Paddy: “You’ve heard the saying it’s not the winning that matters, it’s the taking part. That’s b*****ks.”

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Paddy Ashdown video screenshotPaddy Ashdown, Chair of the Liberal Democrat General Election Campaign, is about to speak to the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference. Here’s what he’ll say:

You know, making this speech today gives me a strong sense of déjà vu. I gave a speech at the Conference here in Brighton, right after the last time we won a by election in Eastleigh!

Some things haven’t changed. Orange diamonds. Fighting against the odds, Simon Hughes. But one big thing has changed. We were a Party of Opposition then. We’re a party of government now.

And that changes everything.

Last year Nick Clegg asked me to chair the general election campaign. I said I would – for one very simple reason. Because I don’t want being in government, to be a blip for the Liberal Democrats.

I want it to become a habit. Liberals waited have waited a hundred years for May 2010. And I dreamt every hour of my Leadership of our Party, that one day we would have the opportunity to be where we are now, in Government; making a difference.

What else are we in politics for, if not to be prepared to take the responsibilities of power, so we can benefit those we serve with Government informed by the principles we believe in.

I don’t want have to wait for that opportunity again. Apart from everything else, at my age I can’t afford to!

But, and here’s the rub. You can’t change a country overnight. You can’t deliver on the liberal promise just in one Government. It takes time.

And that’s why, at the next election, we can and we must ensure that we have the votes and seats to continue the job we have, with such courage, started together. That depends – of course it does – on what we do in Westminster.

But it also depends on what you do in your communities and your Constituencies. You see the true force of our party lies in our grass roots – in you. My job in the next two and a half years is to work with you to channel all that force toward one simple goal: winning.

Winning votes. Winning seats. Winning hearts.

I was not born a Liberal. I became one nearly 40 years ago. When a man in a bobble hat knocked on my door and asked for my vote. To be honest I told him I wasn’t interested. I was fed up with all politicians. But he was insistent. So I told him if he could persuade me Liberalism was different, he could have my vote.

What happened next, changed my life.

What he said was a million miles from the paternalism of the two then dominant parties that had so spectacularly failed 1970s Britain. The state socialism of the Labour party. The casual and heartless incompetence of the Conservatives.

He convinced me there was something different. A vision that has driven our party and its predecessors for more than 150 years. The Liberal promise to enable and empower every citizen – to fulfil their potential – regardless of wealth, or gender, or colour or creed.

To enable them to be who they want to be. In truth, he had me after the first few sentences. And the rest is history. I didn’t just vote, I joined, hot elected and became the leader.

Just like that. Well, what else did you expect?

Of course then, as now, as you know. it wasn’t like that. I had to give up my job, was twice unemployed. I wasn’t elected the PPC – I was the only one foolish enough to put my name forward. We were third.

The Tories had held the seat for seventy years. They didn’t count their votes they weighed them. Our membership was five – and their average age – was deceased.

It took us eight years hard campaigning to win Yeovil. Leaflets delivered. Doors knocked on. Teams built. Campaigns launched. Some wins – more defeats. Then more of all the above. And finally, thanks to those who joined us and believed in what we were doing – a great victory won.

So, if you ever wonder over the next few years as I am coaxing, cajoling, even perhaps trying to compel you. When you are dead on your feet but I need you to get out and sign up more members and deliverers. Or knock on another 100 doors. Or deliver another 1,000 leaflets. Well, if you want to know who to blame. Not me: you can blame that modest man in a bobble hat who went out one evening in the dark and the cold and knocked on somebody’s door with a message of hope.

A modest man who had immodest ambitions for our party and our country. Summed up in the simple, liberal demand that every citizen should be enabled to live their lives to the full.

Over the next 798 days until the general election I need you to be as immodest and determined in your ambitions for our party as he was – and I became.

So, when you are looking down a canvass board of names and addresses, on a dark night, in the cold, with the rain falling. When you might feel tempted to skip the last page and nip back for a cup of tea, or round the corner for a pint. Don’t.

You never know whose door you will knock on next. It might be the next Nick Clegg. The next Kirsty Williams. The next Willie Rennie. The next Vince Cable…. Naah!

