months or so, then the net general election would be held. Only after that would you start seeing the sort of Tory policies you are seeing now, or actually, as they would win a majority, far more right wing ones, the sort of horrendous stuff the Tory right-wing is talking about now and moaning they can’t have because the LibDems won’t let them.

    I’m sorry Tim, and many other who have made a similar point to me on this issue, you really are very naive, you have no idea about how practical politics work, if you can’t see that would be the obvious way for the Tories to have played things in 2010 had the coalition not been formed. The Tories were in win-win situation, they would have got the credit if there was economic good news, blamed the instability caused by the LibDems and so taken none of the blame themselves for economic bad news.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '13 - 10:35pm

    Former LibDem

    How can you justify a cut in top-rate income tax, at the same time as introducing a freeze in benefit for the poorest and most vulnerable

    I don’t justify it. I believe it was wrong. But I can see it is pointless to try to argue with you as you are just repeating yourself, and this latest comment of yours shows you simply have not understood the point I was making.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '13 - 10:53pm

    Former LibDem

    Are you, as a party, going to let THIS happen as well? God’s teeth and gums, will SOMEONE in your leadership kindly develop a backbone? Or, at the very least, a sense of common decency?

    Yes, and if they did, you would still be saying “Nah nah nah nah nah, nasty dirty LibDems”, because you seem to suppose that unless the LibDems mange to persuade 306 Conservative MPs to drop Conservative policies and instead pickk up Liberal Democrats policies, Liberal Democrats are like Orwell’s pigs.

    Sorry, you need to read more widely. EXACTLY the same arguments you are making are being made on the Tory right-wing for saying they should just try and force everyone to adopt THEIR policies.

    I actually very much WOULD like the leadership of the Liberal Democrats to be stepping up the opposition on the government and making the threat to pull it down. But people like you who refuse to recognise what the LibDems have done to help stop what the Tories want that is still worse aren’t helping. You are making it worse. This lack of support for the Liberal Democrats is pushing the leadership into a bunker mentality rather than encouraging it to come out and act more strongly. Labour’s refusal to give support to the Liberal Democrats when the Liberal Democrats stand up to the Tories is also encouraging that bunker mentality, and making it harder for the Liberal Democrats to make headway.

    I sympathise very much with what you are saying, even if you cannot see it, the reason I am fighting back so hard is that I really do think the line you are pushing is stopping rather than encouraging what you and I both want to see happen. I really do think a bit of moral p for the Liberal Democrats form outside, some cheering in when we do achieve victories within the government will give the Parliamentary Liberal Democrats the courage to push for more, and it will end the bunker mentality the right-wing of the Liberal Democrats is using to ignore criticisms coming form outside, using the lines “these people are completely unrealistic, they are just out to get us, they aren’t worth listening to”.

    I may be wrong, we are entitled to differences of opinion, but at least give me the courtesy of accepting that I am genuine, rather than writing me off as another of Orwell’s pigs.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '13 - 10:58pm

    Glenn

    Nick Clegg made it pretty clear in his conference speech that he does not want the Centre Left Vote and there are existing Lib Dem Members who believe that the Orange Book marked a sort of right wing coup, with the aim of forging a semi permanent alliance with the the Tories.

    Yup, and I have made it clear that it is our party – the members – and not his. We are not a Leninist party where all members have to accept whatever is this week’s party line passed down by the Glorious Leader. I have also made it clear that while I will pay my fees to continue membership and work actively in the party to change it back to the sort of party I joined, I will not take part in any external election campaigning for the party while Clegg and those surrounding him continue to push the sort of line he pushed in his conference speech. I am, if you like, a Liberal Democrat on strike.

  • FormerLibDem 4th Jan '13 - 11:20pm

    Matthew, if you read my last paragraph again you will see that my accusation of Orwellian piggery (sic!) was aimed at Clegg and Alexander – not you. In fact, I specifically excused you from criticism at the start of that para.

    One last try: I am not expecting the Lib Dems to get 100% of their manifesto through. I have never said that they ought to be able to – and I would like you to stop pretending otherwise. Clearly that would be unrealisitic. However, the Lib Dems currently have the right of VETO. They should be using that veto to prevent the most toxic policies of a Tory party more aggressive and rightwing than I can remember for many a long year. They have NOT done this (E.G. The NHS reforms). They COULD have vetoed it – and they CHOSE not to.

    I know you feel it would be great if disillusioned people like me cheered on the Lib Dems regardless of our feeling of betrayal, but I have to tell you that I feel the Lib Dems conduct in government has been a cause for mourning not celebration.

    Why mourning? Because the Lib Dem leadership have done a great disservice to the noble cause of pluralistic politics. I have always been (like you) a supporter of PR. One of the reasons for my belief in electoral reform has always been that it would prevent one of the major parties forcing through legislation for which it had no (genuine) democratic mandate. The Poll Tax would be a perfect example. Thatcher would never have got that abomination through parliament if it had been a House of Commons elected under a broadly proportional system. With PR comes the high probability of coalition government – which, in turn, brings a high probability of compromise. Compromise is one thing, but utter capitulation is another. And that is what the Lib Dems have done. I genuinely DON’T feel that Clegg, Alexander and Laws are a restraining hand on the Tory tiller. Therefore, they’ll be getting no cheers from me.

  • “FormerLibDem They COULD have vetoed it – and they CHOSE not to.”

    Again, I agree 100% with you. It was also very bad politics because had they vetoed the NHS reforms many of their lost voters would undoubtedly have come back to them, as the saviours of the NHS.

  • FormerLibDem 5th Jan '13 - 12:43am

    Phyllis

    You are quite right. The NHS reforms were a perfect opportunity for the Lib Dems to show that they weren’t just “yellow Tories”. They could have drawn a line in the sand with perfect justification as Cameron had promised in his manifesto that there would be no major reorganisation of the health service. Had they dug their heels in and marched through the lobbies to defeat the NHS bill they would not be facing oblivion at the next election, which, as things stand, they are. Left-leaning voters could have clung to the idea that at least Clegg made a stand for the health service. Only… he didn’t, did he?

    I will never forget Miliband demanding in the Commons that all those who agreed with the NHS reforms on the government benches should raise there hands. The TV cameras switched immediately to Clegg, hand in the air and a rictus grin on his face. That was the moment my disillusion with the man turned to contempt.

