Opinion: Talking about my generation

Today something a little bit interesting will happen to me. I will become a member of a new generation of Liberal Democrats. Because from today, I will have spent longer as a member of the Liberal Democrats while they have been in Government than when they were simply the ignored party in opposition. When I first became involved in April 2009, a Liberal Democrat Government was unthinkable. Today it is reality. And it is a reality that some of us are now getting used to.

Many of the older members of the Liberal Democrats will have spent decades being ignored and politically irrelevant, despite their constant efforts on behalf of the party. Many of their political memories will be of hard work for a party which was not seen as capable of governing the country. From today, most of my political memories will be of Government. Some of you may remember the bad old days when our parliamentary party could have held a meeting in a minibus. I can’t.

Over the next four years, more and more of our members will enter the next generation of Liberal Democrats. This will be the generation which is familiar with the idea that our ministers are running the country, that our policies are being implemented and that our opinions actually matter for the first time in decades. Not all of these people will be young people, but a great deal of them will. So the responsibility lies with organisations such as Liberal Youth to build this next generation and ensure that the party emerges from these next five years with a membership unwilling to return quietly to the benches of opposition. Liberal Youth can, and must, ensure that the Liberal Democrats become a party which is happy making tough decisions and compromises, rather than just booing and hissing from that little corner of the House of Commons we used to huddle in.

It’s the youngest members of our party who have the responsibility to help the party grow into a new mindset.

That’s why the new Liberal Youth Executive has to work to build up a strong membership base amongst young people. It means campaigning to strengthen our organisation in Universities and expanding elsewhere as well. It means improving our membership strategy to ensure that Liberal Youth is able to argue the case for Liberalism amongst young people. And, inevitably, it means talking about tuition fees. Liberal Youth should maintain its position of being opposed to the rise in the cap and should strive to pressure the party into delivering more for young people, but must also make a convincing case that the party has made gains on their behalf in Government.

Liberal Youth has always been responsible for building the party of the future. But over the next four years this role will be even more important than ever. The new Executive must begin the task of building the new generation of Liberal Democrats. If it is successful, then the party’s membership will emerge from Coalition stronger than ever before.

George Morris is a member of Liberal Youth.

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29 Comments

  • I agree with your main sentiment. I’m 24 so probably a similar age to you and I think that our generation will have higher expections and goals for the party. A decade or two a go people in the Lib Dems were simply trying to increase Lib Dem parliamentary representation to a respectable amount. Now it’s up to us to take on their hard work and think about making the party electable.

    We need to think about what this means. I think the previous generation tried to drum up support for one or two policies, but if we want to be elected into government we need to have a full and credible program that is strong in all areas. Personally I feel that policies like no university tuition fees and opposition to trident, whilst popular with a certain section of society, makes us less credible to the rest of society.

    For the next few years at least the media and the public are going to listen to us when we say something. We need to cease this opportunity (if only to make sure we don’t lose lots of seats at the next election) to make our party definable to the electorate. We should think about coming out with bold and distinctive policies that tackle problems that resonate most with the electorate. Things like a land value tax or legalisation of drugs and prostitution would certainly get a lot of attention.

  • Liberal Youth must get over fees if it wants to be more than a pathetic voice standing at the sidelines. Supporting the government that raised them whilst being a single-issue pressure group opposed to said raise is ridiculous. The first item on the agendas of the new executive should be to ask why so few members voted in the election that got them in.

  • I am a post-coalition member – and that means that I have never been a member of a party that wasn’t in government, which still sounds pretty odd for a Liberal Democrat! In addition, I don’t even have the excuse of being particularly young…

    Even in those few months of membership, I have learned to appreciate long-standing members and their memories of the hard old times.

    I think your analysis is essentially right: it will have to be a different party which goes into the next general election. But we have to continue to learn from those people who have been pounding the streets for decades and who never gave up, even when (so famously) the party’s support in the polls was represented by an asterisk. I sense that in local elections, only that memory of what it is like in the hard times may see us through in the next year or two. I have now seen a little bit of campaigning in a cold climate – but it was the experience of the long-standing members that allowed us to make some sense of what was happening.

    There is strength to be found in a sensible combination between both – those who will be used to this brave new world of government, and those who have been fighting for ages. I sense that this dialogue won’t always be easy, and I just hope that it’ll be possible to make the best of both worlds!