There’ll only ever be one Vince Cable – at least Mr Cameron hopes so.

But more important than all of these – it might be the one last vote you need to win. You know, I’m sure that you, like me, have often told children and grandchildren that it’s not the winning that matters, it’s the taking part.

Well let me let you into a little secret. That’s bollocks.

After 70 years in opposition and less than three in government, one thing is clearer to me than ever. Winning matters.

In opposition we can talk about our historic mission. Only in government, can we deliver on it.

I looked back at that speech I made in 1994, after the first Eastleigh by election. I’m sure every word is burned into the memory of those of you who were there. But for those of you who weren’t here’s what I said.

“Our aim is nothing less than to overthrow the paternalism which has ruled the destinies of the British people, under both Conservative and Labour.

“To shatter a system which presumes that governments know best – and replace it with the dangerous… doctrine that it is people who know best.

“To put power back where it belongs, in the towns, in the cities, in the regions and in the nations of our United Kingdom.

“To overturn the barriers that still stand in the way of 52% of our population – to liberate the potential of the women of this country.

“To release the energy of the tens of millions who are shut out from the decisions which affect their lives.

“There can be no regeneration of Britain – neither economic, nor social, nor political – unless people take back from the system the power that is rightfully theirs.”

Here’s how I concluded that speech: “The historic role of this Party – of we Liberal Democrats – is to make that possible. To rediscover the latent energy of our country. To give everybody a chance to be a somebody. To see our people flourish with a government that is their servant, not their master. To let us – each of us – become a responsible citizen, not a resentful subject.”

I believed that with every fibre of my being when I said it twenty years ago. And I still do.

You see, Liberal Democrats are the grit in the oyster of British politics. And just like the grit: you’ve got to be on the inside to do your job. From opposition you can talk about changing Britain.

Only in government can you change it. We know that, because in Government we have changed it. And that fact – that single fact – makes this coming election different from any other we have fought for a hundred years.

For almost all the years of the Twentieth century, the Liberal Democrats and the Liberals before us, have fought General Elections as the outsiders.

We can never do so again.

Now we stand before the electorate, not as outsiders but as one of the three Parties bidding to govern of our country.

That means our enemies will come for us, if we give them the opportunity – as we have seen these last few weeks. It means no promises unless we can be sure to deliver them.
It means an election campaign which will have to be tighter, tougher, taughter and more disciplined.

It means being clear about our core message – the message we have set out out at this Conference. And saying it again and again and again.

And here it is again: To build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

And that’s why you are so important.

You are the link of this party. You are its voice.

That core message describes who we are, and what we do both nationally and locally It sums up our offer in government at every level. But it will only work, if everyone of us gives voice to it, everywhere, all the time.

Through our leaflets, our tweets, our blogs, in the Council Chamber and the TV studio and the radio interview and of course, most important of all in what we say to people when we meet them, in the street and on the doorstep…

Here’s a prediction. If we all do this right you’ll soon be bored with it. Tough.

For its only when you have repeated this message so often that you’re sick of it, that our voters out there will be starting to hear it. At every level – in your street, in your community, in your town, in our country – our objective is simple and straightforward:

To build a stronger economy in a fairer society. So we can deliver on the liberal mission of enabling every person to get on in life.

And here’s something to help us. This time, we don’t have to rely on a promise of what we will do. We can look at the record of what we have already done. Lowering taxes for millions of ordinary people while making sure that the richest pay a greater share.

Investing in all our children’s futures through a £2.5 billion Pupil Premium; increasing child care provision for millions of families; delivering the largest cash rise in the pension ever and radically reforming the whole system through Steve Webb’s single tier pension.

Establishing the world’s first green investment bank. Taking power away from Westminster and putting it closer to the people. A new deal for Cities, giving new powers to local government up and down the country. A million newly qualified apprentices.

Let me tell you what this means for you. Now and for the first time, you can twin a
local message of achievement you can be proud of, with a national message of achievement to be proud of too.

