Nick Clegg needs to condemn Cameron’s welfare plans in the strongest language imaginable

Many Liberal Democrats will have been choking on their Sunday Corn Flakes yesterday as they read, with horror, David Cameron’s plans to slash benefits even further than this year’s Welfare Reform Bill. If he had his way, there would be no Housing Benefit payable to anyone under 25. The critical part of the reports is, however, this sentence:

Downing Street said they were Conservative plans for after the next general election.

That’s all right then. This rubbish isn’t going to happen on our watch.

Except…..there are lots of young lives that may be even more ruined than they are already if that shower win the next General Election. Everyone who cares about these things needs to be constructing rational, common-sense arguments against such ideas, against the notion perpetuated by the Tories and the right-wing press that being out of work and on benefits is the result of some sort of moral failing.

That’s why it is really important that Nick Clegg – and it has to be him – condemns these proposals in the strongest language imaginable. The very idea that the under-25s could be stopped from claiming Housing Benefit, which costs £2 billion per year, is particularly ridiculous given that unemployment within that age group is still so disproportionately high. Nick Clegg’s £1 billion Youth Contract will help young people get jobs, but that generation is bearing the biggest brunt of the economic crisis.

Not only that, but not all under-25s have a family home where it’s safe for them to stay. What about those leaving care, who are ill, whose parents won’t let them stay at home, who are fleeing domestic abuse? My daughter will be welcome in our home, which is her home and always will be, but it’s not the same for everybody. Cameron clearly doesn’t have the first notion about the realities of life for many young people today. The PM’s plans will create more homeless young people – and you know how tough it is to get a job if you’re homeless. If people can’t provide themselves with a roof over their head, the state has to help them. It’s the right thing to do.

Cameron talked in the Fail on Sunday about the engaged couple who are feeling hard-done-by because they have to live with their parents while some single mother can just have a baby and get a council house. Maybe that engaged couple should just think that they’re lucky to have the sort of family relationship where they can live, comfortably and probably cheaply, at home. They should recognise that not everybody can walk into jobs. They could maybe do with realising that the single mother trapped in a damp, cramped Council flat is not exactly living a bed of roses lifestyle.

I cannot accept the parts of the Welfare Reform Act which take benefits away from sick people, based on the underlying assumption that they are all faking it until it’s proved otherwise. We’ve all heard of people like Karen Sherlock, who passed away after being told by ATOS that they were fit for work.

I felt that, while many Liberal Democrats, including Paddy Ashdown, opposed parts of the Act, there was too much adoption of the moralising Tory rhetoric from senior Liberal Democrats like Danny Alexander. This was, I think, a mistake. We should have taken the opportunity to show our different approach. People who are ill should be supported, but parking people on benefits who could otherwise be happily working is highly illiberal. It’s not good for anyone, least of all those who want to work but can’t because their family would be a lot worse off if they did. The welfare system should not be an instrument of punishment, it should be an instrument of enablement where people are given the help they need, tailored to suit them, to get into work without losing out while making sure that those who can’t work are looked after.

Cameron’s plans give us an insight into what the Tories governing alone would have done if they hadn’t had the Liberal Democrats holding them back. However unhappy many of us are with the changes, we need to, at least, acknowledge that.

I won’t be happy, though, until I hear Nick Clegg say that Cameron’s words are Tory plans, we think they’re wrong and would not support them. As I write, Danny Alexander has made me very cross. Speaking on Sunday Politics, he said he was relaxed about Cameron setting out his party’s agenda, which is fair enough, but then he said that there needs to be further debate about the welfare system once the reforms bed in. This is simply not good enough. Removing a critical benefit from young people without considering their circumstances is just plain wrong and we should not hold back in our condemnation of it.

This article first appeared on Caron’s Musings yesterday.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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/29134 for Twitter and emails.

47 Comments

  • jenny barnes 25th Jun '12 - 9:04am

    Why is it that there is always a rise in workshy fecklessness every time there is a recession/depression? You would think the proleteriat would have more backbone – get out there, create a new money making enterprise, make their first million before 25…oh.
    Meanwhile, how about increasing the minimum wage to a point where people could actually live on it?

  • I think it is time for Lib Dems to bring down the government – clearly they have no restraining influence on their partners anymore. It is all very well to, as Prateek does, call for differentiation, but these policies will only pass with your complicity and the voters will be unforgiving.