    You talk about Liberal Youth’s responsibility to ‘ensure that the party emerges from these next five years with a membership unwilling to return quietly to the benches of opposition’. I understand what you mean by that. But we also have to make sure that we have a membership which will remain committed even if the going gets tough, if we don’t have any LibDem ministers running the country, and if the only thing our leader is noticed for (if he or she is lucky to get noticed at all) is getting shouted at during two questions from the lower end of the House each Wednesday.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jun '11 - 4:52pm


    Many of the older members of the Liberal Democrats will have spent decades being ignored and politically irrelevant, despite their constant efforts on behalf of the party. Many of their political memories will be of hard work for a party which was not seen as capable of governing the country. From today, most of my political memories will be of Government. Some of you may remember the bad old days when our parliamentary party could have held a meeting in a minibus. I can’t

    Why do you hold that our party “was not seen as capable of governing the country”, say in 1983 when it got 25.4% of the vote overall, but was in 2010 when it got 23.0% overall?

    Like many of the younger contributor to LibDem Voice recently, your view of the party seems to be based too much on what the press reports about it (and the UK press ranges from neutral to actively hostile, with the median point being pretty hostile) rather than what it actually is and has been. As a result, you fill your comment with pejorative stuff which derives from our enemies. You also seem far too willing to accept the spin put on our party by a few at the top, and are mostly repeating parrot-fashion what they are saying. This is not a good idea when it is fairly obvious those at the top of our party have got so much disastrously wrong in the past couple of years.

    In short, you need you learn to be more critical. Do not just accept what you are told, but instead look and think for yourself.

    If our party is to have a future it must find a way, as you have signally failed, to distance itself from the current government. It would be better therefore to do the opposite of what you have done – to play down its role in this government, rather than play it up. It is not a Liberal Democrat government, it is a Conservative government with a little Liberal Democrat influence. Your expectations are actually very low if you think the influence it has is so very wonderful that you go on and on about it as you do. It is the mark of the much greater expectations those of us who have been longer term members of the party have of it that many of us are fairly disappointed in what we have seen since the party has been in the coalition. So, PLEASE don’t repeat the lies of the right-wing press by doing down those of us who have been long-term members of the party, accusing us of having low expectations, or of not being interested in government. And PLEASE don’t follow their plans for us which urge us that the little bit of influence we have is so wonderful that we must keep it be sucking up to the Tories until 2015, and going on and on about how great it is to be a junior partner of their coalition. Remember, they have an agenda, and the place we feature in that agenda is in the dustbin of history. So what they urge us to do is not necessarily in our real best interests to do. We saw what our new found friends in the right-wing press really thought of us in their coverage of us in the AV referendum.

  • david clayton 6th Jun '11 - 5:34pm

    As a (Labour) outsider i think you should be a little moire appreciative of the work many grassroots LibDems have done in the last twenty years to build the credibility of the party. This credibility is currently being frittered away in a frenzy of pale tory imitations. Attacks on the trade unions? That will be the tories….er or the Lib Dems. Tolerating high unemployment, supporting large corporate interests, mindlessly cutting state provision that will be the tories….er. What exactly are you getting from this that is worth the destruction of the party as apolitical force in large areas of the country. I have said before on here that i mourn the passing of the Lib Dems as a third force in UK politics. They will be lucky to be in the top five at this rate.

  • Old Codger Chris 6th Jun '11 - 6:18pm

    @Z
    “Liberal Youth must get over fees if it wants to be more than a pathetic voice standing at the sidelines. Supporting the government that raised them whilst being a single-issue pressure group opposed to said raise is ridiculous.”

    So what is Liberal Youth supposed to do? Pretend they welcome Lib Dem ministers’ despicable u-turn on Tuition Fees? Or separate themnselves from the Party?

  • @ Matthew Huntbach – I think his main point is that now the Lib Dems are in government, it could change the mentality of the younger generation.

    I disagree with your assertion that we have to distance ourselves from the coalition. It would look infantile to say the least, and wouldn’t get much respect from the electorate, apart from maybe the 10% of our vote that has left us. Considering there is a large part of the Lib Dem manifesto being enacted in government it would look bizzare if we disowned what we had supported in our manifesto.