  • Matthew Huntbach….. I find myself in the unique position of both agreeing with, and disagreeing with, almost everything you say.
    I agree with, and admire, your condemnation of the manner in which Clegg, Alexander have presented Tory policies and your contempt for the, “75% are LibDem policies” statement which, with the “Tuition Fees” fiasco will come back to haunt LibDem activists.
    However, I disagree with your ongoing assertion that “LibDem ministers are doing as well as they can given their number of seats”. I believe that Clegg, Alexander, Laws have found that, not only can they support the thrust of NHS, Welfare and Disability legislation, but they believe in it.
    Earlier posts have highlighted the NHS legislation…..Both elected LibDems and Peers voted overwhelmingly for a policy which the bulk of the party despised. Clegg accepted the ‘initial’ proposals and only showed interest in ‘changes’ after the disastrous local election results. I believe a new-low was reached when, at conference, Shirley Williams was wheeled out (like an aging Mrs. Thatcher) to save Clegg’s face ….

  • jenny barnes 5th Jan '13 - 9:47am

    See the deborah orr article in the guardian. Quote:
    It’s important to recognise that the coalition is sincere in its delusion. Accusing them of cynically employing “shock and awe” opportunistically to deliver “ideologically driven” cuts and privatisation in the wake of the banking crisis is no good. They really believe, I think, that neoliberalism has been stunted and retarded by the socialistic welfarism of the “big state”. They really believe that once the public sector has been curtailed, the private sector will move in to replace it with services that are more efficient and dynamic. It’s their genuine conviction that they are in the process of making Britain and the world a better place that makes them so dangerous.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/04/labour-spent-too-much-banks

  • Kenneth Moss 5th Jan '13 - 8:26pm

    I’d love to make comments. I’d love to be registered so that I can do so.
    And I’d love to know how to get registered. You seem to have missed out telling me how…..
    Meanwhile, I do hope your loquacious contributors would try to understand what wise Jenny Barnes has written at the end of this set of blogs. In particular, I wish people would stop and think through what would have happened had they done differently from what Clegg has done at each point. Remember, he has never had a job like that before, and is starting at the top of the tree. OK he has made mistakes, some of them bad ones. Could they do better? Obviously not! The courtesy of a little humility would add at least a feathering of weight to their criticisms.

  • Tim Farron is getting a battering below the line in ths Guardian article

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/05/lib-dems-force-for-good

    I know the loyalists on here seem to think the Guardian is a Labour paper but it has consistently supported the LD despite the hostility of the readership since the Coalition was formed.

    It is rare to see such consistent criticism and there is very precious defence of his position.

    I know what the response will be from Simon Shaw and his like but if there are no LD commenting in favour of the party on the Guardian. Where are they defending the party?

    Even on UKPR, probably the least partisan of the political birds, the LD are few and even they are waiting for post 2015.

    Does this not worry you at all ?

  • Guardian CiFers are an odd bunch, and can display a herd mentality. What is the point in getting too involved when hardly any neutral reader will move beyond the first page?

    Tim Farron has put his and the party’s message across; obviously it will enrage the Labour right on brigade who found it so painful to keep stum during the Blair /Brown years. For them (as for us I suppose), they will excuse unpalatable and regressive policies from Labour, but whatever the economic restraints allow no excuses for the Lib Dems. It is probably better that they be allowed their stampede and there is little to be gained by standing in their way.

    By the way bazzasc, are you one of them, as no one else seriously suggests that The Guardian are unrepentantly supportive of the Lib Dems. Guardian articles and editorials are often very critical, but any allowance they make acknowledging the difficulties of working with the Tories is seized on as evidence of unswerving support.

  • Martin

    Of course they are not consistently supportive but then why should they be. They supported the LD at the last election, and if I remember correctly, the 2005 one as well.

    Julian Glover was the main leader writer for ages and they are generally sympathetic to the party. This is definitely not the case with Labour. The commentators are more varied with Polly and Simon, Semus and Peter all providing different strands. Also, giving space to people like Farron. The editorials are usually much more supportive of the LD line though

    I would also ask you, if you cannot find any support at all in the commentators in the Guardian, where are they? The Mail, Telegraph, Sun?

    There are Tories who contribute on CiF, where are the people shouting for you?

  • Kenneth Moss 5th Jan ’13 – 8:26pm…………………….. Remember, he has never had a job like that before, and is starting at the top of the tree. OK he has made mistakes, some of them bad ones……

    Rather a back-handed compliment.
    I now have the vision of Clegg, in a Man. Utd. goalkeeper’s jersey , picking the ball out of his net for the umpteenth time, But let’s not criticise him; after all he’s never played football before. I’m sure Sir Alex would understand…

  • “Remember, he has never had a job like that before, and is starting at the top of the tree.”

    Well, doesn’t that underline the folly of electing as party leader someone who had been an MP for only two years? And you can hardly blame the membership, as that was true of both the candidates who presented themselves! I abstained in that election, and I feel that events could hardly have vindicated that decision more thoroughly.

  • Martin

    If you are so proud of Farron and your position as a party get on to CiF and engagewith them, change their minds! Why not go on UKPR which is very mature debating on the whole and there is a dearth of ‘loyalist’ LD.

    Posting on here with your own kind, some of you just slagging us ex-voters will not persuade anyone will it? There is an anti-LD bandwagon out there but there is very little defence from your party.

    Imagine Farron is reading the posts and sees not one of you guys on there supporting him. All he sees are disgruntled ex-voters. Some of them will be fibbing about that but I imagine most liberally-minded people gravitate towards the Guardian rather than the other papers.

    I post on here and receive hostility from certain posters but want to try to make the views of ex-LD voters known. Perhaps you could do the same for your party?

  • FormerLibDem 5th Jan '13 - 11:31pm

    Kenneth Moss

    “Remember, he has never had a job like that before and is starting at the top of the tree”.

    As if that is an excuse for breaking his tuition fees pledge, voting for the appalling NHS reforms, and supporting the cut in top rate income tax.!!! I can picture the next Lib Dem broadcast: “I know Nick has betrayed you all, but give the lad a break, he’s new to the job” – it’s not a very pithy slogan for 2015, is it?

  • Bazzasc, I did not say that the Guardian never support Lib Dem positions. Julian Glover as an evident Conservative supporter, used to talk up the coalition. His support was not always that helpful! Otherwise the Guardian is at best (for the Lib Dem Party) critically supportive, though a majority of its regular columnists are antipathetic.

    UKPR? – Never seen it – I have no idea what it is about .

    I doubt Fannon was writing in the hope of pleasing the Guardian CiFer crowd and doubt he thinks there is any point in getting involved with anonymous responses.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '13 - 12:07am

    FormerLibDem

    I know you feel it would be great if disillusioned people like me cheered on the Lib Dems regardless of our feeling of betrayal,

    No I wouldn’t.

    but I have to tell you that I feel the Lib Dems conduct in government has been a cause for mourning not celebration.

    Yes I agree.

    OK, so if after all I’ve written, you still didn’t expect what I wrote above, I do not know what else I can do to get across my point of view.

