Nick Clegg MP writes… The Labour and Tory exodus

Something is happening on the centre ground of British politics. An exodus. The Conservative leadership is being lured to the right. Ed Miliband is pulling his party to the left. Only the Liberal Democrats are holding firm.

That creates an opportunity for our party. Over the last twenty years the centre has become a crowded place. First New Labour pitched up, determined to demonstrate a new found credibility on the economy. Then followed a detoxified Conservative Party, hugging hoodies and frolicking with huskies. Yet now – in what, in time, may prove to be a highly significant political shift – the land is clearing. Our opponents are heading back to their respective homes. And it is time for the Liberal Democrats to reclaim this space.

The language of centrism can be misleading. It is not – as it can sound – splitting the difference between competing views; nor is it sitting on the fence. On the contrary, the centre ground rests on a radical, liberal view of the world, unencumbered by the traditional ideologies of left and right.

In the centre, we bridle at dog-eat-dog individualism, but we also reject the bloated and intrusive state. We believe, instead, that the key to lasting prosperity is unleashing the potential that exists in each and every person. And we understand that in the 21st Century a strong, competitive and open economy will be fuelled by a fair and mobile society, where opportunity is dispersed and everyone can get on in life.

It is an unapologetically modern mindset: restive about the future rather than nostalgic for the past; and adamant about the need to reform our clapped out political institutions, no matter how great the vested interests against change.

Labour and the Conservatives are, however, finding it increasingly difficult to stay put in the centre. The Tories are pulling to the right in an attempt to appease their base. Compassionate conservatism has been sidelined. So-called benefits scroungers have been back in the firing line, along with the European Convention on Human Rights. The blue team used to claim to have gone green, yet have now publicly denounced the importance of environmental protections. Despite millions of ordinary families feeling the pinch, the Conservatives resist making the tax and welfare systems fairer still – ruling out introducing a Mansion Tax or looking again at the benefits paid to very wealthy, even multi-millionaire, pensioners.

To the other side, Labour has also shifted. It was startling to see party grandees, led by Tony Blair, pile in on Ed Milband for abandoning the centre. They, rightly, fear that in opposing everything Labour will stand for nothing. And it is true that by offering anger rather than hope, Labour are steadily becoming a party of protest. They are making the classic mistake of opposition, talking only to themselves rather than setting out a positive vision for the nation. Their absence of ideas only confirms that they cannot be trusted on the biggest challenge of our time: fixing the mess in the economy they helped create.

The irony is that, while Labour and the Conservatives are pulling opposite ways, they are headed in the same direction: backwards, simultaneously setting their parties’ modernisation projects into reverse. In doing so they are walking away from the millions of people who gave them their support on the basis that they had become more inclusive in the centre ground.

The Liberal Democrats are different. We will not be dragged one way or another. And as the country continues to navigate the most profound economic storm in living memory, we will be the anchor Britain needs: a strong and pragmatic check on both extremes.

Our task now is to reach out to the millions of people who also shun the extremes. The country is on a difficult journey, making its way through a period of anxiety and unpredictability and the Liberal Democrats must be a reassuring voice.

So as we head towards the local elections, tell the people you meet: if you agree we need responsible action taken on the deficit, but you believe the burden should be spread fairly, there is still a party that speaks for you.

If you want the Government to get a grip on welfare, but to ensure we still help those in need. If you think we should support business by cutting red tape, but not at the expense of workers’ rights. If you value the benefits immigration has bought to Britain, but you think it’s wrong when the rules can be easily abused. If you know that membership of the EU matters to British jobs, but you want the UK leading reform of a streamlined, more efficient EU. If you back greater choice in our public services, but could never support privatising the NHS or profit-making in schools.

On these and so many other issues, we will not be swayed. In these uncertain times the Liberal Democrats will continue to deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life. Of that you can be sure.

* Nick Clegg is the Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, and MP for Sheffield Hallam

Read more by or more about , , , , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/34302 for Twitter and emails.
Advert

80 Comments

  • Geoffrey Payne 29th Apr '13 - 1:06pm

    How can you say that New Labour found credibility on the economy when we spend most of the time complaining about the mess they left us in?
    The decision by New Labour to shift that party to the right led to 2 catastrophic mistakes; support for George Bush’s invasion of Iraq and support for neo liberal light touch regulation of the City of London.
    The mistake that all political parties have made is to shift to the right.

  • mike cobley 29th Apr '13 - 1:15pm

    Well, Nick, you’re consistent, I`ll give you that – consistently wrong. Just to recap – the election of Margaret Thatcher’s Tory party in 1979 signalled the start of a massive realignment of British politics which relentlessly steamrollered the main corpus of all political discussion to the right. The advent of Tony Blair and then the New Labour government is undeniable proof that just such a dislocation had taken place, with a nominally Labour government going out of its way to prove its pro-business credentials, such that it opened up public services to market interference in ways that the Thatcher/Major regimes would not have dared. In truth, New Labour was a centre-right party and now, under Miliband, we’ve yet to see convincing evidence of any real, substantive change.

    As for the Libdems occupying the centre, that really is utterly specious. We as a party will be judged, not on what we say (or more accurately what we say about ourselves), but on what we do. Actions speak louder than words, Nick, and this party’s actions have been wholly in tune with Tory motives and ambitions. You can go on all you like about how much of our manifesto has been enacted, but this is small potatoes compared with the massive damage being inflicted on the fabric of the nation. Someone once called the cuts regime an exercise in self-mutilation, except of course that it is the lives of the poor and the vulnerable that are being mutilated.

  • paul barker 29th Apr '13 - 1:34pm

    I agree with Nick & add that another advantage we will have in 2015 is that we are united while our rivals are badly split.
    Where we disagree we do so with respect, in marked contrast to the insults Labour supporters regularly throw at each other.

  • “I agree with Nick & add that another advantage we will have in 2015 is that we are united ”

    There does seem to be some unity – five of the six comments so far (with the exception of yours) are united in not agreeing with Nick.

  • YES! A terrific call to arms from the only leader in British politics who can speak, authentically, as a radical centrist.

    I agree with the analysis that the centrist consensus that started with Blair in 94 and completed by Cameron in 05, is now shattering – the UKIP threat tugging the Tories rightward, the union paymasters tugging Labour leftwards – but I don’t think those respected parties have totally abandoned the centre quite yet.

    Dan Hodges recently noted (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danhodges/100214028/labour-is-split-down-the-middle-which-side-is-ed-miliband-going-to-land-on/) that the next couple of months will be critical for the Labour party, as Ed now has to decide which direction to take his Labour party. Similarly, the new shake up within no 10 (http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2013/04/cameron-lowers-the-downing-street-drawbridge-and-invites-new-voices-into-his-bunker.html), with the likes of John Hayes rehabilitating Cameron with Tory backbenchers and Jo Johnson heading the policy unit, has only just begun, and despite being seen as a nod to the right, could yet keep the Conservatives within reach of the centre ground.