    We need to see being in government as an opportunity rather than a deathnell. In 2015 we need to make sure we can highlight where our policies have brought real benefits to society and we also need to highlight where we would have done things differently if we had been governing alone. We need to use our time in government as a chance to reach out to voters who have previously been dismissive of us, either because they don’t think we’re a party of government or because they haven’t paid much attention to us.

  • Whilst I don’t think very much of Matthew Huntbach’s tone, I fear that his substantive point has merit.

    ‘But criticising everything that the Coalition does isn’t just counterproductive; it also means criticising 75% of our manifesto. I don’t think there’s anything constructive in criticising our own policies just because the Tories are helping us deliver them.’

    That 75% number alone should set alarm bells ringing in a coalition government. It begs the question of whether we are seeing influence or rather confluence. For example, it may well be that the pupil premium is being implemented, but did anyone really think that it would be at the expense of elsewher in the education budget?

    ‘Being in the manifesto,’ and, ‘being implemented in a certain way,’ are not the same thing. The idea that, ‘the tories are helping deliver Lib Dem policy,’ is fanciful. It’s not a case of criticising policies that appeared in the manifesto when the spirit is outwith the manifesto – and the campaign rhetoric for that matter.

    Indeed, I am inclined to agree with MH that the Conservative Party would likely leave the Lib Dems for dead given the chance. I have to hand it to the Conservatives on constituency boundaries – a masterful stitch-up.

    I’d actually find the article more convincing if you could explain what positives the Coalition has bought for the young, if anything it has priviliged the Boomer generation terribly. What policies is it that you have in mind?

  • “a Liberal Democrat Government was unthinkable”

    It still is. This is a coalition Government. At this point a Liberal Democrat Government is even further away than May 2010. There have been much better noises of late and the next year or so will tell. The danger for the whole project is if the Tories scent a majority is within their grasp. Fox, Osbourne et al will not hold back at that point. Of course this is not helped by a largely innefectual Labour leader……

    It’s a bizarre fact, but Labour need to stay strong whilst confidence and trust is rebuilt. But for the latter to happen real change in the manner of coalition needs to be seen…

  • Hi George. Am glad to hear you have such high hopes, though the future depends on people like MH far more than little old LY.

    The young and the students have been royally screwed by the coalition thus far. If there are a few positives then by far and away are the education reforms and the repoliticisation of ”our generation”. If we can grab them into the Westminster and town hall spheres of influence from wave after wave of pointless marching, we may just impart the urgent need to engage with electoral politics and hold all politicians to account.

    All the best,
    LY NPO 2011

  • Sam
    Prostitution itself isn’t illegal in England. It is illegal in Thailand.
    Anyway in getting headline grabbing attention, we would have to do better than this.

  • Jack Holroyde 7th Jun '11 - 8:54am
  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jun '11 - 9:32am

    Sam

    I disagree with your assertion that we have to distance ourselves from the coalition. It would look infantile to say the least, and wouldn’t get much respect from the electorate, apart from maybe the 10% of our vote that has left us. Considering there is a large part of the Lib Dem manifesto being enacted in government it would look bizzare if we disowned what we had supported in our manifesto.

    Yes, the right-wing press have been telling us that, but might there not be the teensiest-weensiest possibility that the right-wing press have got things wrong? Might there not even be the teensiest-weensiest possibility (although this credits them with more intelligence than they probably have) that they are deliberately directing us down a path they know will damage us? Look, these people are not our friends. However much they may have praised us for “doing the right thing” in joining the coalition, and urge us that the good sensible way for us to behave is to be good little boys and girls who obey daddy Cameron, when it comes to the crunch they still hate us, and they will do what they can to destroy us, as we saw in the AV referendum.

    Sorry, George and Sam, but you appear to be repeating in parrot fashion the sort of commentary advice given to us in The Times, Daily Mail and so on. Throughout my time in the party, when these papers have deigned to mention us and not in a way that is abusive, which is not very often, they’ve given advice like this which usually sums up as “be more like the Tories and you’ll gain respect for acting sensibly”. And throughout my time in the party, when it has acted on that advice (which is most times) it has dropped in support. When the party had thought for itself and done things differently and not listened to what we now call the “Westminster bubble” it has done well.