    Part of the problem seems to be (I mean not just particularly with you, but with anyone where I try to argue my line) that the Leninist view of political party just seems to have become so dominant that people take it for granted and actually can’t think of political parties and their membership in any other way. So, as soon as I say I’m still a member of the Liberal Democrats, on balance I’d vote for them at the next election, and I think they’ve come in for a lot of unfair criticism from people who have unrealistic expectations, or a somewhat naive view of politics, I get replies back which assume that means I must be a mad keen Nick Clegg fan, I must adhere to every word he says, that being the “party line”, and if he says something different next week, I’ll adhere to that, it being the new party line. No. I don’t work like that, never have done.

    Now, even after I’ve painstakingly explained my position, that I’ve never been a fan of Clegg, actually I’ve never liked the man a bit, I’ve always been somewhat to the left of the party, and am concerned about the push to the right that has taken place in recent years, there STILL seems to be this underlying assumption in people that I am arguing with that I’m saying what I am out of some sort of unthinking “party loyalty”, that I am somehow blind to reality due to my party membership, that in the end my ultimate line is “may party, good or bad”. It isn’t.

    One thing I do believe and believe very strongly is that I want an end to the two-party system in this country. You could sum it up (over-simplistic, but a good start) as the Conservatives disgust me for their policies and the Labour Party disgusts me for its attitudes. So I’m left with the Liberal Democrats as it IS the only viable third party, and has neither policies nor attitudes that disgust me. Which does not mean I like every aspect of its policies or attitudes. Another thing I believe and believe very strongly is that politics should not be about leaders and a party line passed down from the top. Political parties, to me, should be a network of like-minded people who co-operate because such co-operation is the only way to work to combat the power of wealth which otherwise can crush democracy even while in theory it still exists. I am horrified to find now that this last sentence of mine, which when I was younger was still sort of how most people, at least outside the Conservative Party, would have seen political parties, is now something which anyone younger than me regards with astonishment – if you say it they blink in disbelief, because they never ever thought that was what political parties were about. Yet to me this model of political party, with co-operation and the respect for others whose views may not be quite one’s own, is at the very heart of liberalism. When I say I am a “liberal”, that is what I mean. It is why I could never be in the Labour Party, because it does have too much of the Leninist tinge, the idea that there is only a need for one party of the left, and that anyone who is on the left but not Labour is some sort of traitor to the cause, and the idea that real politics is what takes place within the party rather than outside.

    I don’t think the Liberal Democrats should be cheered in government because there’s little to cheer about. I’m very sorry they have not been able to achieve more, I believe the party’s leadership has played it completely wrong, and yes I don’t at all like the way Clegg has surrounded himself almost exclusively with party right wingers. But I do realise the grim state of the country (which I put down to the disastrous effects of Margaret Thatcher’s governments and those of both parties afterwards which have kept on with the long-term damaging policies of Thatcher – it has all now come to a crunch that it was bound to come to) means even if the party was led by people I admired and the leadership had a good sense of party democracy, and a good sense of what worked in terms of publicity, and even if it was not just a junior partner in a coalition led by another party whose policies I detest, it would still be having to make very difficult decisions, some of which I would find unpleasant. So that starts to break me away from quite a few of the outside critics of the Liberal Democrats on the left.

    What breaks me away further, however, is that I do have this maddening ability to be able to see both sides of an issue. Maybe that’s also part of being a liberal. Therefore I simply don’t see it, as people on both sides I argue with often seem to see it, that one must either have the position that the Liberal Democrats are doing marvellously, that this is their time of triumph (Clegg and leadership loyalists – but people outside the party seem to assume ALL Liberal Democrats are like that), or the position that the Liberal Democrats have completely gone over to the Conservatives and become indistinguishable from them (almost anyone else, apart from Tories, who moan and moan and moan about how the Liberal Democrats are in control and stopping them doing what they want to do). So I look at it and feel, yes the Liberal Democrats have achieved something in government, what they have achieved is modest, but to some extent that’s because they are so small in number of MPs compared to the Tories. I would very much want them to push harder and achieve more, but I am also aware from my own experience of politics, that if you are in a weak position you are often forced to sacrifice so much of what you really want in order to get a compromise where you have some of it – and that actually sitting down and refusing to compromise on anything in the end wins you nothing. Having been there on a minor level (as a London Borough councillor for 12 years) I am very aware of how many hidden difficulties there are on the inside that people on the outside are unaware of, and that therefore much of the glib criticism of politicians which supposes there are easy solutions they are just failing to use, are unfair.

    So, on balance my view is that if what the Liberal Democrats in government have achieved could get at least some recognition, if there could be some realisation of how much they have stopped what is actually far worse that the right-wing of the Tories want, it would help push them forward and encourage them to do more. If there could be greater recognition that some of us in the Liberal Democrats are not happy with our leadership, that too would be of huge help to encourage us to put effort within the party to pull it back to where you and I want it to be. I can ABSOLUTELY assure you that when people like me find abuse aimed at us, abuse which just assumes ALL of us in the party are gung-ho Clegg supporters and think the coalition is the best thing that that has ever happened in the party, it just demoralises us, leaves us thinking “why bother?” and has been a major cause of the big drop-out of party membership. As a result, if those to the left drop out, the party just moves further to the right, and it gets even harder to try and push the change you and I want.

    Returning to the theme of this thread, if (as people like you seem to want), the Liberal Democrats are absolutely destroyed at the next election, then what? I think there is some possibility that a drop in the LibDem vote will give us a majority Conservative government – as it HAS in several local councils in the last two years. There are many places which elect Liberal Democrats, but are highly unlikely to elect Labour MPs or councillors (including MOST constituencies with LibDem MPs) where a loss of a big part of the LibDem vote to Labour or minor parties or to abstain will result in the Conservatives winning. The greater possibility is, however, a majority Labour government. That is why the question MUST be asked of Labour “What would YOU do?”. As has been said by others in this thread, they don’t need to answer that question because they are winning support without answering it. Well, that’s the Leninist line all along, isn’t it – that all that matters is power, so if you can win power without having to get real support by explaining your policies and getting people to agree with them, that’s the best – who cares about the people, “we are THE PARTY of the people by definition and we must have power because of that and what we do will always be right because of that”. However, to most people in this country it’s the two-party system line – you have a rotten Tory government in, you put them out and put Labour in; you have a rotten Labour government in, you put them out and put the Conservatives in. And that’s it – forever. THAT is what the people of this country voted for when they voted “NO” to AV – Labour/Tory/Labour/Tory/Labour/Tory/Labour/Tory/Labour/Tory for ever and ever amen. But THAT’s how we got this rotten government we have now in the first place, because too many people in this country thought Labour wasn’t doing well, we needed a change, and the ONLY change that was possible was to vote Tory. So they voted Tory without even bothering to ask too many questions as to what policies they actually stood for.