    Nevertheless, Nick is right that a sizeable fracture has appeared, and it is a ripe opportunity for us to highlight our true radical centrist colours.

    Personally, I would like to see a renewed effort on constitutional reform – a call for true PR in elections and an elected second chamber. We should no longer tolerate millions of voices being ignored at every election, the huge swathes of citizens who are alienated and cut off from the democratic process due to the unfairness of FPTP, Only then will Britain have a parliament that reflects the will of the people,

  • People talk about things being dragged to the left or to the right but there are 1. incredibly unless and 2. incredibly subjective terms. Yes, British politics, society and the Lib Dems sit economically to the “right” and socially to the “left” of the positions taken in the 1970s. Fortunately, for us, the centre is now economically and socially more liberal than it was in the past.

  • It may be because I am one, but it’s only really with the LibDems I get a sense of where the party is going when I read the press. Though I’m sure there will be people in the party who disagree with that direction (shock horror) for a party experiencing government for the first time we are currently doing well in setting out our thinking as we approach 2015.

  • Tony Dawson 29th Apr '13 - 2:44pm

    Exodus? I thought that it was Jim Callaghan who was the political Moses? ;-)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWw_gP0vDfE

    Lib Dems is the movement of the Ppul innit? :-)

    As for Labour, let us just remind ourselves that the place thatTony Blair calls ‘the abandoned centre’ is a place significantly to the right of John Major.

  • Mark Argent 29th Apr '13 - 2:51pm

    While I agree with the sense that there seems to be an exodus from the centre ground surely we need also to be clear about the richness of our conciliar way of doing things. We’re not simply part that is “not left” and “not right”, we are a party doing some radical stuff about democracy in our process.

    The obvious indicator is that Ed Milliband may (or may not) take the Labour Party to the left, David Cameron may (or may not) take the Conservatives to the right. It would be utterly contrary to a Lib Dem way of being for Nick Clegg to attempt to impose his will in that way. That is a subtle, but profound difference.

  • Steve Griffiths 29th Apr '13 - 2:59pm

    Paul Barker

    “another advantage we will have in 2015 is that we are united while our rivals are badly split”.

    Where have you been in recent years? Have you not read the many comment threads on this very website and witnessed the departure or the “down tooling” of much of the left of the party? On a recent thread a Lib Dem member of the Lords suggested that the “battle for the soul of the party” was about to begin. I recommend The Liberator magazine for anyone who believes we are completely united.

    Lev Eakins

    ” A terrific call to arms from the only leader in British politics who can speak, authentically, as a radical centrist”. Oh not that term again (see threads passim); the term ‘radical centrist’ is an oxymoron, as many others have pointed out.

    Nick Clegg

    “We will not be dragged one way or another”.

    You have already been dragged too far to the right for a good portion of your party members and former members to stomach I’m afraid.

  • “It would be utterly contrary to a Lib Dem way of being for Nick Clegg to attempt to impose his will in that way.”

    Is this satire?

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Apr '13 - 3:17pm

    Nick Clegg

    Something is happening on the centre ground of British politics. An exodus. The Conservative leadership is being lured to the right. Ed Miliband is pulling his party to the left. Only the Liberal Democrats are holding firm.

    I see no sign whatsoever of Ed Miliband pulling his party to the left. If Ed Miliband and the Labour Party really were developing a coherent left-wing set of alternative policies to the current government, that would be good. But they are not. They seem rather to hope that by saying not very much at all, apart from how bad the Tories are and how even worse the Liberal Democrats are for “propping them up”, they will win back power just by the swing of the two-party pendulum. The policies of this current very right-wing government hurt, and they hurt most people who are already at the bottom and so find it hard to take more hurt. However, it needs to be admitted that an honest and workable left-wing alternative will also hurt, it will hurt people who have more capacity to take it, but it will hurt, and they will scream. Labour does not have the guts to do this.

    Our country is in a mess because much of what the Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Manor did had short term benefits (and even then only for some), but long-term costs. An obvious example was selling off council houses – short term benefits of the giveaways to existing tenants, long term cost of here being no longer a cheap way to house people in need, hence rising housing benefit bills and many associated social costs coming from people living in overcrowded situations. The governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown continued with these right-wing policies and their assumptions, but the mess was building up and it started to crack. Electing Cameron’s Conservatives was what the two-party system said should be done to punish Blair/Brown for their incompetency, but all that was doing was putting in place people who supported more extreme forms of what got us into the mess in the first place.

    Putting it simply, Thatcherism isn’t working. Margaret Thatcher was buried with great pomp and ceremony as a recognition that she changed the political consensus and governments since hers have worked with the framework she set. Now that framework is failing. When Nick Clegg says the Liberal Democrats are “holding firm”, he means holding firm to that failing framework. If that is really what we are doing, we deserve to lose, because it means we have nothing of worth to offer.

  • Steve Griffiths: “” A terrific call to arms from the only leader in British politics who can speak, authentically, as a radical centrist”. Oh not that term again (see threads passim); the term ‘radical centrist’ is an oxymoron, as many others have pointed out.

    See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_center_(politics)

    “British radical-centrist politician Nick Clegg considers himself an heir to political theorist John Stuart Mill, former Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George, economist John Maynard Keynes, social reformer William Beveridge, and former Liberal Party leader Jo Grimond.”

    and

    “Most radical centrist thinkers do not equate radical centrism with the Third Way. In Britain, many do not see themselves as social democrats. Most prominently, British radical-centrist politician Nick Clegg has made it clear he does not consider himself an heir to Tony Blair,[17] and Richard Reeves, Clegg’s longtime advisor, emphatically rejects social democracy.”

    “Following the 2010 election, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats (Britain’s third party), had his party enter into a Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition agreement to form a majority government.[122] In a speech to party members in the spring of 2011, Clegg declared that he considers himself and his party to be radical centrist:
    For the left, an obsession with the state. For the right, a worship of the market. But as liberals, we place our faith in people. People with power and opportunity in their hands. Our opponents try to divide us with their outdated labels of left and right. But we are not on the left and we are not on the right. We have our own label: Liberal. We are liberals and we own the freehold to the centre ground of British politics. Our politics is the politics of the radical centre”

  • I don’t see Labour moving to the left at all. and don’t really see them bashing the Lib Dems at the moment either. They are simply staying schtum. As for the Conservatives they’ve moved to a mixture their old “we are the establishment” High Tory roots and political consensus market forces dogma.
    In truth all the main parties, including UKIP, are committed to the same failed Thatcherite policies that are the problem rather than its solution, whilst that consensus is beginning to break down amongst economist, traders, populations and even business leaders,

  • @Lev Eakins

    Seeing as Roy Jenkins discussed the Radical Centre I think as LibDems were are almost duty bound to claim it :-)

  • Joseph Donnelly 29th Apr '13 - 4:16pm

    Very well written piece, good to see Clegg making these very Liberal points about the position of our party.