    Even in your short time in the party, can’t you see this? When the coalition was formed we were urged by the right-wing press to do just what they still say we should do and you agree with them – “own the coalition” meaning pretend we support all its policies and utter no criticism of Cameron and the Conservatives. They told us that to do otherwise would make us look foolish, whereas to do what they told us to do would make us look sensible, and support would come flocking to us when people saw Liberal Democrats ministers doing sensible things (by which they meant “supporting Tory policies”). Well, has it worked that way? It hasn’t, has it?

    Regarding this “government producing 75% of our manifesto commitments”, this 75% figure coming from just one study seems to have been adopted by right-wingers and the naïve in our party as some sort of comfort blanket which can be hugged whenever life gets uncomfortable. It’s been brought up again and again and accepted uncritically. I think you will find that it does not feel to most of our voters that this government is fundamentally a Liberal Democrat one, that is perhaps why they are deserting it in droves. The more you insists that it is by quoting this line, the more you will lose us our voters as they see what is a Tory government and they think that if the Liberal Democrats say this is such a Liberal Democrat government that it is “producing 75% of their manifesto commitments”, that just proves how far the Liberal Democrats have shifted from what they though they were when they voted for them.

    Look, there is a coterie which is small in numbers but backed by big money so far more influential than it deserves to be, which is trying to push our party down what is sometimes called an “economic liberal” route, that is one which supposes there is no problem that can’t be solved by establishing a cash market, and that the only restriction on freedom that matters is one imposed by the existence of government. This coterie is very keen on us cosying up to the Tories, and is very keen on this line that we are introducing so much Liberal Democrat policy into the government. They kept telling us – as did the right-wing press as this is one of their common pieces of advice for us – that there is some big “libertarian” vote out their just waiting for us to become a rampant economism (to give the dogma its real name) party. Well, the public have come to believe (enthusiastically by Labour and Labour supporters) that we have become just that. So where are the votes that should have come flooding to us for that reason?

    I should like a little more investigation as to what exactly this “75%” figure means, what are these policies, how did that figure come about? At best I suspect it means we are getting a lot of detailed minor policies through, but the 25% we are not getting are the bigger ones. At worst I suspect it’s a very creative interpretation, because these things are a matter of judgment, and it’s common for people to see what they want to see.

    On your line about us “disowning what was in our manifesto”, well that is ridiculous, but again could have come straight from the Daily Mail etc. Nowhere did I say anything like that. Just because I say we should distance ourselves from the Tories does not mean I say we should disown those policies of ours which are getting into government. Of course our enemies would say it does because our enemies hate us and do not want us to do well, that is why they give us misleading advice or misinterpret anything we say in their favour and against ours. What I am actually saying is that we should be more honest in admitting that as the junior partner in the coalition, with less than one in six of its MPs, there is a limit on what we can achieve, so inevitably what this government is doing is not what we would be doing were we the lead party in government. What is so “infantile” about this that you should use that word to criticise me for saying it?

  • @sam
    We should think about coming out with bold and distinctive policies that tackle problems that resonate most with the electorate. Things like a land value tax or legalisation of drugs and prostitution would certainly get a lot of attention.

    @manfarang
    Prostitution itself isn’t illegal in England. It is illegal in Thailand.
    Anyway in getting headline grabbing attention, we would have to do better than this.

    I totally agree with Sam – though not as is inferred by manfarang for the purposes of headline grabbing but rather because speaking sensibly, honestly and without either kneejerk reactionism or headline grabbing sensationalism has always been a hallmark of liberalism. Furthermore that was exactly what was expected by those who placed faith in Nick Clegg’s ‘new politics’; the very same people who, myself included, feel disenchanted with the Lib Dems in coaltion.

    The bedrock of Liberalism is rational debate based on evidence rather than dogma . Last week the report of a variety of respected people confirmed what many have known all along that ‘the war on drugs’ has failed. To my mind this was a perfect opportunity to demonstrate ‘new politics’; the party could have been bold enough to accept this as a starting point and demonstrate a more rational, honest and responsible response to difficult issues. Instead ‘new politics’ is conspicuous in its silence; presumably for fear of Daily Mail headlines ‘slamming’ wooly Liberals.