    If we get Labour back in simply on the swing of the two-party system, then what? Will it reverse all the policies you find so horrible about the coalition? No. You think by destroying the Liberal Democrats and putting Labour back in, all will be wonderful? You know it won’t – but it will get us stuck back into the two-party system rut with no prospect ever for real change. Labour moan about the cuts, but they have been even more cowardly than the LibDems in putting forward any realistic alternatives. There is plenty of talk within the Liberal Democrats about alternatives, the “Mansion Tax” being just a timid start at making then public – but they have been shot down because Labour won’t give any support to them, in fact Labour are happy to join the right-wing press in denouncing them.

    I do feel the prospects for real change in this country rely on the Liberal Democrats continuing to have a healthy existence. That is why, on balance, I continue to support the party, even if I don’t support its current leader.

  • Is Glover a Tory?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/05/lib-dems-force-for-good

    He seems like one to me but I think he is considered to be in the orange rather than blue camp. Difficult to tell you lot apart now though!

    Tell you what – you ignore all theat goes on outside LDV where you can grumble about how unfair the world is for you all and refuse to engage on any of the political/news discussion sites. There is no defence of the LD anywhere. Where are your supporters? It is hammer and tong between the Tories and Labour so which mast do you LD hammer your flag to? Is it because you actually don’t agree with any of the policies you pretend to support?

    Try out UK polling report. You will find it a more civilised debate than most with partisan comments discouraged. There are very few LD on there and those that are are not loyalists. If your policies are so coherent come and engage on there if you hate CIF so much

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '13 - 12:18am

    annie

    However, I disagree with your ongoing assertion that “LibDem ministers are doing as well as they can given their number of seats”. I believe that Clegg, Alexander, Laws have found that, not only can they support the thrust of NHS, Welfare and Disability legislation, but they believe in it.

    Sure, although when I’ve heard Danny Alexander speaking and seen stuff he’s written he doesn’t come over to me quite like that. David Laws does – I’m afraid he always strikes me (although Michael Meadowcroft has been trying to persuade me otherwise – Michael, if you are reading, I do mean to reply) as someone who would be in the Conservative Party if it were not for being unhappy with certain elements of it in the sexual issues.

    Perhaps I should have made that “Parliamentary party” rather than “ministers”. I don’t like the way Clegg’s appointments are so biased to the right of the party. However, I do still feel people who have been throwing abuse at the Liberal Democrats for not achieving much have an unrealistic view of the way politics works, and don’t understand how much of it has to be done through compromise. I also feel many people have not taken on board just what a difficult position the May 2010 general election left the Liberal Democrats in, probably the worst outcome it could have been for THEM (although a majority Conservative government would have been the worst outcome for the country, which is why I so despair when the country in effect backed that outcome, 2 to 1 in favour when they voted “No” in the AV referendum when the “No” campaign made its main plank the idea that the biggest minority party should always be able to exercise complete power as being the biggest means you are “first past the post”).

  • Just skimmed over Matthew’s last post and, not surprisingly, I agree with him about Laws

    The most pertinent point though is the one about the situation post 2010 GE. You can argue about whether coalition was the best option and disagree/ agree but it is clear the decision faced by the leadership was probably the most difficult one possible as Matthew says.

    What astounds me though is how badly they planned it. As an outsider I think it was a difficult situation but one that Clegg and Laws especially were happy about. It was also the one that was the most probable of any hung Parliament option based on the polls. It was always likely Labour would be in a very weak position and not be able to form a coalition with the LD. In a scenario analysis I would think a LD/Tory coalition was the most likely.

    Why then was it so badly executed. The what was not really the problem but the how was terrible. Haven’t the LD spent years preparing for this situation but when it arrived they have acted like bunnies in the headlamps. Didn’t they discuss the problems of collective responsibility or differentiation because it doesn’t seem like it.

    I do a lot of risk analysis in my job and it seems that the there has been now thought of potential problems a coalition with the Tories would bring and how it should be mitigated. For that the. Leader should be fired!

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '13 - 12:31am

    Martin

    Otherwise the Guardian is at best (for the Lib Dem Party) critically supportive, though a majority of its regular columnists are antipathetic.

    I agree, and I find bazzasc’s idea that has the Guardian has “consistently supported the LD” to be astonishing. I don’t recall a single article in the Guardian since the coalition was formed which has properly acknowledged the difficulty the Liberal Democrats faced due to the Parliamentary balance following the 2010 general election. Instead it continue to churn out articles which suggest the coalition was a free choice, entered into for reasons of ideological coming together, and therefore damage the Liberal Democrats by agreeing with the criticisms of its attackers.

    Actually, in writing the above, I think I can see where bazzasc is coming from. I think we differ because he seems to think “Covered the Liberal Democrats in a way consistently biased towards Nick Clegg’s view” means “consistently supported the Liberal Democrats”, whereas I tend to see it the opposite way round. The problem with the Guardian is that it never gives any support to the left in the Liberal Democrats, in fact it hardly gives the Liberal Democrat left a mention. So it seems to think “balanced” coverage of the party means running one article supporting the Liberal Democrat right-wing, and another article attacking the Liberal Democrats from the Labour side.

  • Matthew

    I read the Guardian every day and it is very sympathetic to Clegg and the Coalition in the editorials. It also tends to be anti-Miliband. It has encouraged the readers to vote LD at the last two elections.

    Glover was the leader writer and he seems to be closer to your party than the Tories.

    The columnists are different but they are clearly identified and don’t speak for the paper. That is left to the editorials.

    You can make the argument that Clegg is not the Liberal Democratic Party but if that is the case then who is? It’s is the left who are deciding what policies to implement.

    I respect you as a principled person and someone I listen to but your last post was pushing credulity to the limit. It may be supporting the right-wing of your party but that is the wing calling the shots at the moment. Not what you or I want but it is the reality

  • In post above I said it was the left making the decisions – obviously not the case.. Meant to say right

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '13 - 12:46am

    bazzasc

    I do a lot of risk analysis in my job and it seems that the there has been now thought of potential problems a coalition with the Tories would bring and how it should be mitigated. For that the. Leader should be fired!

    I agree, and I have been saying that since the coalition was formed. A difficult position was made far worse by poor leadership.

    The leader of the Liberal Democrats continue to ignore the great store of wisdom and experience in his own party and relies instead on shallow public relations people who have no ground level election campaigning experience, and are lightweights who had they been born on a council estate rather than with a silver spoon in their mouths would be flipping burgers at best.