  • Is Nick Clegg a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal?

  • I agree with George Potter.

    And we all know what to do with people who have antisocial tendencies. He needs a hug!
    Everybody please, hug an MP. Show them you care.

  • @CP feeling a bit biblical……

    I will join with others here who dispute Labour moving towards the left, any movement has been so small that its direction would be impossible to decide. That’s not a pro Labour statement, they have simply decided to do nothing. Clegg though needs to make his mind up, he has criticised Labour’s lack of policy and now states they have moved to the left, I can’t see how both can be true.

  • paul barker 29th Apr '13 - 6:41pm

    A couple of general points,
    1st, people at the extremes of any argument always feel most strongly & thus make more comments, if we judged Britain by the general drift of comment on the Net we would conclude Civil War was around the corner.
    2nd, any divisions in the Libdems can hardly be compared with those in the other big parties. In a sense both of the Big 2 Parties have already split, UKIP are effectively an external faction while several of the Communist sects which have gained control of big chunks of The Trades Unions also stand candidates against Labour under various guises.
    Its a fair point that Labour dont have any actual Policies yet but they have made some gestures to both Left & Right.

  • Paul in Twickenham 29th Apr '13 - 7:42pm

    Is it just that I am now utterly cynical about – and innured to – everything that Mr. Clegg says, or is this contribution unusually vapid?

  • Andrew Suffield 29th Apr '13 - 7:50pm

    as someone who’s had the misfortune to witness the way thousands of vulnerable disabled people are losing vital support

    You have personally observed thousands of cases of this?

    How?

  • Helen Tedcastle 29th Apr '13 - 7:56pm

    @ Nick Clegg: “To the other side, Labour has also shifted. It was startling to see party grandees, led by Tony Blair, pile in on Ed Milband for abandoning the centre.”

    Is this some kind of a joke Nick? Ed Miliband pulling the Party to the left and so the likes of Tony Blair issue a warning!

    Do we need to give this ‘blast from the past’ any credence at all?

    Since when was Blair in the centre – he pulled his Party to the right. Like others on this thread I see no evidence whatsoever of Miliband taking Labour to the left – as usual Labour sit on their hands and say nothing of consequence as the Thatcherites carry on with their rampant iconoclasm of non-existent enemies.

    The Liberal Democrats are not a radical centrist Party – we are a radical Liberal Party on the sensible left of centre ground – well we were.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Apr '13 - 8:47pm

    Nick Clegg

    If you want the Government to get a grip on welfare, but to ensure we still help those in need. If you think we should support business by cutting red tape, but not at the expense of workers’ rights. If you value the benefits immigration has bought to Britain, but you think it’s wrong when the rules can be easily abused. If you know that membership of the EU matters to British jobs, but you want the UK leading reform of a streamlined, more efficient EU

    All of this is accepting rather dubious Tory claims about what is wrong with our society. The sentence about getting “a grip on welfare” backs the line that there is some big expansion in welfare payment due to lazy people taking unfair advantage of the system. That line is wrong – the factors pushing up welfare payments are longer life-spans, higher rents due to the selling off of council housing, and medical intervention leading to people needing expensive support living longer lives. The sentence about “cutting red tape” peddles the myth that business is tied up with useless legislation – when actually the sort of things they mean by “red tape” are things that protect health and safety of workers, protect the environment, ensure humane and equal treatment of workers and so on. The line ” it’s wrong when the rules can be easily abused” spreads the myth that evil foreign people are coming here and abusing our system due to lax rules. A “streamlined, more efficient EU” is Tory-talk for an EU that won’t attempt to stand up to big finance playing one country up against another, forcing us all to feather-bed the super-rich because of the power they have over us.

    There is nothing here about reversing the way the rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer in recent decades. Our society has become more and more unequal in recent years, more and more dominated by an aristocracy of financiers and people at the top of big corporations. The economic crash has shown that the promises these people made about how making the richer richer would benefit all of us were wrong. Yet a move away from this is derided here by Mr Clegg as some sort of evil “left”.

    In these uncertain times the Liberal Democrats will continue to deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

    Continue? In order to continue doing something don’t you have to start doing it in the first place? I don’t believe the policies of the current government are delivering a stronger economy or a fairer society. And the Liberal Democrats should not claim that what the current government is delivering is being delivered by the Liberal Democrats, not unless the Liberal Democrats have become Tories. We have a Tory government delivering Tory policies. As a very junior partner in the coalition all we can do is stop some of the worst of their proposals. Doing that is NOT delivering a stronger economy or a fairer society. It is stopping the Tories wrecking the economy even more and making society even more unfair.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Apr '13 - 9:45pm

    I am a huge believer in centrism, so I praise this message. However I think we have made some grave mistakes in government, which are giving centrism a bad name:

    1. Benefit cuts should have been the last resort. Grace and favour mansions can go, for starters.
    2. Public services should be run by central and local government.
    3. The tuition fee U turn.

    Centrism does not have to be nasty and it can be about reducing inequality in the UK and across the world. To me it means being unbiased, and sometimes moving things to the right where the excesses of the state need to be rolled back.

  • @Caracatus

    “You can’t be a radical and a moderate”

    Who says centrism is moderate? When the bulk of political debate since 1945 has between Labour and Tory, belief in either the state or the market. A view that break tries to break this hegemony and that believes in people before the state or the market is radical, just look at both Labour and Tory inability to understand that it is the people who should elect the upper chamber. A full democratic parliarment is a centrist and a radical idea.

    Also, I agree with some of Eddie’s points. But I think those concequences a more a result of comprising only 20% of the government and the current financial and economic situation. It’s a pretty rotten time to get into power for the first time since the war afterall, But, overall I think we the party has achieved results in stopping the full force of Tory government and have delivered some real Liberal results.

  • Helen Tedcastle 29th Apr '13 - 11:05pm

    ” we will be the anchor Britain needs: a strong and pragmatic check on both extremes.”

    Interesting. I seem to remember from being in Germany during their elections that the FDP marketed itself as a ‘moderate’ party holding the centre between the two bigger parties. it’s symbol was a tiny tug boat dragging a larger boat into port.

    What a dull vision. Unsurprising then that the FDP is tiny, managerial and centrist.

    The further problem with this model in the British context, is that our ‘centre’ ground isn’t really centre but centre right.

    The Tories are Thatcherite to the core – ‘compassionate’ conservatism was a pragmatic ruse to get votes. Labour are centrist with a strong streak of authoritarianism and fearful of anything which resonates with the left (the moderate left).