  • Amanda Knowles 25th Jun '12 - 10:36am

    “His plan to axe housing benefit for the under-25s will have exemptions for special cases, such as domestic violence.”
    (From the text of his interview)

  • Although not directly related to the subject matter of the article – I would be surprised if this, from Boris, has not been sanctioned by Tory high command – which is similarly worrying:

    House of Lords reform: Nick Clegg’s crazy plan is a pay day for has-beens and never-wozzers

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/borisjohnson/9353376/House-of-Lords-reform-Nick-Cleggs-crazy-plan-is-a-pay-day-for-has-beens-and-never-wozzers.html

  • “I cannot accept the parts of the Welfare Reform Act which take benefits away from sick people, based on the underlying assumption that they are all faking it until it’s proved otherwise. ”

    Therein lies the problem. Many of us cannot accept this, but Clegg and Alexander et al did accept it. Some made a lot of noise, but in the end it made no difference because not enough were willing to vote against it. I fear this will just join tuition fees, the NHS, Welfare etc as issues that will be waved through with a big white flag.

    Lib Dem MP’s cannot even vote against the clear wrongdoing of a Tory Minister because of “Iraq”. Well sorry to say this but Labour cannot change the past, they were wrong, but Iraq will always be there. The only way to block Tory legislation is to vote with them on a per issue basis.

    Labour were also wrong on benefits in the past, they brought the ATOS medicals in. But if they vote on a motion sufficiently inline with Lib Dem principles, whatever their reason for doing so, Lib Dem MP’s need to stand up and be counted. They are not supporting Labour they are doing their job..

  • Cameron’s plans give an insight into the fate that awaits Scotland if unionists have their way. Without devo-max as an option, only full independence can protect Scotland from the benefit plans of an English Tory government in London.

  • I strongly agree with your sentiments, Caron. If this is apparently the time for Cameron to lay out future Tory plans after 2015, then it’d be wholly appropriate for Clegg to assert liberal values once and for all. These welfare reforms may not take place in the life of this government, but it’s still necessary for the Liberal Democrats to start delineating themselves from this horrific proposal. It seems to be predicated on the unsafe assumption that every under 25 has a family home to return to, regardless of personal circumstances. Guess what Dave, millions of young people weren’t fortunate to have your upbringing! All of this is a ploy to pander to the Mail/Telegraph crowd and possibly claw back those voters who may vote UKIP next time.

    It is imperative that Nick Clegg condemns this and sets out an alternative vision for the future. Labour can’t be relied on to say anything useful, as they have been recently been using rhetoric regarding “the deserving” and “undeserving” poor in an attempt to woo Tory voters. This is an area where the Lib Dems should truly pin their colours to the mast.

  • Richard Dean 25th Jun '12 - 11:38am

    Yes indeed. The question of need should trump the question of age.
    Perhaps this plan is part of a recognition that present economic policies are failing.

  • I agree, Caron. This is an opportunity for Clegg and no mistake. The LDs are going to need to put some clear water between themselves and the Tories before the next GE, and this is such a nasty and obviously ill-considered policy aspiration that there’s no down side to opposing it.

    It occurred to me when I first read what Cameron said that I received Housing Benefit for a spell while under 25 when I was made redundant. By that time I had been living (a long way) away from, and been 100% financially independent of, my mum for 6 or 7 years, and had been working full time and paying income tax for 5. Without JSA and Housing Benefit I’d have been homeless, along with my then-pregnant wife. But of course people like me don’t exist in Cameron’s world, where there are only people like him, and a vast scrounging underclass, and nothing in between.

  • Andrew Thomas 25th Jun '12 - 12:33pm

    I have lost faith in Nick Clegg stopping anything. He let tuition fees rise, Schools become Academies and the NHS bill to go through. Now our own David Laws sounds more right wing than the Tories.

    I joined the Lib Dems about 20 years ago in what was a broadly centre-left party, often to the left of labour, which I was comfortable with. Now, we seem to be full of right wing economic liberals of the German FDP type, and hey presto the public don’t like it. I have got to the stage where if Nick Clegg and the right wing leadership of this party is not ousted imminently we are finished. I can barely stand being in the same party as someone with views on public services like David Laws. If he returns to the cabinet I think my resignation from this party would follow.