That’s what we did in Eastleigh; its one of the reasons we won in Eastleigh – telling people again and again about our local and our national achievements. And its what we have to do in our leaflets and on the door step this coming May, in the elections next year and in the build up to the General Election beyond.

In the immortal words of our much beloved and missed David Penhaligon: “If you’ve got something to say, put it on a piece of paper and stick it through a letterbox.”

Well now we have lots to say. So its time to get out there again, saying it. And when we do, we win.

Not just in Eastleigh. Since last November out of 77 by-election contests ask yourselves how many seats have we gained and how many seats have we lost. Well here’s the good news – we’ve gained 11. and now for the great news, we’ve lost … Well none actually not a blinking sausage.

Now don’t be deceived. None of this means its going to be easy, from where we are now. It isn’t. But then it never has been. We have been here before – you and I. When we refused to accept the conventional wisdom.

When we defied the odds and fought our way back from almost nothing to govern great swathes of Britain at the local level. And eventually to almost double our seats in Parliament in a single election.

I’m not going to gloss this. In some ways what’s ahead is more difficult than it was then; with the legacy of Labour’s economic disaster to overcome, with Tory heartlessness to fight, and tough decisions to take in Government.

But in some ways its easier, too. Now we have a message which is clear. A record in Government to be proud of. And an outstanding team of Ministers who easily outshine anything the other Parties can offer.

Tough. Tested. Strong. Don’t take my word for it.

Listen to this journalist writing on Eastliegh in the Telegraph last week: “I’ve been struck by…. the impressive Lib Dem machine in the seat. It’s not just the councilors……though they matter a lot.

It’s the organisation. It’s the volunteers. It’s the “sheer bloody resilience”. As one Tory put it earlier this week: “They just won’t lie down and die.”

Too bloody right, we won’t.

So lets hear it for fantastic Eastleigh team, for a superb candidate, now MP, for the hard work of so many outstanding Councillors, for our campaign team led by Hilary and Victoria and for all those hundreds – thousands – who answered the call and delivered for us a great victory against the odds.

That’s what our Party’s made us and that’s why we are proud to be Liberal Democrats.

And that is why I know today with the same confidence that I knew 20 years ago that at the next election we are going to defy the odds again. We have a hell of a fight on our hands.

But that’s OK. I like a good fight And I know you do too.

You are the engine which drives this Party; you are its force and its most important asset. I know that if we can together unleash that energy – as we have done in difficult times before, as we did just a week ago in Eastleigh, then there is nothing that is impossible for us. So I am going to make no apologies for driving us all very hard these next two years.

And you know why? Because the message of Eastleigh is very clear – and we know it very well. Where we work, we win. And I am determined that we will win so you had better get working!

If you do, then I promise you there are great victories ahead. Good campaigning and good luck.

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22 Comments

  • Can’t we have Paddy back as party leader? He’s still in fine form and no-one should ever have any doubt that he’s a Liberal Democrat through and through. Surely there’s time before the next general election?

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 1:58pm

    Paddy Ashdown

    Some things haven’t changed. Orange diamonds. Fighting against the odds, Simon Hughes. But one big thing has changed. We were a Party of Opposition then. We’re a party of government now.

    And that changes everything.

    Last year Nick Clegg asked me to chair the general election campaign. I said I would – for one very simple reason. Because I don’t want being in government, to be a blip for the Liberal Democrats.

    I want it to become a habit. Liberals waited have waited a hundred years for May 2010. And I dreamt every hour of my Leadership of our Party, that one day we would have the opportunity to be where we are now, in Government; making a difference.

    Aaaaaaggghhhhhhh ….!!! No, nooo, noooooooo!!!

    We’ve had this line since the coalition was formed and it HASN’T WORKED. This line has destroyed our party, brought our opinion poll ratings right down again.

    It hasn’t worked because people are reading it as us accepting responsibility for everything this government has done. So they believe we have abandoned the policies we stood for election on, the policies we have had for years. and have instead adopted Conservative ones. Not surprisingly, they have turned against us for this. This going on about “being in government makes all the difference” makes it seem as if all we REALLY wanted was government posts for our leading members, and everything else we said or did was just a trick to get them. So not surprisingly people are rejecting us on the grounds “they’re just like all the rest, all they really wanted was power for themselves”. And of course, it isn’t really “power”, because we don’t have much power, as the junior partner in a coalition with another party with five times as many MPs, obviously we have only a limited capacity to influence things.