    What is this miraculous space vacated by the others in the centre?

    The truth is, it doesn’t exist because everyone is fighting over the right of centre. It’s time to move away from the post-Thatcherite era and think out of the box from a traditional, radical Liberal perspective.

  • Peter Watson 30th Apr '13 - 8:05am

    Where’s the beef?
    This just seems to be a meaningless collection of paragraphs from Clegg which eventually lead to the “detail” of “We like the good bit of this issue but not the bad bit”. Cameron and Milliband (and probably Farage) could write that last paragraph and be equally sincere. What is the point?

  • Dominic Curran 30th Apr '13 - 9:43am

    NIck, your legacy will be to take a party with 23% of the vote and let it get regularly and consistently outpolled by UKIP. UKIP, for heavens’ sake! Do the decent thing and step down afrter our slaughter in 2015, if the voters of SH haven’t already made that decision for you.

  • david thorpe 30th Apr '13 - 10:03am

    @ geoff-new labour were mroe credible on the economy than old labour-for a period of time-thats why voters elected them-your right about light touch regualtion-and the specific form it took in the 1990’s and early part of the ast decade was the creation of clinto and new labour-and ironically of a chap called joseph stiglitz-whom those who are opposed to austerity now roll out as a voice for the rest of us to follow

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Apr '13 - 10:13am

    jedibeeftrix

    anyone that still harbours any illusions about spending a ‘little’ more in order to be nicer to the innumerable social goods gov’t is engaged in should watch Milleband’s car crash interview where he refused thirteen times to say he would spend more than the tories.

    Yes, it’s the old “Our policies are so wonderful, that the economy will magically revive so we can spend more / tax less without causing any harm”. As used by Cameron and post-election endorsed by Clegg in 2010. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work with Miliband, because Miliband has no magic revival policies.

    he knows, and I know, just at the tories know as they laugh behind their hands, that “spending more” will be read by the electorate as “taxing more”, and in this climate that is political death

    We need some honesty and put it forward as a stark alternative – either accept more taxes, or stop moaning about “the cuts”. I’d have respected Miliband more if he’d come out with this. As he won’t, any moans from any Labour candidate about “the cuts” should be met with “ok, how would YOU pay for it?”. The LibDems have lost a lot of votes over the tuition fees issue, but if Labour bring it up, let’s make sure they are asked “ok, will you bring back state subsidised university tuition, and if so, HOW will you pay for it?”. In fact, let’s not wait for them to bring it up, let’s make sure we just ask them again and again about it.

    Analysis of tuition fees actually suggests the hard bargaining from the LibDems has left a system which subsidises the universities MORE than they were previously, due to the high proportion of loan that will never be paid back.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Apr '13 - 10:26am

    Caracatus

    Nick too often sounds like a IEA spokesperson with a fantasy perfect % of state spending to GDP.

    Yes, his words are shot full with this sort of assumption. That’s why, as I said, it’s Tory-talk. State spending as a % of GDP is going to rise for many reasons to do with growing complexity in society needing growing infrastructure support. So a standstill means more privatisation, or cuts in services. We need politicians who can be honest about this, not those that push out the right-wing propaganda about it being all “the bloated and intrusive state”. When people are living longer so more state pension money has to be paid out, how is that the “the bloated and intrusive state”, Mr Clegg? When medical discoveries mean we can keep more people alive and deal with conditions that would inevitably meant death in the past, at the cost of more expensive procedures and medication paid here through the NHS, how is that “the bloated and intrusive state”, Mr Clegg? When people are forced through lack of council housing to turn to private landlords charging three times council house rent, and have to claim housing benefit to make up the difference, how is that “the bloated and intrusive state”, Mr Clegg?

  • Helen Tedcastle 30th Apr '13 - 10:34am

    Matthew Huntbach

    “The LibDems have lost a lot of votes over the tuition fees issue, but if Labour bring it up, let’s make sure they are asked “ok, will you bring back state subsidised university tuition, and if so, HOW will you pay for it?”. In fact, let’s not wait for them to bring it up, let’s make sure we just ask them again and again about it.”

    Except that we know and Labour know the ugly truth – Blair’s Government introduced tuition fees to the system in the first place – as they did with the academies programme – and PFI in the NHS.

    Labour under Blair simply carried on Thatcherism and now Miliband is too frightened to say anything in case he alienate mythical Basildon man and the old dinosaurs on the Blairite wing.

    This brief analysis seems to have passed Nick by – but it doesn’t take much effort to see that Labour are not like they were pre-Blair. He introduced an authoritarian – centrism, when the Party should have moved towards Social Democracy.

    Thanks to Blair, they are the shadow of the Party they were because they have no credible philosophy.

  • “ok, will you bring back state subsidised university tuition”

    Who was it subsidised by? It certainly wasn’t taxpaying non-graduates, given the level of extra tax that graduates paid over their lifetime easily covered the cost of their fees. In reality, graduates subsidise everyone else thanks to the redistributive nature of the taxation system, except graduates are now hit with an additional surcharge of 27k plus interest which isn’t much of an issue if you end up in a very high paying job but is an issue for the majority of graduates – in fact a graduate will be better off in a very high paying job under the new system than the old system given the effective reduction in income tax (or whichever tax previously paid for fees) cut that tuition fees now pays for. Funding of HE through progressive taxation has been replaced with funding of HE through fees that are fiscally regressive.

    An honest appraisal of the redistributive taxation/spending system requires a description of who the net contributors (who pay for more public services than they receive) are and who the net benefitters are (who receive more than they pay for). Effectively, around half the country are on benefits, which I’m quite happy about. However, let’s not do the Tory’s work for them by continuing their lie that people on low incomes are subsidising students/graduates/public servants/those receiving benefits – whoever it is that the rich Tories don’t like paying for. You do seem to fall for this Tory trap, Matthew Huntbach. If it’s not graduates sponging off everyone else, it’s well-paid northern miners living off the southern working-class :)

  • @paul Barker

    “I agree with Nick & add that another advantage we will have in 2015 is that we are united while our rivals are badly split.”

    I presume the “we” you are referring to is yourself and a few of the remaining Clegg huggers. It certainly isn’t the Lib Dems, which Nick through his disastrous management of our involvement in the coalition has almost single handedly been responsible for bringing to its knees. Councillors down every year, members down by a third, need I say more?

  • Just because Mr Clegg says a thing, does not make it correct.he simply cannot be allowed to get away with saying that he has stopped privatisation of the NHS, because that is precisely what he has done.He co signed the original unamended bill and his MPs and peers have allowed a situation, where up to 49% of hospital services and beds can be privatised and all services have to be put out to tender, unless only the NHS can provide the service.
    If it walks like a duck, etc.