    The Lib Dems should deliver both rationalism and ‘new politics’ by avoiding headline grabbing but also by not being afraid of reactionary headlines thrown back at them. This is why I always supported the party.

  • Further to my last point I also believe that this ‘fear of Daily Mail’ headlines is grossly exaggerated in any case. The healdines may be less than flattering but not all voters buy them or believe them. Last week’s report on the failed war on drugs is a case in point. I checked the Daily Mail report online – it had very little reactionary response and the comments that followed were approximately 5:1 in support of the report not as might be expected against. Maybe there is an audience out there that might just respect and support open debate. They may be reactionary but 40 years worth of evidence is difficult to ignore.

  • Matthew Huntbach – I don’t read much of the right-wing press. I tend to read The Independent or The Guardian and a range on blogs normally written by Lib Dems.

    If we were to take your approach we would be ripped to pieces by the Tories and the right-wing press but also Labour. Labour would dearly love for us to destroy ourselves so that it can clean up on the anti-Tory vote and get a majority at the next election.

    I agree that the Tories want to hurt us and I feel we have been naive in protecting ourselves from them and also making the coalition work better for us as a party. We’ve wasted political capital on some very disastrous things. The tuition fees debacle was completely pointless from our point of view. There was no way we could have enacted it and we should have ditched it. Likewise a referendum on AV wasn’t a particularly great idea. We campaigned to introduce an electoral system we don’t believe in mainly because we hoped it would give us a few extra seats. It’s little wonder the electorate didn’t go for it. I would have prefered it to FPTP but I don’t think it was worth the political capital in trying to introduce it.

    Perhaps we can put this down to inexperience but we need to learn the lessons from this coalition incase we ever enter another one.

    I’m guessing from your distaste at economic liberalism that you and I probably disagree on a lot. But what you probably call neoliberalism is probably what I call corporate socialism. You may have a great faith in “positive” freedoms, but I lament the fact that governments tend to use them to philosophically justify passing authoritarian terrorism laws or laws that reduce competition and help big business solidify monopolies.

  • Muxloe – For me legalisation of drugs and prostitution would be extremely beneficial to society. On drugs, we would be taking away a billion pound industry from gangsters and drug dealers. For me this would play a strong role in making the poorest and roughest estates in the country better places to live as these types of people obviously have a negative impact on communities. We would save billions in policing, the justice system and prisons. We could use this money and the tax to target policing on crimes that cause serious problems. With the lower prison numbers we could spend more money on creating an effective rehabilition process that would hopefully eat into the numbers of prisoners who reoffend. From the polls that I’ve seen and tv show and radio show phone-ins that I’ve watched and listened to, it seems that the general public is very open minded about drug policy reform, and even exasperated at the ineffectual current policy.

    Legalising prostitution for me is mainly about protecting prostitutes. I would be much happier if prostitutes worked in brothels that had to be registered and monitored by local councils, had contact with the police and knew where to find councilling or drug rehab or help to quit prostitution.

    There are lots more reasons for legalising drugs and prostitution but that’s a basic summary. I’ve often thought about trying to write a book about this to argue the case but I’m not sure anyone would buy it unfortunately.

  • David Allen 7th Jun '11 - 11:23pm

    “I should like a little more investigation as to what exactly this “75%” figure means”

    I think you’ll have to ask the Returning Officer for Moscow West, back in the USSR, Matthew!

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Jun '11 - 10:33am

    George Morris

    The idea that I’ve been influenced by the right-wing press is nonsense. I’m a Guardian reader, by the way. And a definite left-winger to boot. Like you, I have some concerns that the party leadership may have shifted rightwards, and I’m a social liberal. I don’t know where you’ve got the idea from that I in any way sympathise with the Tories.

    I’m not saying that you consciously sympathise with the Tories, but I am noting that your comments, probably without you realising it, incorporate a great deal of the propaganda lines that have been pumped out by the Tory press and by the right-wing in the Liberal Democrats. When the coalition was first formed, this line was pushed very hard by people with their own right-wing agenda: that we should “own the coalition” by which they meant we should act as if we agreed with every part of it, as if the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives had become one. The argument put in favour of this is that it would bring the Liberal Democrats more support, because people would be impressed to see us in government and think us more serious politicians for doing this. Now from everything you have written here, you sound like someone who accepted that at the start, and incredibly, despite it clearly not working as those who pumped out the propaganda said – you seem STILL to believe it.