    Having served as a Cllr for 12 years defending public services I and many of the voters that elected me felt let down, hence I lost my seat in last years elections. I cannot blame the voters for deserting our party. The decision to allow the agenda to be set by a extremely right wing Conservative Party I feel is the end for our party. The spectacle of our MPs ignoring conference and allowing through the NHS bill was the final straw, this let down the many decent and hard working activists in our party who have been shafted.

  • Well…looks like David Cameron is now parroting populist lines straight out of the Mail or Express using anecdotes and somehow applying that to every housing benefit claimaint.

  • @ Andrew Thomas

    Perhaps, if there is a significant support for these right wing measures, the Party should split between Liberals & SDP. The SDP was always left of centre.

  • @Al I have no idea where you get idea that an independent Scotland would never do anything nasty. There is a view that independence would mean no spending cuts. That’s idealistic & simplistic. Borrowing rates for Scotland would be higher than now because we’d lose triple A credit rating. That means higher mortgages.

    @Prateek I wish I could come to the Conference but it’s a long way for me when I’ve had 2 trips to London this month already.

  • @Mo I can understand that there are times when our leaders have to button it for sake of Govt harmony, but when Cameron is making Tory policy, I see no reason why we can’t rip his ideas to shreds. And this one is ripe for ripping.

  • “Commenting ahead of David Cameron’s welfare reform speech on Monday, in which the prime minister will call for cuts to housing benefit for under 25s, CentreForum’s chief economist Tim Leunig said:
    “Stopping everyone under 25 from claiming housing benefit is daft. The prime minister seems determined to retoxify the Conservative party with his unworkable scheme.”
    Tim Leunig wants David Cameron to answer the following questions about the scheme:
    Will axing housing benefit for all people under the age of 25, whatever their circumstances, mean that all parents will have a legal obligation to house their children until they are 25? What sanctions will be placed on parents who refuse to do this?
    If there is no such obligation, where are low income and unemployed under 25s supposed to live? Will the state provide ‘young adult homes’ akin to children’s homes for people whose parents refuse? What about those who have no parents? How much will this cost taxpayers?
    Will parents of people aged under 25 be able to claim housing benefit on a bedroom for their under 25, even if the under 25 had moved out, in case he/she needs to move back? How much will this cost the taxpayer? Or will there be legal obligation on social and private renters to move to a different sized house every time their adult children need to move in, or choose to move out?
    Which parents have a legal obligation to house a married couple aged under 25 in low income work? Do the young couple have to separate and live with their own parents? Can they choose? Do they have to alternate?
    Who has a legal obligation to house a couple under 25 with children?”

  • Geoffrey Payne 25th Jun '12 - 1:13pm

    Excellent article Caron and I approve of the comment by Tim as well. When it comes to poverty reduction it seems too often to be one step forward and then two steps back.

  • Tony Dawson 25th Jun '12 - 1:23pm

    @Tim Leunig :

    “If there is no such obligation, where are low income and unemployed under 25s supposed to live? Will the state provide ‘young adult homes’ akin to children’s homes for people whose parents refuse? What about those who have no parents? ”

    Tim, have you never heard of the Workhouse? :-(

  • An excellent article Caron.

    I too was quite annoyed at Danny Alexander’s comments. With David Cameron today coming out with something even stupider still – regional rate of benefits – there really is no excuse for staying quiet. If all we’re going to do is meekly distance ourselves from what is basically just Tory posturing, instead of outright opposing it, then we pretty much deserve our current poll ratings.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Jun '12 - 1:33pm

    John Roffey

    Perhaps, if there is a significant support for these right wing measures, the Party should split between Liberals & SDP. The SDP was always left of centre.

    No. At the time the Liberal Party and the SDP merged, the SDP was to the right of the Liberal Party. Just because a bunch of Thatcherites like David Laws are trying to steal the name “liberal” does not mean we should agree with them. What you are seeing here is Orwellian – an attempt to rewrite history by the manipulation of language. Do NOT let them get away with it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Jun '12 - 1:44pm

    David Cameron’s aim in comparing the maximum possible benefit payment to the
    wages of low-paid workers is clearly to suggest only those who do
    not work receive these benefits. This is untrue: the farm worker and
    nursery nurse will also receive housing benefit if they are forced to live
    in high rent private housing.