    Paddy Ashdown may have “dreamt every hour” of his Leadership of our Party “that one day we would have the opportunity to be where we are now”, but my dream in being an active member of this party for 35 years was NOT to be a junior coalition partner being able to make minor influences on a government whose central thrust is all that I have ever been against in politics. My dream was a government in which WE would be in control, OUR policies driving it, not this miserable little compromise we have right now.

    I don’t say it was wrong to form the coalition, I have defended it since it was formed. But we don’t need to have this overblown and exaggerated way of talking about it. Instead we should be saying we accepted the government this country voted for in 2010 and in 2011 when it affirmed its support for the distorted electoral system which gave the Tories much more power than their share of the vote should have given them and us much less. We have done what we can in it, which is not much. The government is largely a Conservative Party one, it is doing what Conservative Party governments do, we can only influence it at the edges, on those aspects which are so extreme that even a good part if the Conservative Party is against them so we can swing the balance against them. We can put in a few minor little things in places where they aren’t in direct contradiction to what the Conservatives want. But that’s it. If we had many more Liberal Democrat MPs we could do very much more, and THAT is what our dreams really are, not this.

    I am already in strike as a Liberal Democrat activist as I cannot campaign for my party if everything I would want to say in its defence is undermined by its leadership. What Paddy Ashdown is saying here is a good example, I will not give any support for the part except my cross on the ballot paper at the next general election if this disastrous defeatist line is what our campaign will be based. So, being on strike, I didn’t go to Eastleigh. But I very much doubt that if I had I would find people telling me on the doorstep “we’re voting for you because you’re in government”. They voted for us, I suspect, because of our local record of campaigning, not the national situation.

    I don’t think we should be ashamed of the national situation, as I have said repeatedly, we are doing what we cam in limited circumstances. I’m happy to say we should be proud of that. But I’m NOT happy to give the impression we’ve reached our goal, that junior coalition partner with a party I’ve fought against all my life in the lead is the dream I always wanted now fulfilled.

  • The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for a long time on the idea of a system which would result in a fairer representation of the people in the House of Commons (and, of course, for a reform of the Lords which would make it representative of anything at all). The idea was that there would be routine coalition governments which would combine representatives from different parties, hopefully resulting in a broader, more representative government which would avoid extremes.
    Yet it hasn’t worked out that way, has it? And it’s up to the Liberal Democrats to learn lessons from that and think about how, as a matter of both policy and politics, they could work differently. Simply saying “the system is no good, we are the victims of it, we can do nothing about it,” is insufficient. There is a problem not just in the system but in how the Lib Dems are using the system.
    The fact that the Lib Dems are hugely outnumbered by the Tories in Parliament and in the cabinet seems to be one of those things that is not particularly relevant. Suppose, for instance, that the ratio of Tory to Lib Dem was more like 5:4 — how would that help? The Liberal Democrat ministers would still be outvoted, as long as the Lib Dems in government approached the matter as they have. The government would still have a Conservative cast.
    The problem seems to be the notion that a coalition government is just like a single-party government, that the junior coalition partner effectively becomes a wing of the dominant party, and is obliged to shut up, keep its head down, not make waves, and do as it’s told. I don’t think that’s the kind of coalition that Liberal Democrats expected or the one they voted for. They wanted and still want a more robust, more argumentative, more principled, more daring participation in coalition — not one of continuous excuses and sorries.
    If coalition government simply cannot work that way, however, then the Liberal Democrats must rethink their entire policy on coalitions. Here are some options
    1) Refuse to participate in any future coalition; run solely on winning a majority in whatever system exists
    2) Only enter a coalition on the understanding that the Lib Dems have a right of veto over government policies.
    3) Only enter a coalition on the understanding that Lib Dems will not be bound by current norms of “collective responsibility.”
    4) Refuse to enter a coalition with a major party unless the other major party is involved to balance it, i.e., as part of a “national government.”