    In fact there is a HUGE amount of experience of balance-of-power situations at local government level in the Liberal Democrats. Many of us have long experience of careful planning through the many different scenarios, or of the sort of negotiation and presentation that is needed when the time arrives and you do find you are sitting in a “hung” council. Those of us who have been members of the party for many years and have thought about the possibility of a coalition in each of the general election we’ve been through, rather than supposed there was some special “Clegg coup” factor that brought about this one with us as “small furry animals cuddling up to dinosaurs” who had never even contemplated such a thing, could easily see what was coming and could see Clegg persistently making the wrong moves. Once the balance of the 2010 Parliament was determined, Clegg should have turned first of all to the leaders and past leaders of Liberal Democrat council groups who have successfully worked through “hung” councils. But he did not. He’s a Westminster Bubble person who thinks the only people that matter, whose advice is worth considering, are fellow Westminster bubble people, people with his sort of social elite and top business background.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '13 - 12:53am

    bazzasc

    I respect you as a principled person and someone I listen to but your last post was pushing credulity to the limit. It may be supporting the right-wing of your party but that is the wing calling the shots at the moment. Not what you or I want but it is the reality

    It has ALWAYS supported the right-wing of the party and ignored the left, as if did in the days of the Liberal-SDP alliance when it reported every aspect of the Alliance with a massive bias to the SDP side. Can you give me any case where the Guardian has run a major comment article from the point of view of someone to the left of the Liberal Democrats? Well, I’ll throw away modesty and won’t be too rude about them as they have been kind to me on this – just about the only stuff they ever run from the Liberal Democrat left is the odd letter from me or Tony Greaves. Right-wingers, such as the CentreForum crowd, however, are very often indulged with lengthy articles on the editorial pages to put their point of view.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jan '13 - 12:56am

    By the way, anyone who replies that they gave Tim Farron space, really hasn’t been following what I’ve been saying. Supposing that **** who was so much part of the right-wing “75% of Liberal Democrat policies implemented” line is the champion of the left in the Liberal Democrats is an insult.

  • Steve Comer 6th Jan '13 - 1:57am

    Matthew makes a number of good points in response to ‘former Lib Dem, ‘ I haven’t the time or energy to respond to all of them, but two key errors were made in the early days of the coalition.
    The first one was in not looking to the experience of the Liberal Democrat local Government family who’ve had so much experience of ‘no overall control’. In Bristol (where I’m a Councillor) the Lib Dems have been the largest Group since 2005, and in the past ten years we’ve experienced an all-party administration, Labour minority control (twice – once with Tory support) ) Lib Dem minority control (twice) and a slim Lib Dem majority. I think we know quite a bit about negotiations to build coalitions and get key policies through. There are at least a dozen Lib Dem Council groups who have similar recent experience.
    The second issue is that they trusted the ‘Westminster bubble’ too much, and some Ministers on both sides of the coalition of clearly gone native in a way that would have delighted Sir Humhprey! There were some Lib Dems who knew quite a bit about some of the key Civil Service mandarins and some of the dysfunctional departments, yet offers of help were rebuffed by the leadership, There is also a danger that too much reliance has been placed on the SpAd class, most of whom are very well qualified academically, but just don’t have the practical experience of getting elected, or just simply dealing with the day to day concerns of ordinary people. I’m afraid too many MPS get too comfortable in the SW1 ‘bubble.’ If you go out campaigning with some of them,you’ll see they can’t leave their I-phones and BlackBerry’s alone! There bodies may leave Westminster to do their bit in elections, but mentally they are still there,

    ‘Former Lib Dem’ talks about his nephew and tuition fees, but in reality what has been introduced is a Deferred Graduate Tax. It doesn’t get paid back until someone earns £21,000 p.a. In many ways its a much better deal that the Labour scheme my graduate daughter is on (where repayment starts at £15,000). Nick and Vince should have insisted on using the word ‘tax,’ Tories opposed this, but two years on, I doubt the wording would have been an issue.
    He also attacks the NHS reforms, but is not specific about what he doesn’t like. The Health Centre in my area is about to start an expansion which was delayed for 4 years under Labour. This will mean many additional ancillary services will provided under one roof in a modern premises, and an improved service for those I represent – hardy the gloom & doom we’re being warned about. The NHS may provide good health care, but it has also been a massive bureaucracy with little or no accountability. I’d like to have seen much more local democratic control, but the Health & Wellbeing Boards are at least a start, and public health coming back to local government is long overdue.

    When I read ‘Former Lib Dem’ I’m reminded of the Labour Student I sat next to at a Mayoral Hustings in November. “Coalitions don’t wark” he said firmly in his plummy Public School accent. “So, you’ve dismissed most of the Democracies in Europe then!” I responded. The reality (as John Curtice and others have pointed out) is that the electoral arithmetic may mean that ‘no overall control’ is a feature of UK governance at all levels. Labour desperately want to wish us back to the safe stale politics of the 1950s where 96% voted Labservative. However, the UK has become politically pluralist, and Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, UKIP, Plaid Cyru and the SNP are not going to disappear to give Labour a clear run against the Tories – ever.

  • FormerLibDem 6th Jan '13 - 3:11am

    Steve

    Not sure how I’m reminding you of the plummy voiced (not sure why that was so important to you) Labour student at the Mayoral hustings with regard to Coalitions. Here’s what I said to Matthew on this very thread:

    “… The Lib Dem leadership have done a great disservice to the noble cause of pluralistic politics. I have always been (like you) a supporter of PR. One of the reasons for my belief in electoral reform has always been that it would prevent one of the major parties forcing through legislation for which it had no (genuine) democratic mandate. The Poll Tax would be a perfect example. Thatcher would never have got that abomination through parliament if it had been a House of Commons elected under a broadly proportional system. With PR comes the high probability of coalition government – which, in turn, brings a high probability of compromise. Compromise is one thing, but utter capitulation is another. And that is what the Lib Dems have done. I genuinely DON’T feel that Clegg, Alexander and Laws are a restraining hand on the Tory tiller…”

    Hardly the words of a staunch defender of the old two-party system. I dearly WANTED this coalition government to work. I dearly WANTED it to be a new way of conducting politics. My disappointment with Clegg and co is that they have been so inept at it. They have NOT stopped the Tories doing their worst. This is one of the most unpleasant govt’s I can remember – for all the reasons I have given in posts above.

    It is just too easy to dismiss me (and many like me) who are disillusioned with the Lib Dems as “Labour” partisans. But I’m not even a Labour supporter. “Former Lib Dem” – the clue is in the title. Your party will need left-leaning voters like me in order to hold Lib-Dem / Conservative marginals come the election – and you have no convincing narrative whatsoever re trying to get us back into the fold. In fact you are pushing us further away.