    Cameron hides the fact that most of a £25,000 benefit payment will go straight
    to the landlord as rent. This arrangement when introduced was intended to
    give short term cover. It has become long term for many only because the
    running down of council housing under the 1980s’ Tory government means there
    is not enough cost-price only housing available even for those in dire need.

    As for forcing under-25s to “stay in their childhood bedroom”, well if you want a recipe for creating a generation of feckless “kidults” here it is. Maybe for a millionaire like Cameron and most of his cronies, living at home for a few years while “saving up” to buy a home of one’s own is realistic. For MOST people now it is completely unrealistic – house prices are so high compared to wages that they are NEVER going to be able to afford a house of their own merely by saving.

    The Thatcher government’s policy of destroying industry and the disciplined culture that it generated, and instituting instead a “greed is good” culture in which stamping on others to reach the top is put forward as the highest virtue has caused untold damage to our society. In particular, note that whereas people like Cameron see this competitiveness as all about thrusting executives and financial traders like themselves and their friends, at the lower levels of society is translated just to personal aggression, to “in your face” attitudes, and to the sort of behaviour that actually makes British kids unemployable, so employers turn to workers from overseas.

  • John Roffey 25th Jun '12 - 1:56pm

    @Matthew Huntbach

    ‘What you are seeing here is Orwellian – an attempt to rewrite history by the manipulation of language. Do NOT let them get away with it.’

    I agree with you in principle, but with so many members departed and such low ranking in the polls – it does appear that they have ‘got away with it’!

  • Stuart Wheatcroft 25th Jun '12 - 2:02pm

    I don’t think I’ve found a single Lib Dem so far who thinks David Cameron’s ideas are good. But I really don’t see the problem with what Danny Alexander said. We do need to let the reforms which have been made settle down before any further major reforms are made, but once that has happened I see no reason why we as a party should be timid about proposing reforms to the welfare system! The alternative is to accept that it is perfect, which it manifestly is not.

    I also want to add some balance to the question of housing benefit. I certainly don’t support a blanket withdrawal, but we do need to consider whether it is reasonable to expect taxpayers to pick up the tab for someone (of my age) who voluntarily chooses to leave home when continuing to do so would be a practical proposition. I can certainly see the appeal of being able to do so, but if I’m not in a financial position to make it happen, why is it the responsibility of taxpayers to fund it?

    Clearly things are different if a young person can’t live with their parents, or perhaps even if they just need to move elsewhere in the country, but if I have access to a home and choose not to use it, why should taxpayers pick up the tab for my lifestyle choice? Why should I get support I don’t need when there’s a finite amount of money to go around and people with far greater need of it?

    So while David Cameron’s proposals are awful and should never see the light of day again, we need to be very wary of falling into the trap of defending the status quo too vigorously.

  • Keith Browning 25th Jun '12 - 2:16pm

    Having recently updated my background knowledge of the 1832 Reform Act and the Poor Law bill of 1834 and all the politics that surrounded it – I thought I had slipped into a time wormhole.

    ‘Poor should never be encouraged by government aid because they will take advantage and become increasingly lazy.’ ‘If in doubt treat them harshly’.

    ‘Only landowners and those of noble pedigree should be allowed to vote and control the strings of government’.

    Grade C GCSE for anyone guessing correctly whether these quotes are from 1832 or 2012.

  • There is a real opportunity here to differentiate the Liberal Democrats from the Conservatives.

    What has to be done is for the Lib Dems to state, publicly, that we are against Cameron’s ideas and will stop them from being seen in the light of day if, after the next election, we are part of another Coalition government. We have to prove that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is NOT the same as a vote for the Tories.

    When the next election comes around if Labour looks like a dead duck in the water and the probable outcome is hence either a Tory government with a working majority or a Coalition in which the Liberal Democrats put the mockers on bat-crap crazy Tory ideas people will be forced, against their own conscience in all probability, to vote Liberal Democrat in order to prevent the Conservatives from unleashing terrible cruelties such as those mentioned by Cameron in his asinine speech today. By painting the Tories as unenlightened and stupid brutes David Cameron has albeit inadvertently given the Liberal Democrat a boost by illustrating that although we are in Coalition there are thresholds in respect to decency and humanity below which we will not – cannot – possibly ever cross.