    Are you not able to see that those who were most enthusiastically pushing this line were either Tories – it is a line constantly repeated by Tory-oriented commentators in the media – or people in the Liberal Democrats who have been part of the movement pushing it to the political right? It just has not worked out as they claimed it would – our share in the polls has plummeted, not risen. Now some of these right-wingers are saying it will all work out fine by the next general election when government policy will have worked. Sorry George, but if that’s your line, it means you are effectively a Tory because it means you think Tory policies will work. If I thought that this country would be in a better shape after 5 years of Tory economic policy – which is what we are getting from this government – I’d have joined the Tory party. Our party may be getting some nice little Liberal Democrat details into what the government is doing, but the broad thrust, particularly on the economy, is purely Tory, purely what was in the Tory manifesto and not what was in ours.

    Despite my words of caution on this “75%” figure, you have just repeated it as a fact, these are your words: “the fact that 75% of our manifesto is being implemented”. Well, is it a fact? Or is it a piece of propaganda being used by Tory sympathisers to con the gullible? Have you seen any detailed analysis, what is used to come up with this 75% figure? I haven’t. I’ve given some guesses as to how it came about, that’s all. I do suggest, if you don’t want to stay in my mind as either gullible or a Tory sympathiser, that you actually look into just what that “75%” means rather than just accept it because you were told it.

    Now when you write “My point is, however, that being scared of Government, disassociating ourselves from the work of Lib Dem ministers and agonising over the significant part of our manifesto not being implemented will get us absolutely nowhere”, those are TORY lines. I’m sorry George, they really are. They are just the lines which the Tory press are using to try and hush up the left of the Liberal Democrats when we express concern at what this government is doing. Nowhere in anything I wrote did I say we should disassociate ourselves from the work of Lib Dem ministers, you have put that in yourself, unconsciously repeating what Tory propaganda merchants say. My criticism of the government is of those aspects of it which are not what we would do were we governing alone, but the Tories find it very good to twist that and make out it means I am some sort of “rebel” against our own party. This “scared of government” line too is pure Tory propaganda. I have seen it, in various forms over many years, thrown at Liberal Democrats and Liberal before the merger, always used to belittle those of us who want to stand a little firm on our principles. Politics is always about compromise and in this, as in much else, of course we must find a balance. However, it does not help in establishing a balance if some who claim to be on our side seem to be using the weapons of the other side, as you are here by your use of these Tory lines. The word “scared” is a pejorative word, used deliberately to belittle. If you wanted to make your point without coming across as a Tory fifth columnist, you would have found some other and non-pejorative word to use.

    You claim that the Liberal Democrats in the past had some sort of attitude problem and your belittling of past achievements all make you sound like one of these new types coming into the party who want to destroy it and turn it into a right-wing “Libertarian” party. You write as if the Liberal Democrats were insignificant nobodies achieving nothing until the coalition happened. What rot, it is more of the Tory propaganda used to belittle us and make us feel we have to stay in the coalition under their terms. It just so happened that the result of the May 2010 general election did not put any party into a majority in Parliament, and left the biggest party too far behind to make a minority government, as happened after the February 1974 general election, viable. Just because of this accident of the results does not mean Liberal Democrats now are any better people, have any better policies, have any better attitudes now than before. The accidental balance we had in 2010 could have happened in any general election between February 1974 and now, as it was that 1974 election which established the Liberals as having rebuilt and clearly being more than a historical relic as they appeared in the 1950s and cold still be painted in the 1960s. In the February 1974 general election the Liberal Party got 19% of the vote nationally, so not that much below the 23% in May 2010. That is why your words “not seen as capable of governing the country” are so damaging and so much what a Tory who wants to damage us would say – essentially they are saying “You were nothing until you joined with us in coalition, and you will be nothing without us”. They are fine words, George, if your aim is to shut us up and make us obedient servants to the Tories rather than an independent political party which will fight its ground. Your use of such words, your whole article was full of them, is where I got the idea that you sympathise with the Tories.