  • Not right nor left but ahead said CK

  • I was hoping that the Liberal Democrats might be consistently pulling in a Liberal, socially liberal direction. As for centrism, it inevitably becomes defined by flanks to the left and the right.

    Mathew Huntbach, Glenn and others are right: any move to the left for Labour is a vacuous illusion; absence of policy has encouraged speculation of the move. There is a danger that the ground is shifting rightwards: benefits and immigration issues tend to dominate in increasingly intolerant pronouncements.

    Liberal Democrats do indeed need to stand firm. If Nick Clegg wants to cloak this in centrism as a guard against a rightward drift, then fine, but the reality is more malign.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Apr '13 - 1:36pm

    Martin

    Mathew Huntbach, Glenn and others are right: any move to the left for Labour is a vacuous illusion; absence of policy has encouraged speculation of the move. There is a danger that the ground is shifting rightwards: benefits and immigration issues tend to dominate in increasingly intolerant pronouncements.

    I don’t see immigration as a left-right issue. The basis of the left-right division is that those on the right believe those who have wealth and privilege should maintain that wealth and privilege because they are the best people to have it for the good of the whole country and it’s dangerous to change things, whereas those on the left believe wealth and privilege are too concentrated on a few and should be spread more. I don’t particularly see that wishing to have strict controls on immigration fits more to the right than the left here. Indeed, we have seen that loose controls on immigration benefit the wealthy and privileged more, as it means more cheap labour for them, and they needn’t worry about having to pay tax to educate people in this country, just let other countries do it and we’ll import the result, just let the local people here rot, serves them right for being so uppity in the past with all those trade unions they used to have making demands. Oh no, let us import desperate people from poor countries, they’ll be very grateful, they’ll work for a pittance, and they’ll do what they’re told.

    On “benefits”, try changing the word to “pensions”. Funny how that changes attitudes, isn’t it?

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Apr '13 - 1:43pm

    David Evans

    I presume the “we” you are referring to is yourself and a few of the remaining Clegg huggers

    Indeed. Our party might do better in the long-term with more disunity if that meant members who don’t like the way its leadership is pushing it staying on and organising a fightback against it. Instead, what seems to be happening is that those who dislike the way the party is going seem to be dropping out and giving up, slowly, one by one, almost every week seems to see yet another person who was once an active and keen member announcing resignation from the party.

  • David Allen 30th Apr '13 - 1:54pm

    As everybody says, Labour have not moved to the left. So why does Clegg claim that they have?

    Because Clegg wants to pitch his own camp well to the Right of Labour. It suits him to pretend that it is Labour who have moved. They haven’t. It is Clegg who has moved.

  • David Allen 30th Apr '13 - 2:29pm

    “Yes you can define Tony Blair as extreme right, and Arthur Scargill in the centre if you like.”

    No, I don’t like. I don’t like people putting stupid words into my mouth, and then destroying the straw man. Scargill in the centre, indeed!

    Why do people use dishonest straw man arguments? Because they haven’t got better ones.

  • Steve Griffiths 30th Apr '13 - 3:32pm

    Joe Otten

    “These claims that the party has moved to the right seem to be based on the fact that we are in a government that has much less money to spend than the last one did. ”

    No it isn’t. I joined the then Liberal Party in the late 1960s when it was a radical reforming party of the centre left; I know it has drifted to the right in recent years, from my own observations over 40 years as an activist agent and local councillor. It was going in that direction before the coalition government was formed.

  • Helen Tedcastle 30th Apr '13 - 9:37pm

    @ Joe Otten: Yes you can define Tony Blair as extreme right, and Arthur Scargill in the centre if you like.”

    Anyone who disagrees with Nick and the article above is not defining Blair as extreme right and Scargill as centre.

    You seem to misunderstand the term ‘left.’ Being left of centre or left-wing does not mean one is a Communist or a Marxist. It seems that Thatcher has indeed succeeded in her aim of destroying even the language of the left – including radical Liberalism – a proud heritage in this party – certainly a philosophy I signed up to in 1985 – certainly not this bland managerialism which accepts the world-view of the right.

    Labour accept it and now we are supposed to, according this appalling re-write of the Party’s raison-d’etre.

    “But being a warmonger does n’t make you extreme right, you get them everywhere. You can define facing economic reality as right wing if you like but that’s the same as admitting that everybody else is incompetent.”

    No. it’s a question of values, principles and priorities. Economic ‘reality’ is one thing – accepting Thatcherite solutions is quite another.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Apr '13 - 11:41pm

    Joe Otten

    These claims that the party has moved to the right seem to be based on the fact that we are in a government that has much less money to spend than the last one did

    No, it is based also on things like Liberal Democrat Voice comments stuffed full of lines taken straight from Hayek/Rand, yet coming from people who say they are Liberal Democrat activists, people who post with the Liberal Democrat bird next to their name. And on Nick Clegg echoing Tory lines about “red tape” hampering industry and a “bloated and intrusive state”. There are things being said in the party now which back in the 1980s would have been associated with the right-wing of the Conservative Party and would have been called “Thatcherism”. It is based on things like leading advisers to Nick Clegg having articles published in the media saying to any member of the party who expresses unhappiness about the party’s direction (I paraphrase) “P— off, you’re not wanted, go and join Labour”.

    While I was always to the left of the party, when I first joined and was an active attender at its assemblies in the 1980s, I didn’t feel myself to be on the fringe of it, I felt myself to be on its centre-left, firmly a mainstream member. I don’t feel that now. Almost every time I look at Liberal Democrat Voice I find some new right-wing horror comment, that I feel I have to reply to, something that when I first joined the party would have been the sort of thing you’d only have heard from Young Conservatives. I do now feel myself to be very much on the fringe of the party, perhaps only retaining membership for nostalgic reasons, constantly fighting assumptions from people who now seem to represent the mainstream of the party which are completely alien to my way of thinking, which if I had encountered then when I first joined the party would have led to my swift exit.

    I see nothing in what is given as Nick Clegg’s words here which balance words that could have been taken straight from a Tory speech with words that are critical of the underlying Tory thrust in government since the 1980s. There is nothing here which recognises the “private good, public bad” mantra is now no longer credible given the mess the banks have made, the way we have been hoodwinked by PFI, and much else. There is nothing here which recognises the way inequality has been growing and growing since 1979. There is nothing here which recognises that just perhaps dog-eat-dog competition is not always the best way to improve quality of service. I’m not looking for the sort of lazy unthinking left-wing stuff you get from the SWP (although some of the right-wing stuff from Clegg here is a mirror image of it), but I am looking for a much more critical attitude towards the sort of assumptions that Tories and their supporters in the right-wing press make. Surely the mess this country is in after following those assumptions so diligently for the past 34 years ought to indicate that we need some fresh thinking, not more of the same.