    To survive we must stand for something better than Cameron.

    Here’s our chance to begin to show that we are worth something after all.

  • Month by month there seems to be an ongoing acceptance, by our leadership (and many LDV posters), of what, pre-2010, would have been unacceptable. Two disasterous elections and an increasingly polarised party bodes ill for our future as an independent voice in UK politics.
    As Cameron has ‘laid the first brick’ of a post-2015 Tory manifesto perhaps Clegg should do the same?

  • John Roffey 25th Jun '12 - 3:11pm

    @ Keith Browning

    We seem to be heading even deeper into history, that of Medieval Britain – of knights and serfs. Where knights are protected, whatever their sins, and serfs are viewed as disposable and whose sufferings are to be accepted as ‘to be expected’ and ignored.

  • Keith Browning,

    “Having recently updated my background knowledge of the 1832 Reform Act and the Poor Law bill of 1834 and all the politics that surrounded it – I thought I had slipped into a time wormhole.”

    It was this same kind of ‘laissez-faire’ philosophy that left hundreds of thousands of people without any work, money or food in the Irish potato famine of the 1840’s. I had though we had moved on from this kind of disastrous politics, since the more enlightended times of Gladstone.

    Cameron is setting the stage for the next election and the accelarating public spending cuts that will run into the next parliament.

    Libdems will need to be able to set-out a coherent and radical alternative to the Tory proposals. I would argues that these should be based on solid social liberal principles as follows:

    1. Non-means tested minimum Citizens income to replace both personal tax allowance, unemployment and incpacity benefit.
    2. Minimum wage job guarantee (supported with childcare) to all eligible UK adults.
    3. Eligibility for social housing or housing benefit restricted to those in employment or incapicitated.
    4. Major tax reform to include introduction of Land Value Tax.
    5. National social and affordable housebuilding program designed to tackle housing crisis.

  • Richard Dean 25th Jun '12 - 3:38pm

    @Joe Bourke. A manifesto ought to explain how things and paid for as well as what will be spent. How would item 4 pay for items 1 to 3 and 5, and what objectives would the 5 items achieve ?

  • Richard,

    1. The citizens income is largely self-financing – it replaces personal tax allowance and existing out-of-work benefits Citizens Income
    2. The job guarantee replaces work fare, is largely paid for by withdrawal of higher-rate tax relief on pension contributions and acts as an economic stimulus bringing the unemployed into productive work. Job guarantees
    3. Eligibility for social housing/ housing benefit is subject to being in employment or incapacitated. For those not in employment, there is an offer of a minimum wage job guarantee to secure eligibility. Social housing and housing benefit continue as means-tested benefits.
    4. Tax reform includes the merging of income tax and NI to a single flat rate and the replacement of higher rate taxes for the top 13.5% of income earners with LVT/Mansion Tax. A self-financing proposal. LVT http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-a-mansion-tax-to-replace-higher-rate-tax-28117.html
    5. A national housing program can be delivered by a National Housing Corporation financed and developed for these purposes Building an economic recovery . It seems likely that we will see the start of some initiatives in this area over the course of the next few weeks.

  • Caron Lindsay writes:
    “there are lots of young lives that may be even more ruined than they are already if that shower [Tories], win the next General Election.”
    And of course, the damage they [Tories], have done so far, is with the support of a Lib Dem Coalition.
    and she continues:
    “As I write, Danny Alexander has made me very cross”
    Well that’s ok then.

  • Mike Barnes 25th Jun '12 - 8:51pm

    Any chance you could end this sham coalition now please Nick? I mean you’ve forced through t he tuition fees and NHS debacles, but this welfare stuff just makes me feel sick.

  • The Daily Mail has an online poll – 87%:13% AGAINST ending housing benefit for the under-25s.