    Now in reality I don’t think your actual position is much different from mine. From the start when the coalition was formed I accepted it was necessary following the general election result, and while it was not what we would ideally have wanted, indeed would cause us damage, since there was no alternative thanks to the way the country voted, we needed to make the best of it and get from it what we can. I’m not saying we should leave it now, though I think it is practical politics if we want to be able to defend our position that we don’t write off the possibility of leaving it early. One of the things we would need before we did leave it was a coherent Labour Party which offered the possibility of being an alternative coalition partner we could work with – we certainly don’t have that now. I am saying we should be very cautious of the way they are people with vested interests trying to push our party down the line of becoming a permanent small appendage to the Conservative Party. Such people tend to have the support of the media, and the contacts needed to get their voice heard, while the left of the Liberal Democrats is hated by almost everyone and rarely gets its voice heard – even in your Guardian, which always consistently backs the right-wing in our party in any internal matters. Trust me, in my 30+ years of membership of the party, it has always been like that. For this reason, if you want to be in our party and be on the left of our party, you must exercise caution and don’t just take on trust, as “fact” or wisdom, material you read, even in the Guardian let alone other media outlets.

  • Matthew Huntbach – You really are a typical leftie. You can’t tolerate anyone who has a different opinion to you so you try to make them out as an evil Tory. Your attitude stinks to be quite honest.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Jun '11 - 2:05pm

    Sam

    Matthew Huntbach – You really are a typical leftie. You can’t tolerate anyone who has a different opinion to you so you try to make them out as an evil Tory. Your attitude stinks to be quite honest.

    No, in fact I don’t think there is a substantial difference of opinion between George and myself. All I am trying to do is get him to think a little more carefully about some of the words he is using and some of the assumptions he is making. That is, I think unwittingly he is giving ammunition to those he says, and I believe him really when he says it, that he opposes.

    George himself says “the only real difference being that we have contrasting attitudes to the opportunity offered by being in Government”, and even in that he is wrong. Actually, OF COURSE I feel we should be making the best of the opportunities we have from being in coalition. George seems to think I disagree with him on that, but it would be really silly not to make the best of what opportunities one has, so I don’t. My argument with George is really only on the level of the poor choice of language he uses, which belittles the heritage of the party of which he is a member, and which damages our chances of making the best use of the opportunities we have, by ceding too much ground to the Tories. I don’t think George is consciously doing that, but I do think he just does not realise how much anti Liberal Democrat propaganda there is around, and how much he has actually been influenced by it in some of what he says.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Jun '11 - 2:20pm

    George Morris

    The 75% figure has been reached by Prof Robert Hazell and Dr Ben Yong from UCL. Their interim report can be read here: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/research/coalition-government/interim-report.pdf. It’s well worth a thorough read, and highlights some of the serious issues facing Lib Dems in Government, which hopefully our leadership will act upon.

    If you look at the comments on this report in a reent LibDemVoice thread:

    http://www.libdemvoice.org/the-independent-view-coalition-works-the-inside-story-from-the-constitution-unit-24357.html

    you will see that others do not seem to read this report as you read it. The report just quotes the 75% figure, so it still tells me nothing about how that figure was arrived at. As I said before, if you really think this government is more Liberal Democrat than Tory, you have very low expectations on what Liberal Democrats ought to be capable of. Given that we have lost many voters because they do not see this government as anything like what they voted for, we ought surely to question figures like this rather than just accept them. As I said, I can well see how 75% could have been arrived at e.g. a lot of minor LibDem policies have been put in place, but not the major ones, fewer minor Tory policies have been put in place, but most of the major ones.

  • Sam
    A truly Liberal society would be without drugs and prostitution.

  • David Allen 8th Jun '11 - 5:19pm

    Matthew,

    Thanks for your link. Professor Hazell makes it clear that the 75% figure came from an academic analysis of the Coalition Agreement. He also sums up what has since happened in practice with admirable clarity:

    “Lib Dem ministers may indeed have achieved hundreds of policy wins, but these are invisible to the public.”

  • Although I think Matthew Huntbach drives the point home a little too hard, I agree with him.

    @George

    The reason I disagree with you is that the lib dem leadership and party are already doing what you are suggesting, and it isn’t working- and I don’t believe it will ever work. In fact I this behaviour by the party leadership has done the opposite of gaining us support frankly insulting, which I why I have not renewed my membership this year (although I still can’t consider myself anything but a liberal).