  • Helen Tedcastle 1st May '13 - 10:04am

    Matthew Huntbach

    ” I am looking for a much more critical attitude towards the sort of assumptions that Tories and their supporters in the right-wing press make. Surely the mess this country is in after following those assumptions so diligently for the past 34 years ought to indicate that we need some fresh thinking, not more of the same.”

    Absolutely right Matthew. I feel the same as you. I joined in the 1980s and although on the ‘left’ of the party (not in socialist terms as some on LDV characterise the left), was certainly not on the margins. In fact, my views were pretty mainstream in the Party, until we joined the Government, when the new hegemony of so-called fresh thinking took over. As you point out, it’s not really fresh – it’s the Thatcherite analysis busily being incorporated into our Party, changing the language and the assumptions.

    If these people who write for Clegg are aiming to push those of us who do not sign up to Thatcherism towards Labour, clearly they have no idea what Labour stand for these days either. No. What is required is for the Party to reclaim its soul.

  • Steve Griffiths 1st May '13 - 11:02am

    Helen Tedcastle

    “I feel the same as you. I joined in the 1980s and although on the ‘left’ of the party (not in socialist terms as some on LDV characterise the left), was certainly not on the margins. ”

    Helen there is a great deal of truth in your assertion. Many contibutors to LDV (and indeed Nick Clegg himself) seem to be unable to concieve of any other left-leaning political position other than socialism, or at least social democracy. Many of us in the Liberal and subsequently the Liberal Democrat Party always regarded ourselves as the Libertarian Left and we were pretty much mainstream. There seems to have been a concerted effort recently to deny the existence of such a position/set of beliefs within the Liberal movement.

  • Geoffrey Payne 1st May '13 - 12:33pm

    David Thorpe – Joseph Stiglitz had nothing to do with light touch regulation and he did not support Blair or Clinton for enacting it either.

  • Helen Tedcastle 1st May '13 - 12:51pm

    @ Steve Griffiths: “There seems to have been a concerted effort recently to deny the existence of such a position/set of beliefs within the Liberal movement.”

    I think there is a concerted effort to marginalise the views of the radical Liberals in the party, certainly. Now whether that position can be regarded as Libertarian is another question. I prefer the term ‘radical Liberal’, with a special concern for the poor and marginalised.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st May '13 - 1:25pm

    Helen Tedcastle

    Absolutely right Matthew. I feel the same as you. I joined in the 1980s and although on the ‘left’ of the party (not in socialist terms as some on LDV characterise the left), was certainly not on the margins. In fact, my views were pretty mainstream in the Party, until we joined the Government, when the new hegemony of so-called fresh thinking took over.

    I think it was happening before then. I started reading Liberal Democrat Voice at the time of the leadership election which Clegg won, having in the years before that spent most of my political effort in being a Borough councillor and not having paid much attention to what was happening in the party nationally. Even before the 2010 general election I remember feeling from contributing to LDV that things had changed, I was finding myself constantly having to defend my position and being treated as some sort of loony left fringe type for holding to position which would have been mainstream in the party in the 1980s.

    When I was previously paying attention to the party nationally, the divide in the party was still a Liberal-SDP one, with the Liberals seen as to the left and criticised as bearded-sandalled types with unrealistic green-inspired ideas about economics, and the SDP to the right as more sensible types who had more easily adopted to the realities of the modern business-oriented economy (obviously this is very much a crude stereotype, I’m putting it extreme terms to make the point, I don’t mean it as applying to any individual member of either predecessor party). When I came back, I found that now there were influential pressure groups, pushing the idea that “liberal” meant someone who thought everything should be run by market economics, and that the existence of the state and its taxation was the only real threat to freedom that mattered.

  • Paul in twickenham 1st May '13 - 1:59pm

    Everything said above applies to me too. I would have regarded myself as being in the very centre of the party 30 years ago but now I am a dangerous leftie. The party leadership is dominated by economic neo liberals with whom I feel no affinity. Their Liberalism is “pragmatic” as indicated by their willingness to cast aside the most cherished principles of the rank and file for the sake of coalition unity.

    The message in Mr Clegg’s opinion piece seems to be “vote Lib Dem because we are moderately competent administrators”. Well that’s not likely to get me rolling out of bed at 5am to deliver a thousand Good Mornings.

    There used to be a widely held view that European Liberals were economic conservatives, whereas UK Liberals were not. It is my view that Clegg wants to create a small FDP-ish party that will be a frequent minor coalition partner in government. But I would never support the FDP. Why on earth would I offer my time and money to helping its UK equivalent?

  • “Their Liberalism is “pragmatic” as indicated by their willingness to cast aside the most cherished principles of the rank and file for the sake of coalition unity.”

    Or, quite possibly, to cast aside the most cherished principles of the rank and file because they don’t actually agree with them …

  • paul barker 1st May '13 - 3:13pm

    I have had 2 periods of Libdem membership – 1987-90 & 2004-now & I have to say that I havent noticed any major shifts in our position on the political spectrum. Over the same period Labour have moved strongly Right till 2010 while the Tories drifted Right, tried to shift to the Centre & have recently drifted Right again.
    The way voters see us has changed radically since 2010, inevitably.

  • Steve Griffiths 1st May '13 - 3:17pm

    Was it not Shirley Williams that said of a ‘centre party’ that it “…would have no roots, no principles, no philosophy and no values”. When Nick Clegg says that we are “…unencumbered by the traditional ideologies of left and right” and he denies the left of his own party, he is cutting off the historical and pholishophical anchor of the soul of the party.

  • Steve Griffiths 1st May '13 - 3:20pm

    Sorry philosophical (writing in haste).

  • “I have had 2 periods of Libdem membership – 1987-90 & 2004-now & I have to say that I havent noticed any major shifts in our position on the political spectrum.”

    What, between 1987 and now ???????

  • This article is a nice piece of writing and it’s clear to see Nick’s ideological standpoint, but I don’t really see and proposals of actual ideas or anything that isn’t ideological or theoretical. If the Lib Dem party’s way is the right way, show us what that way leads to and what the outcome of supporting this particular party is, in down to-earth, simple, and understandable bullet points.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st May '13 - 5:25pm

    Paul Barker

    The way voters see us has changed radically since 2010, inevitably

    Yes, but isn’t that all the more reason for us and our leaders to avoid using language which might confirm misimpressions that voters have gained from the fact of the coalition? Inevitably, as very much the junior partner in the coalition it means we have to support, or at least not openly oppose, policy which is far from our ideal. If this wasn’t done the country would be at a standstill, it would be impossible to govern if every party insisted the other must complete convert to their point of view while they would not budge. Those who accuse us of “propping up the Tories” seem to suppose there is some magic way we could get the Tories to drop all their policies and adopt LibDem ones. There isn’t, though we could do a lot more in negotiating a compromise more to our way if we had more MPs. But, because that’s a rather difficult argument for many to grasp, that is all the more reason for us and our leaders to make clear we have not become Tories, to make clear that our participation in the coalition is more about accepting the will of the electorate in 2010 and in 2011 when by voting against electoral reform they endorsed the principle of distortion of representation in favour of the largest party (i.e. the Conservatives) and against third parties (i.e. us), than it is because we so much like and agree with the Tories.