  • daft h'a'porth 6th Jan '13 - 5:23am

    @Steve Comer
    “‘Former Lib Dem’ talks about his nephew and tuition fees, but in reality what has been introduced is a Deferred Graduate Tax. It doesn’t get paid back until someone earns £21,000 p.a. In many ways its a much better deal that the Labour scheme my graduate daughter is on (where repayment starts at £15,000). Nick and Vince should have insisted on using the word ‘tax,’”

    Just going to point out for the n+1th time, where n is an irritatingly large number for all of us (including me, I really wish this would sink in), that not everybody is eligible for a loan. Since not everyone is eligible for a loan, there really are a bunch of people looking at either a) raising a metric ****load of money up front or b) giving up on the idea of education as a way forward. Believe me, these are tuition fees. Whether or not you are offering a proportion of the population Buy Now Pay No Money Yet, they’re still tuition fees. No sophistry will change that.

    Returning to the topic of this thread, I don’t see why Labour need to tell Nick Clegg anything, especially on the basis of a challenge made to them in a paper with a circulation of 400,000 people and no publicly visible online edition. It’s just preaching to the choir.

  • Bazzasc: when I write “Glover is a Conservative” that is not some sort of jibe as in ‘Peter Mandelson is a Tory’ sort of thing. Glover has gone off to be a speech writer for Cameron; this was made clear by him on the Guardian pages when he left. Not that it really matters, but I think I saw somewhere that he is Matthew Parris’ partner. I think in Tory parlance both would be described as ‘wets’.

    Did I say I hate CiF? I could not say that, as I often follow it. It can be a bit of a black hole at times though and only something to engage in when you really have idle time on your hands. They also need to sort out the new format which has glitches on many browsers (or is it the systems?). Nesting can be a way of making sense of very long threads, but probably only if they collapse the threads. However you look at it though if there are many hundreds of comments hardly anyone will attempt to read through them all.

    I agree with much of Matthew’s comments: The Guardian’s political position is not far off unreconstructed New Labour, A large number of CiFers would love The Guardian editorials to continually lambast Clegg in tribal fashion. This is not their style. Some of their other regular commentators will do this though.

  • Martin

    I think you are making a mistake – Cameron is the PM of a Coalition Government so it is consistent for a LD to be a speech writer for the PM. Or are you saying that the Government is Tory? Glad you agree with me if you are.

    Also, what does his partner’s politics have to do with it? Have we moved backed to the Victorian Age?

    I agree with what Matthew said that the support for the LD seems to be focused on Clegg and his cohort. The problem is that he, and perhaps you, forget is that this is currently your party’s position.

    The Guardian supported the LD under the leadership of Clegg. Your party supported the Coalition when it can to vote. The Guardian, editorially, has continued to support the LD position in the Coalition and regularly uses the editorial pages to support that.

    Now I read on here that this is not the ‘real’ LD – wake up and smell the coffee guys – this is the LD party I, and others, will not be supporting in 2015.

    Do I support the party of Matthew (which I would like to do) or the one of Simon Shaw. At the moment the latter is in the ascendant so I will not be voting for you

  • Commenting reminder: Please remember to respect our moderation policy which basically asks people to be polite, be on topic and be honest (ie don’t pretend to be more than one person or to be someone you are not).

    As you can see from other comments published on the site, wide-ranging and robust debate is fine (including comments critical of the party or the site). However, we do ask for little bit of civility – and the chances are you’ll find that makes your points a little more effective at persuading others anyway!

    If in doubt, a good rule of thumb to remember is to play the ball, not the person.

  • Steven Rhodes 6th Jan '13 - 3:30pm

    @FormerLibDem I can understand your disappointment, and your nephew’s. I am still a Lib-Dem member, but I don’t pretend I haven’t thought of leaving. Especially as I have involvement in Higher Education. But I have stayed because after many years as a member, I have seen that the Lib-Dems are different and their policies on increasing the tax threshold, pupil premiums and the environment (against sustained Tory onslaught), while in government have shown this. Then there is Lords Reform, wrecked by the Tories, but betrayed by Labour. Do I like the cuts? No. But I knew I would get cuts whoever came to power (excepting the Greens) and I believed, and believe, that the state of our economy sadly demand it. I would instinctively prefer to see some heavy spending on British Industry – but I have no confidence that the UK industrial base is robust enough to make jobs out of it; and that is not the fault of Vince Cable. The choice any voter has always between bad and worse – but (excepting the likes of the BNP) the more parties the better.

  • Steven Rhodes 6th Jan '13 - 3:34pm

    @daft h’a’porth As education grants were not eligible for everybody either, what’s your point? It was Labour who introduced fees (which they promised not to do) and top up fees (which they also promised not to do) despite having a majority both times.

  • Stephen Rhodes ” It was Labour who introduced fees (which they promised not to do) and top up fees (which they also promised not to do) despite having a majority both times.”

    The LibDems were supposed to be different from the “old parties” .

  • daft h'a'porth 6th Jan '13 - 8:04pm

    @Steven Rhodes
    “As education grants were not eligible for everybody either, what’s your point? It was Labour who introduced fees (which they promised not to do) and top up fees (which they also promised not to do) despite having a majority both times.”
    1. My old mum always says ‘Two wrongs do not make a right’. ‘But muuuum, Bobby did it first!’ is not an excuse.
    2. For most people, £9k upfront is (blatantly, for all of those who are aware of average salaries in this country) a much larger problem than £3k upfront. Which was already a massive problem. And I was not a fan of that either. Which is why I have always voted for people who claimed to share my viewpoint on this issue. So what’s your point?
    3. What Phyllis said. As adults we are responsible for our actions. Let us not pretend that ‘all the other kids did it first’ is, or should ever be, a get-out-of-jail card.

  • David Allen 6th Jan '13 - 9:44pm

    Matthew,

    Snappy one liners, one suspects, are not generally your strongest suit. However, you came up with a cracker here:

    “I am … a Liberal Democrat on strike.”

    That’s what we need. We need people to stand up and be counted as strikers. We need mass mobilisation. We need to put enough pressure on the management to make them concede our demands.

    OK, I can’t resist the joky language, but actually I’m dead serious. We need to get beyond the talk and the handwringing, and do things that will bring change. Organising a strike makes a good start. Who else will join the strike?

  • daft h'a'porth 6th Jan '13 - 10:21pm

    @Simon Shaw
    Please reread the thread to which you are responding, as you appear to be missing the point.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '13 - 12:00am

    FormerLibDem

    I dearly WANTED this coalition government to work. I dearly WANTED it to be a new way of conducting politics. My disappointment with Clegg and co is that they have been so inept at it. They have NOT stopped the Tories doing their worst.