    I understand that Matthew Huntbach may have seemed a little offensive, but I think he, like myself, has been offended by the lies put out by the Tory media that have been uncritically accepted by certain people in this party with an axe to grind, and others who just accept these beliefs about what we need to do as given. I wouldn’t consider myself a left-winger, but the media is portraying anyone to the left of Nick Clegg who voted for the lib dems as a ‘protest voter’. No- I voted for the lib dem party because of many reasons, and under the faith that they were a social democratic party ready to fight their corner seriously. Nick Clegg tried to be all things too all people and has been a PR disaster. I think, on reflection, the lib dems had little choice but to join a conservative government. The problem is that I think Clegg has been revealed to be mostly style and little substance. The lib dems look weak in government, they look unprepared to really fight for the interests and beliefs of their voters. That’s the main problem. Lib dems aren’t just losing support because of their politics, they’re losing support because no one left, right, centre, or martian is impressed by people who look weak. Instead of spinning a narrative of the greatness of the coalition as Nick Clegg has already been doing and you have been suggesting, Nick Clegg should have just been honest and strong. He should have said ‘No, I don’t agree with raising student fees- but we have to compromise because this is a coalition and they would have been raised further had we not compromised’ instead of saying ‘this is the best thing for students ever, they just don’t know how lucky they are- they’re so stupid’. With the NHS he should have opposed it from the beginning instead of flip flopping.

    I know it’s not a popular view, but as far as I’m concerned it has been the mistakes of Nick Clegg and the right-ward drift of the party leadership which has alienated much of the party’s core vote, not complacency on the part of people who expected MPs to vote according to their pledges on tuition fees. Nick Clegg and the party right never truly put their real views to the rest party, instead they pretended they were just as serious about student fees, the NHS, the necessity of growth over deficit reduction as most, more centrist or left-wing, liberal voters were. Effectively they misled people about they’re real views in order to gain support both from the party and the public and it has come back to haunt both them and the party as a whole. For example Nick Clegg used to support these NHS reforms, now his backpeddling looks obsequious and weak.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jun '11 - 2:36pm

    The reason I am pushing this so hard is to try and get people like George Morris to see the point. The strategy he is suggesting IS the one our party has been trying since the coalition was formed and IT HAS NOT WORKED!!! George may not realise it, but he really is repeating so many lines that have proved damaging to us.

    What was seen by those at the top of our party and many advisers as “people will admire us because they see we have political power” has been interpreted by many of those who in the past voted for us or considered as voting for us as “Look, they are politicians just like the rest, all they want is power, and they will do or say anything to get it”. What those at the top of our party and those advising them have said about the way we should boast about having achieved so many of our policies in coalition has been interpreted by many of those who in the past voted for us or considered as voting for us as “Well, this government is doing some pretty nasty right-wing Tory things, so if so much of what it is doing is what the LibDems say is LibDem policy, the LibDems must really have moved far to the right, so I’m not voting for them again”.

    Our party has undoubtedly got itself into a hole by playing the coalition situation wrongly, and many of those who at first suggested taking the sort of line George is still suggesting can now see that. From the day the coalition was formed I have argued in favour of it, often with people who have been quite abusive towards me for my position, because I really could see there was no viable alternative. So of course I agree we should be getting from it what we can. However, from the start, and I said this from the start, we should have been very clear to make sure we couldn’t be seen as having moved rightwards politically, and we should have been very clear to get across the message that there was not a realistic alternative and the coalition represents what people voted for and what the electoral system gave them, rather than what we really would have wanted. I think if we had been much clearer about this fro the start, we would have won the AV referendum, since as I keep saying it is incredible how many people voted “No” to punish us and could not see what they were punishing us for was the effects of the very thing they were supporting by voting “No” – an electoral system which over-represents the largest party and weakens third parties.

    It’s clear from the big drop in our share of the polls, and from the commentary are are getting, that many people believe we are in the coalition because we think the Tories are closer to us than Labour and that we have voluntarily sold out our principles to the Tories. We must not give such people ammunition to attack us by using language which, even if not intended to be seen that way, can be interpreted that way, and WILL be interpreted and used that way by those who are against us – both Labour and Tory.

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