    But what we have got from our leadership is a constant stream of stuff about how wonderful it is to be in the coalition, about how this is a fulfillment of our long term dreams. Well, you can hardly complain about the electorate having misunderstood us when this seems to suggest very much what those who have stopped supporting us are saying – we were only in it for “power” (or really, comfy jobs, since there isn’t much real power as junior partner in a coalition), and we just said what we said to get elected, and underneath we were really just “yellow Tories”. If people have the wrong impression of us having moved way to the right, isn’t that a reason all the more to avoid slogans associated with right-wing views? Yet what is written here in the name of Nick Clegg is full of such stuff, while what he qualified it with to argue he is in the centre is much weaker, and there is nothing at all in the way of left-inclined slogans to balance the right-inclined slogans that feature so prominently.

  • Helen Tedcastle 1st May '13 - 7:27pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    “Even before the 2010 general election I remember feeling from contributing to LDV that things had changed, I was finding myself constantly having to defend my position and being treated as some sort of loony left fringe type for holding to position which would have been mainstream in the party in the 1980s.”

    In terms of constantly having to defend my position, I have felt exactly that too on LDV but particularly on the members’ forum – it’s not just wearing but worrying. I’m not arguing that everyone must agree with each other but when one has to go back to first principles, almost constantly, drawing on previously dearly held Liberal values, it makes one wonder.

    I got involved with LDV post-2010 as a certain Education Secretary got going (okay, you and I can quibble on details but the bigger picture is more worrying) – and was evidently winning over certain key people at the top -because the agenda was ‘reforming’ and ‘radical.’ Never were those words so twisted to fit a Thatcherite programme. None of it was in the Coalition Agreement, which I supported.

    Paul in Twickenham

    “It is my view that Clegg wants to create a small FDP-ish party that will be a frequent minor coalition partner in government.”

    Exactly so. I made a similar point to this further up the thread. The FDP are probably the most uninspiring managerial ‘Liberal’party in Europe – their own self-image is a tiny tug boat pulling along the bigger boat ie: we’ll be a moderate influence, avoiding extremes.

    Of course the FDP is tiny and centrist – perhaps that’s Nick’s ideal.

  • Helen Tedcastle 1st May '13 - 9:54pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    “Inevitably, as very much the junior partner in the coalition it means we have to support, or at least not openly oppose, policy which is far from our ideal. If this wasn’t done the country would be at a standstill, it would be impossible to govern if every party insisted the other must complete convert to their point of view while they would not budge. ”

    Of course as junior partners we cannot stop the Tories in every area but we were given to believe in 2010 that the CA was the programme for Government – I don’t see how, after this was agreed in good faith, that the Tories can then sneak in more and more Thatcherite policies.

    Perhaps it’s naive to believe that the CA was ‘thus far and no further’ from our point of view. Instead, it appears to me at any rate – the Tories come up the latest brain-dead policy dreamed up by their appallingly right-wing think tanks and we just tweak it – so that it isn’t so bad…really.

    “Those who accuse us of “propping up the Tories” seem to suppose there is some magic way we could get the Tories to drop all their policies and adopt LibDem ones. There is n’t, though we could do a lot more in negotiating a compromise more to our way if we had more MPs”

    The magic way is this: We could insist the Tories to stick to the letter of the CA as the price of going into Government with them. Instead, as you point out, we now seem to make a virtue of being in a Tory-led Government introducing cuts, austerity etc.. for the good of the nation, and wax lyrical about how wonderful it is that Lib Dems are tweaking Thatcherite policies, benignly moderating them, before inflicting them on the country.

    How about we say ‘ No’ – we’re sticking with the CA and no further IDS, Gove, Osborne et al.

    It’s a business agreement not a love – in.

  • Martin Kinsella 2nd May '13 - 7:40am

    Nick,

    I would urge you, after the kicking the Tories are about to take, not to go along with any legislation on a referendum on the EU.

    The Tories are only doing it to save their skin. Let them hang in the breeze so we can reap the benefits of the Tory-UKIP split in many of those marginals come 2015.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd May '13 - 10:53am

    Helen Tedcastle

    Of course as junior partners we cannot stop the Tories in every area but we were given to believe in 2010 that the CA was the programme for Government – I don’t see how, after this was agreed in good faith, that the Tories can then sneak in more and more Thatcherite policies.

    Sure, but I’m trying my best to be conciliatory here, and to see how things may be from the point of view of our leaders. I’m always reluctant to criticise people doing a job from the outside, because it is hard to make judgment on it if you haven’t been there and done it (as I am sure you realise as a teacher faced with some of what is coming out from this government …). To try and give them the benefit of the doubt I am assuming that it is hard to get your way when the bottom line is the number of MPs supporting the coalition, which is five times as many Tories as LibDems, and therefore the LibDems feature as a small leftish group who in reality have about the same influence as the extreme right-wing fringe of the Tories. The point is that if I can move this far in trying to see things from the point of view of the leadership, can they take my criticisms of them more seriously than if I was attacking them on an even wider front?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd May '13 - 11:02am

    jedibeeftrix

    Surely you can see that the endless fudge with none of the big three offering the electorate a choice it has lost the consent of the people, and that a referendum offers the best way to reconnect people with that issue…..

    I don’t think the people of this country have much of a clue about what the EU does. It has served very well as a convenient distraction for the political right to try and turn people’s anger at the mess this country is in onto the EU. If you asked people “OK, so you are against the EU, just what is it that the EU is doing to you that you don’t like?”, what would they answer? I think most wouldn’t have a clear answer, they’ve just been trained by the right-wing press to think of the EU as a bad thing and the source of all our woes. The trick has worked well, because people are angry at the failure of the right-wing economics of the government of this country, and how do they respond? By shifting to UKIP which stands for more of the same, only in a even more extreme form.

    If you look carefully at what the political right’s main gripe is about the EU, it’s all to do with the EU meaning national governments standing together to protect their democracy against the way global corporations can now play one country off against another. The political right don’t like this, they like the idea of power shifting away from democratic government to the global financial elite. However, that’s not how they put it to the people obviously, instead they put it in terms of silly stories about straight bananas or what have you.

  • Helen Tedcastle 2nd May '13 - 1:54pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    “Sure, but I’m trying my best to be conciliatory here, and to see how things may be from the point of view of our leaders. I’m always reluctant to criticise people doing a job from the outside, because it is hard to make judgment on it if you haven’t been there and done it.”