  • Barry George 26th Jun '12 - 2:07am

    At least Cameron is letting us know in advance what he will U turn on next…

    But seriously I would advise just keeping quiet and lettting the man dig his own hole. It’s a strategy that Labour have been employing to great success (according to the polls) and tonights You Gov poll has the Lib Dems in double figures for the first time in a long time . Please dont ruin it by alllowing senior Lib Dems to open their mouths as when they do the public don’t give a hoot about the substance, the trust we once had died a long time ago. The very mention of Clegg or LIb Dems gets people wound up and often deflects from the absurd ideas of DC. Nobody believes a word we say anyway…

    Maybe there is a lesson here for some small electoral recovery… allow Cameron to say what he wants just don’t let him do what he wants…

    When 87% of Daily Mail web site readers think cameron is wrong just sit back and enjoy the fact that for once the hatred and anger is not being directed at Clegg or the Lib Dems…

    You never know, if we give Cameron enough rope the public may actually decide that they dislike Cameron more than they dislike Clegg.

    That would be a small achievement, surely….

  • Still, at least it was amusing to watch him fly this great big nasty Tory kite on the same day his pals were launching a campaign to convince Scots that we’re “better together”.

    I wonder if Salmond called to thank him.

  • Toby MacDonnell 26th Jun '12 - 8:01am

    Hear, hear on Joe’s proposals. Very encouraging to know that the vast majority support housing the under-25s, as well.

  • Richard Harris 26th Jun '12 - 8:37am

    What I find fascinating about this is the political dynamic that allows Cameron to spell out extreme Tory plans for after the next election, but prevents the Lib Dems doing the same. As the Lib Dems are seen to be “propping up” a minority government any attempt at outlining policy for after the next GE labels them as hypocritical (as many policies would be in contradiction to those that they are voting through now). Whereas the Tories are perceived as the minority government “held back” by their coalition partners, and are therefore less critically received when they spell out more extreme policies, such as the removal of housing benefit.
    In short, the Lib Dems must change the dynamic or they will be consistently portrayed as a minority party voting against their core beliefs. The more Lib Dems spell out what they really believe (and can’t vote for because of the coalition agreement) the more they will seem like power grabbing hypocrites. I can see this effect only becoming worse as 2015 approaches. Time to get out now and only support those policies you actually agree with so you are free to outline your own agenda. It’s only 2 1/2 years away!

  • Cameron and Gove are in competition to appeal to their right wing, for fear that significant numbers might defect to Ukip, and in advance of a possible leadership contest.
    Meanwhile, Danny, three things need sorting: the relative levels of minimum wage, tax threshold and benefit levels, the relationship between those three needs to be regulated.

  • Speaking during a visit to Sheffield’s Children’s Hospital, Mr Clegg said: “David Cameron was speaking as a leader of the Conservative Party about his own personal ideas about the kind of things he would like to see happen after 2015. “He is entirely free to do so, as is any leader of any political party.”

    Well, that’s it then.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Jun '12 - 11:19am

    John Roffey

    ‘What you are seeing here is Orwellian – an attempt to rewrite history by the manipulation of language. Do NOT let them get away with it.’

    I agree with you in principle, but with so many members departed and such low ranking in the polls – it does appear that they have ‘got away with it’!

    If you agree with me, why did you participate in their Orwellian plan to rewrite history?

    It is a plain fact that at the time of the Liberal-SDP merger, the SDP was to the right of the Liberal Party, yet you have stated the direct opposite. In fact I have found this view stated so many times in places like Liberal Democrat Voice, that the merger involved a left-of-centre SDP with a Liberal Party whose main policy was centred on support for extreme free market policies, that I have had to go back and root through some of my old papers from the time to convince myself I am not going mad. Back then there was NO significant element in the Liberal Party which endorsed extreme free market economics (which was then called “Thatcherism”) let alone one which insisted that such policies were what liberalism was all about.

    In fact at the time of the merger, the mania for extreme free market policies was beginning to show a presence in the SDP rather than the Liberal Party. It was quite often given by anti-merger Liberals as one reason why they were unhappy with the merger. As evidence for this, note what became known as the “Dead Parrot” document:

    http://www.liberalhistory.org.uk/item_single.php?item_id=103&item=history

    This was intended to be a foundation document for the newly merged party, but the job of writing it had been passed onto a small and unaccountable group – nominally the two party leaders, though actually it seems it was largely done by two interns in Robert Maclennan’s office. Maclennan was leader of the SDP after David Owen left it and founded a new party of the same name. At that time Owen was thought to be some hyper-intelligent person who the party could not afford to lose (though some of us felt the opposite) – a bit like David Laws now. So the document was written in a way that was supposed to appeal to him. The Westminster Bubble supposed the SDP to be naturally superior to the Liberal Party (which was thought to consist of “sleepy” people who wore beards and sandals (both sexes)). The interns in question were supposed (as part of the Westminster Bubble) to be the up-and-coming thing in the “Democrats” (as the Bubble then wanted the party to be called – “Liberal” being regarded as a dirty word that needed to be wiped out of memory), with the up-and-coming keenness for free market policy.