    One only has to listen to Tories grumbling amongst themselves about the Liberal Democrats in coalition, or the constant attacks on the Liberal Democrats in coalition from the right-wing press to see that the last sentence of yours I’ve quoted just is not true. However, one of the reasons many don’t realise it is that they haven’t been following politics closely, or they don’t read the right-wing press or Tory discussion outlets, and so they just don’t realise how far to the economic right the Conservative Party has moved even since it was last in government. It’s been something of a balancing act, since there’s also movement to a more liberal position on some social issues – which the old-style Tory right is up in arms about. Note though that move has occurred only when it doesn’t conflict with extreme right-wing economics. Gay marriage is the most obvious example – enables them to say “Hey, we aren’t the bad old Tories any more”, but it doesn’t stop the fat cats in their tracks. It would probably be unfair to say these liberal positions have been adopted purely as a smokescreen to hide the otherwise drift to the extreme right in the Conservative Party, but it has certainly done that trick. Aided and abetted, I am sorry to say, by many on the liberal side of the commentariat who have an obsession with this sort of fringe issue, and live very comfortable lives, have themselves a background in the wealthy social elite, and so while they may regard themselves as “left” simply don’t have the life experience to see just how appallingly illiberal, in the sense of increasing enslavement by poverty, ignorance and conformity, are almost all of the core policies of today’s Conservative Party. So there’s been too much writing up of Cameron as some sort of “moderate” and “liberal” when he is actually very far from either. At least, with “liberal” meaning what “liberal” meant when I joined the Liberal Party. So, as it just has not been appreciated how far to the right the Conservatives have moved, it is not appreciated how much has been done to stop the worst because stopping the worst still looks like right-wing economic Conservatism if one does not appreciate that what was right-wing economic in Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party is left-wing fringe now.

    However, apart from that I find what you’ve written here to be VERY telling, and sorry to put it this way, but it confirms my diagnosis of naivety. Anyone who’s had any experience of difficult balance-of-power situations in local government could have told you, no it wouldn’t work out like that. The Liberal Democrats were in an extremely weak position, owing to their small number of MPs compared to the Conservatives and to not being able to play off an alternative coalition with Labour as a negotiating tactic to get their way. It ought to have been OBVIOUS that this was going to be a Conservative government with some fringe LibDem influence, not “a new way of conducting politics”. Anyone who didn’t realise that Clegg’s position on the right-wing of the Liberal Democrats, his lack of political experience and deep upbringing in the Liberal Democrats, and his being far closer to the business elite than to his own party’s grassroots membership was likely to mean he’d cave in on too much of Tory economics had “mug” written on their forehead. The bias to the right in his appointments, no attempt whatsoever to create a balance between the party’s tendencies, the “Clegg coup” as it was put, ought to have been enough to let anyone who still hadn’t twigged that if you were someone who supported the Liberal Democrats from the left, this would be a government to boo not one to cheer on. That was my position from the start. So perhaps I am more accepting the coalition now because I never had the sort of illusions you had about it in the first place.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '13 - 12:12am

    David Allen

    Snappy one liners, one suspects, are not generally your strongest suit.

    I would be able to be much more brief if I had more time.

    However, you came up with a cracker here:

    “I am … a Liberal Democrat on strike.

    I confess it wasn’t entirely original from me, I nicked it from former RC priest Michael Winter (who I knew well when he was the RC chaplain at Imperial College where I did my first degree) and changed “Catholic” to “Liberal Democrat”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '13 - 12:31am

    bazzasc

    I agree with what Matthew said that the support for the LD seems to be focused on Clegg and his cohort. The problem is that he, and perhaps you, forget is that this is currently your party’s position.

    Isn’t that somewhat self-fulfilling? The Guardian’s coverage of the Liberal Democrats continues to promote the views of its more right-wing elements and to report what they say as if it is what the party is all about, and then you say it’s correct to do so because that seems to be what the party IS about.

    The Guardian supported the LD under the leadership of Clegg.

    Yes, its backing for Clegg in the leadership contest, and its joining in with the right-wing press in puffing up this person who we can now was nothing like how they painted him as the “great communicator” with leadership skills well above anyone else in the Parliamentary party shows very well its bias.

    Your party supported the Coalition when it can to vote. The Guardian, editorially, has continued to support the LD position in the Coalition and regularly uses the editorial pages to support that.

    No, it has supported the Clegg position. It writes up what Clegg says and feels as it it is almost universal opinion in the party, even when it is very contentious and opposed by many activists. I myself have had to write several times to the Guardian (and they did publish it once) to ask them to make clear that when they say “Liberal Democrats” they should say “Nick Clegg and those immediately surrounding him”.

    I appreciate the Guardian does not have one universal view, but its regular contributors seem to be either Labour Party supporters who would never have a good word for the Liberal Democrats, or supporters of the Cleggies in the Liberal Democrats, who also would never have a good word for the Liberal Democrats, apart from those Liberal Democrats who are people like themselves.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '13 - 1:11am

    FormerLibDem

    Your party will need left-leaning voters like me in order to hold Lib-Dem / Conservative marginals come the election – and you have no convincing narrative whatsoever re trying to get us back into the fold. In fact you are pushing us further away.

    It is a great pity that English has lost the singular/distinction in the second person, because I read that as an attack on ME personally, though I appreciate you may not have meant it that way.

    Have I still not said enough to convince you I am not a great supporters of Nick Clegg, and that I agree with a lot of your criticism of the man and what he’s been doing to my party? Although I appreciate by “you” here you probably meant the Liberal Democrats as a whole and not me, Matthew Huntbach (it would have been clearer if we still had “thou” when you did want it to mean me), I find even your use of the second person as indicative that you STILL have a Leninist view of politics, that you STILL view me as some sort of stooge who writes what he does primarily because he is a fanatical party loyalist who could never believe his party could do wrong.

    Look, I don’t need convincing, as you seem to think I do, that the Liberal Democrats have lost a lot of support on the left. What I do need is an argument that if we stop promoting the coalition as some wonderful new development and start being honest that it was a rotten compromise we were forced into by the distortions of the electoral system, that if we make more clear we have not abandoned the liberal left policies we stood for in the past, that if we state clearly that many of the coalition’s policies are NOT what we would be doing if we were the major party in government, we would start winning back some of that lost support. If I can point to people who are sympathetic to us, have some appreciation of what we are done, but need more convincing now, need to see us taking a stronger stand, would come flooding back to us if we ended the coalition early, it would be FAR easier for me to argue that was a winning strategy than it when all there seems to be is people like you saying “Lah lah lah, I’m not listening, I’m never going to vote for you again”.