    I take your point as fair – perhaps a more generous interpretation of the behaviour and actions of our leaders in the coalition is required. Perhaps a fairer assessment can be made after the coalition ends and we can stand back from it.

    I think then it is a question of expectations. It hasn’t turned out the way I expected and perhaps the implications of the coalition agreement weren’t spelled out, that is, it was only ever a basic guideline and not the programme for Government.

    I feel however, that we are entitled to criticise ‘our’ politicians because of the system of accountability and the sheer quantity of propaganda which is produced, designed to prompt us to think in the right direction – their direction.

    The only comparison with teaching is that like teachers, they work for the public. There, the comparison ends.

  • paul barker 2nd May '13 - 3:27pm

    Unlike many other people on here, I cant read Cleggs mind. However I know what my secret plans for this Party are, I want The Libdems to be Britains largest Party, dominating a series of coalition Governments with our leader being PM.
    To get to that sunny upland we have had to pass a whole series of mileposts including –
    getting British voters comfortable with idea of Hung Parliaments & coalitions
    stopping voters seeing us as a protest Party, a joke or Labours kid brother
    being taken seriously enough to be hated.

    We have a lot further to go but lets remember some of the factors in our favour, we are relatively united compared to our rivals & we are forward-looking. Both Tories & Labour seemed to be happy living in the past.

  • David Allen 2nd May '13 - 4:26pm

    On the question of being fair to our leadership, here is an interesting article from an independent commentator:

    http://www7.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2013/04/27/can-the-lib-dems-avoid-addressing-the-2015-mandate-question/

    who points out that before the 2010 election, Clegg effectively “boxed his party in” to a peculiar, unusual position which made a coalition with the Tories favourable, and a coalition with Labour almost impossible.

    The way he did it was subtle and not at all obvious. Clegg set great store by arguing that “the party which has got the strongest mandate from the British people will have the first right to seek to govern … the votes of the British people are what should determine what happens afterwards.” What Clegg knew, when he said that, was that there is an inbuilt bias in current British elections. If Tories and Labour scored a dead heat in seats – say about 270 seats each, with Lib Dems on 60 seats – then the Tories would have gained substantially more actual votes.

    A leader who had no bias toward Tory or Labour, but simply wanted the best deal for the Lib Dems, would have said “Look, if both the Tories and Labour are on 270 seats, then we will talk to both sides, and go with whoever we think can offer us and the country the best option.”

    Clegg effectively said “If both the Tories and Labour are on 270 seats, then the Tories should get first dibs from us.”

    Clegg effectively argued that this would be a fair response to the slightly higher actual vote for the Tories. Such disinterested altruism! I don’t believe for one moment that that was his real motive. It was camouflage for his real motive.

    Clegg “boxed his party in”, because he wanted to be part of a Conservative coalition. He sacrificed Lib Dem bargaining power by boxing his party in to favour one side. If we let him do it again, he will do it again.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd May '13 - 8:36pm

    Paul Barker

    To get to that sunny upland we have had to pass a whole series of mileposts including –
    getting British voters comfortable with idea of Hung Parliaments & coalitions

    The current coalition government has done the reverse of this – it has turned people against the idea. If there’s one thing that’s going to kill support for coalitions stone dead, it’s the idea that it’s a permanent “marriage”, once you’re in it, you’re stuck with it and you will move ever closer to full merger. Clegg and the Cleggies have given the impression this coalition has to be like that. If he did not want people to think like that, he should have stamped down hard on all that speculation about there being some sort of Conservative-LibDem seat sharing deal in the next election, and preparations for post-election politics which just assume the current coalition will carry on. Instead he remained silent, as he did with the Richard Reeves message to half the party’s members “P…. off to Labour, you’re not wanted”.

  • Gordon Marshall 17th May '13 - 3:59pm

    Looking over the current discussions over Nick Clegg’s notions of Lib Dems ‘staying firm’ in the middle has great attraction , there are many questions as to whether they are now in the middle, especially with the UKIP tug on the tories to the right

    It should be remembered that you Lib Dems came to power on the basis of balancing the scales, and keeping Tories in check. That has changed drastically with UKIP’s insurgence, and given Cameron’s allowing himself to be pulled to the right, the basis for the coalition is becoming flaky. Luvvy-duvvy conservatism is taking a dive, together with its potentials for re-election. People do care when the country’s beloved institutions eg NHS are ransacked in favour of overworked GP’s and privatising mechanisms. The process of (ideological/idiotic) change also costs huge amounts – money that is inaffordable at present. The old systems were not broke and cross-party mapping for changes that were needed could have been affected.

    With ‘caring conservatism’ taking a dive, and good old ideological individualism (entrepreneurship and managerialism) re-asserting itself, together with the implied racism within the anti europe rhetoric and increasingly weak posturing of Cameron, the pact is surely dead.

    It is thus at this point Nick Clegg needs to act, to separate himself and Lib Dems, from this increasingly weak Tory leadership. The Tory heartlands do not ‘do’ fluffy liberalism, they are still bound within notions of grandeur and superiority derived of public (‘independent’) schools, empire, and an insane attachment to the US. Somehow being one of the most influential countries in the EU (notwithstanding being seen as a joke at times) is not good enough. And the US wants us in Europe as its link!

    But Nick Clegg’s background is closer to that of Cameron than Miliband. This makes for the ‘blank spots’ noted above – staying silent when there should be statements that separate the Lib Dems from Cameron Speak. Hence the question has to be as to whether he is caught in the same trap as Brown was, being drawn in by public school allegiance such that he will miss the point when he should have acted to cut the Gordian knot.

    If Nick Clegg pulled the plug on the coalition now it would surely pull the Tories apart – the euro bashers going to UKIP and liberal centre ground having a leadership battle and election on their hands. Then perhaps its a Lib-Dem/Labour coalition with rather more common ground.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarT-J 31st Oct - 3:12am
    David Allen, you're going to find your new friends in the Green Party are a mixed bunch as well. The last Green member-activist I dealt...
  • User AvatarMatthew Huntbach 31st Oct - 12:42am
    Jack I am quite happy to accept that the Lib Dems were unable to get through specific policies; I am not happy to accept that...
  • User AvatarRichard Church 30th Oct - 11:46pm
    Helen, There's a quote in the bible on the lines of you should see the log in your own eye before picking out the splinter...
  • User Avatartez 30th Oct - 10:56pm
    For once a sensible approach to drugs use
  • User AvatarStephen Hesketh 30th Oct - 9:22pm
    @paul barker 30th Oct '14 - 8:36pm Paul, re Labour tearing themselves apart, I sincerely hope they do. I think the British left and our...
  • User Avatartonyhill 30th Oct - 9:05pm
    Stephen Donnelly - quite right. As I have said on previous discussions about this sort of topic, what is all the angst about? This is...