    I remember this clearly as I was on the Young Liberals National Executive at the time, and I remember when the Chair, Rachael Pitchford, who was one of the Liberal Party’s negotiating team in the merger, first told us about the plans for this document I expressed my concern at what was being planned. Although I did not know exactly how the document was being produced, it seemed to me hugely dangerous just to leave something like this to be produced in an unaccountable way with no checks on its content until it was revealed at the last moment as the merger officially took place.

    And so it was.

    There was outrage throughout the Liberal Party at the economic right-wing nature of this document when it was revealed, and it nearly scuppered the merger.

    So now to find people suggesting that the merger was between a right-wing economics Liberal Party and a left-of-centre SDP – and this point I find is being made again and again and again by various people in various places – leaves me wondering did I dream all this? How come what I remember is the complete opposite of what people who were not there at the time claim to be the truth?

    This is why I this is like what George Orwell wrote about in “1984”. My memory is not false, but there has been a determined attempt by a very powerful group of people to wipe it out, to stop even the sorts of thoughts that people used to have, by a quite deliberate attempt to change the very language we use and to make us believe history was other that it really was. These people have won if even those who oppose then believe their false history. I shall not forget and I shall continue to stand up and state what I know to be true about these events so long as I live. I do not care how many people assert the opposite – the Liberal Party at the time of the merger was NOT an extreme free market party.

  • Housing benefit in its current form is not working. Its not delivering the quantity of housing we need or the quality. Its time we built proper social housing and stopped pussyfooting around with so called affordable housing, housing benefit and other sticking plaster measures which amount to fiddling on an increasingly huge violin while Rome burns. Yes condemn the Tories, but if Clegg can’t articulate an alternative vision he shouldn’t be leader.

  • Matthew Huntbach26th Jun ’12 – 11:19……leaves me wondering did I dream all this? How come what I remember is the complete opposite of what people who were not there at the time claim to be the truth?….

    Thank goodness! I thought it was just my mind playing tricks.
    There are many sources, but the old adage that “If you repeat a lie often enough people believe it”, seems to hold true.

  • I don’t know that there’s anything Orwellian about it; it’s just a fact that the name “Social Democratic Party” *sounds* leftish and socialist, and that the SDP emerged from the supposedly left-wing Labour Party; whereas “Liberals”, whatever they were in the 1980s, have to deal with a bit of 19th-century Whiggish baggage, the equation in some circles of so-called “classical liberalism” with ‘laissez faire’ economics, and the existence of various continental parties (not to mention Australia, Japan, etc.) which describe themselves as ‘liberal’ but are in fact right-wing.
    Given all this, it would be easy for people who don’t remember the 1980s (or who weren’t paying attention at the time) to assume that the SDP was on the left and the Liberals on the right.

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 ...?




Recent Comments

  • User Avatarstuart moran 23rd Sep - 3:17pm
    Eddie 1. Wow - completely unacceptable. If AV requires a referendum, the Scottish, Welsh and Irish assemblies had referenda then why not English devolution. Polls...
  • User AvatarDavid Evershed 23rd Sep - 3:13pm
    Let's take the example of Free Schools in England. 1. Do we want the MP's for Scottish constituencies to have a casting vote on whether...
  • User AvatarGeorge Potter 23rd Sep - 3:11pm
    @Kay Kirkham As I say in the first paragraph of the article: "following the pledge of home rule for Scotland by all three major party...
  • User Avatarfake 23rd Sep - 3:10pm
    It should be raised, not lowered, stupid idea. The voting age has nothing to do with lack of interest in politics.
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 23rd Sep - 3:08pm
    Hi Stuart, answers to your questions: 1. No to a referendum on Eng. Parliament. We just need evidence of public support through polls. 2. Only...
  • User AvatarDav 23rd Sep - 2:55pm
    If someone is old enough to get married (which you can do without parental consent in Scotland at 16), or serve in our armed forces,...