    The constant attacks from people like you, which refuse to acknowledge what we have achieved even if it is far short from what we would like, which refuse to accept that there are many in the Liberal Democrats who are unhappy about much the coalition is doing, which dismisses ALL of us who are still party members as despicable Tory stooges is doing nothing but demoralising the left of the party and encouraging the right of the party to use the line “We’ve changed, there’s no going back”. So, FormerLibDem, sorry but I see what you are writing here as aiding and abetting the right-wing of the Liberal Democrats in their destroying of my party. Because they read this sort of thing and say “Look, you’re never going to get that vote back, so why bother? Either leave the party, or accept it’s now a party which is about right-wing economics but a bit more social liberalism than the Tories”. See this truly horrendous article
    here by Richard Reeves, a former adviser to Nick Clegg, and now influential in “CentreForum” the economic right-wing pressure group bug business is using to push the party its way. Don’t you agree, my words in italics above are a pretty accurate summary of that article? FormerLibDem, I see you as a Richard Reeves stooge, saying the sort of things he wants to hear to argue his case. You probably don’t realise that, which is why I’ve spent so much time trying to get you to see it.

  • Going into the next election with a new leader and an “It wasn’t us” slogan is the best way to shed all voters, both those who support the way things have been going (who can vote for the Tories, who clearly believe in what the government is doing) and those who don’t support the way things have been going (who can vote for Labour).

  • Matthew, Your words of me “very naive”, “no idea how practical politics work” etc, are somewhat ill-directed. I accept I take a minority view on this, and have argued it with all manner of senior Lib Dems, including the current leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, ie that THE ONLY WAY we will make genuine progress towards the sort of Government with the sort of policy framework we want to see, is by taking the tabloids (and, of course, their political henchpeople in whichever party) on head on. Nick Clegg had a rather half-hearted go at this in the second TV debate in 2010, but it was clear he hadn’t properly prepared / wasn’t very good at it.

    Let’s not beat about the bush, we are up against huge forces, we need to prepare carefully etc, but I don’t see how we are going to create a “new politics” without at some point doing this. Whether 2010 was or was not the right time to do this is a moot point. I think around 100 MPs might be the tipping point. And our arguments need to be sown on fertile ground, of course, which is why my concept includes “squeezing the non-voters”, bringing a majority back into play – on our side. The reason I propose this is precisely because I am not naive about real politics (by the way, I don’t think you are naive either!) It is because I want real change, but recognise that while we have Murdoch, Dacre etc calling the shots, we cannot achieve it.

  • So what’s your recipe, Richard S, accept the Richard Reeves line that we are a new party of the centre right? No thanks.

  • re….Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan ’13 – 1:11am

    Matthew, I don’t believe that anyone here has the slightest doubt of where you stand. However, much of what you say is undermined by the LibDem spokespersons (a horrid word) performance in the media….Laws was interviewed on this morning’s “Today” programme and his overall message was that “Everything within the coalition was going swimmingly” (a mention of Europe, by the interviewer was, dismissed in a few trite phrases)……

    Those LibDems of the ‘Tory-lite’ persuasion may be able to point to differences between Cameron’s and Laws but many, like me, see them as ‘singing from the same hymnsheet’ and, what is more important, so does the general electorate.
    Laws said, “There was no alternative to the current government strategy” and that, “At the next General Election all parties will fight on their own policies”; be that as it may but we are more than halfway through this coalition and changing “No alternative” into “Their own policies” is conspicuous by its absence.

    There is a gulf between the Tory Right and LibDems but there is also a gulf between them and Cameron. “Wonga” Beecroft’s ideas were a wonderful smokescreen. Shouting “LibDems stopped them being implemented” is disingenuous; they were a cover for a further, sly erosion of employment rights (in fact those working at Somerfield and Yell found the existing rules inadequate when Beecroft moved in)….

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '13 - 11:52pm

    annie

    However, much of what you say is undermined by the LibDem spokespersons (a horrid word) performance in the media….Laws was interviewed on this morning’s “Today” programme and his overall message was that “Everything within the coalition was going swimmingly” (a mention of Europe, by the interviewer was, dismissed in a few trite phrases)……

    Yes, and I don’t agree with David Laws on this. I think you will find my comments throughout this thread are on the lines that the LibDem leadership has made a disastrous mistake in promoting the coalition as a triumph for the party rather than a miserable little compromise which we were forced into by circumstances.

    Indeed, I have said constantly that as a Liberal Democrat who wants to see the party succeed with the values it had when I joined it, I am finding myself constantly undermined by its leadership.

    The point I am making is that I believe the Liberal Democrats have managed to swing the balance a bit away from the worst extremes of the Conservative Party, and I never thought they would be able to do much more than this in the coalition in the first place. That’s a very different position from those who argue that the Liberal Democrats have done NOTHING to stop the worst of the Conservatives and/or that they could if they wanted have done hugely more to push the government away from Conservative values and towards Liberal Democrat values. But it’s also a very different position from that of Nick Clegg, David Laws and the other Cleggies.

    I’m a liberal, you see, I don’t think of politics in terms of “us and them” or entirely in one dimension. You might say my position on the Liberal Democrats in the coalition is a third way one. Yes, it’s hardly unusual for a liberal to adopt a third way position, is it?

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Jan '13 - 12:04am

    annie

    There is a gulf between the Tory Right and LibDems but there is also a gulf between them and Cameron. “Wonga” Beecroft’s ideas were a wonderful smokescreen. Shouting “LibDems stopped them being implemented” is disingenuous; they were a cover for a further, sly erosion of employment rights

    Why is it “disingenuous” when you admit there’s a gulf between the Tory Right and Cameron, and my line is no more than that the LibDems have been able to shift the balance there towards Cameron? If there were more Liberal Democrat MPs, the balance could be shifted further. I’m not arguing that the Liberal Democrats have been able to make a big shift away from core Conservative policies. My fear is that the destruction of the Liberal Democrats will lead to a Conservative Party in which what you call the Tory Right is in control, with the return of the two-party system meaning if it doesn’t form the government after the next election it will for the one after that.

  • @Tim13,

    Nationally, I haven’t a clue.

    The problem is that as well as the differences in “economic” issues, the “liberal” (i.e. freedom of individual choice) stuff such as alcohol pricing or cannabis isn’t universally believed in by both sides of the party either (it is noticeable on this forum that those who are left-wing economically seem to be the least interested in the free-choice issues), so they are also non-starters as a way to distinguish the party from the others. Constitutional reform (which would actually allow us to all have our own liberal parties, so there could be the one where “liberalise” means “legalise” as it does in Europe, and the one where it means “ban”, as we are shortly to be assured that it meant in English in Gladstone’s day), has been knocked back by the electorate. From the point of view of tactics though, you have already lost the people who thought Lib Dems were a good place for left-wing voters to park their votes without having to take responsibility for the actual government, unless the Lib Dems were required to be the Labour back-up squad. Going into the election claiming equidistance between supporting what the party has done for 5 years and being against it is not going to persuade anyone.

    In individual seats, the answer is the usual stuff about two-horse races, and also getting votes based on good records of individual MPs.

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