    I expect that 1-3 are, for various reasons, deal-breakers that would effectively keep the Liberal Democrats out of government, hung parliament or not. But #4 is rather intriguing, and one wonders what would have happened if in May 2010 the Liberal Democrats had told the Conservatives that there would be no government unless Labour was brought in. I don’t recall the idea ever being brought up, and I’ve never seen it listed as one of the possible alternatives in the many alternative scenarios suggested since then. Such a proposal might have made the Lib Dems look like the adults in the room, forcing a peace on the squabbling Labour and Tory children. It would certainly have removed the onus of supporting a Tory government from the Lib Dems’ backs — and the Lib Dems would have retained the option of going into opposition if necessary. The one thing the Lib Dems would not have had is Nick Clegg with the proud but meaningless title of “Deputy Prime Minister,” and of course there would have been even fewer government jobs for Lib Dems than there are now.
    But surely the point of the party is not to get a junior ministry here or there for certain politicians? Surely the point is to do what’s best for the country. There could have been a willingness to forgo a certain share of the pie in return for a broader, more moderate government; with the bonus of making sure that Labour and the Tories got the bulk of the blame for any failures.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 5:28pm

    David

    The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for a long time on the idea of a system which would result in a fairer representation of the people in the House of Commons (and, of course, for a reform of the Lords which would make it representative of anything at all). The idea was that there would be routine coalition governments which would combine representatives from different parties, hopefully resulting in a broader, more representative government which would avoid extremes.
    Yet it hasn’t worked out that way, has it?

    But how can you say “it hasn’t worked out that way” when we haven’t had it? This coalition is not on the basis of the proportional representation of the parties in it, so it is NOT what we have been campaigning for all these years. If it were the sort of coalition we have been campaigning for, it would be on the basis of 3 Conservative MPs to every 2 Liberal Democrats, because that was the proportion of votes cast in the general election. Instead there are 5 Conservatives to every 1 Liberal Democrat. It ought to be obvious therefore that such a government is NOT going to be an equal partnership, even if the proportion of ministers were more equal, which it is not.

    So clearly since this is very much NOT what we wanted, we have a far weaker influence over it than we would have if it were what we wanted even on the basis of the votes cast in 2010, it is DAFT to make out, as Paddy Ashdown does, that it is “what we dreamed of”. Because it falls very short of what we wanted, people can see that, and now we are being criticised because thanks to the leadership going on and on about how wonderful it is to be in this coalition, the people of the country think what we have now is PRECISELY what we wanted i.e. they think we wanted something extremely right-wing in economic terms. And that this losing us the bulk of the support we had.

    So why do people like Paddy Ashdown carry on repeating those lines?

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 5:54pm

    David

    If coalition government simply cannot work that way, however, then the Liberal Democrats must rethink their entire policy on coalitions.

    Sorry, why should we rethink our position on coalitions when we have not yet had experience of what we want? To say what you say is again to lead to the false conclusion that the current unbalanced coalition is what we wanted when it isn’t. What we have now is what the people of this country voted for in the referendum of 2011 when they agreed by two-to-one with the “No” side who said it was best for representation to be twisted so that the largest party had all the power and third parties were greatly weakened. While I appreciate AV is not PR, the “No” campaign campaigned against it as if it was, and AV’s rejection has been universally interpreted as a rejection also for PR. If you don’t have PR, you have what we have now – a government where the Conservatives are far stronger than they ought ti be if they were represented in proportion to their votes. That is why, by two-to-one, THIS government was given the support of the country in 2011. It is the most democratic government we have ever had because of the way the people endorsed the system which gave it to us. It is also a rotten and wrong-thinking government. We should be encouraging anyone who thinks that way to consider re-opening the case for electoral reform. Instead, people like Paddy Ashdown are closing the case by not making the very strong case the dissatisfaction with this government makes for it, by ignoring and throwing away what could be pour winning line. Ashdown is following Clegg is throwing our party’s chances down the drain by the line he is using here. It is defeatist, it is humiliating, it supports the case of our enemies, it denies what we have been campaiging for over the decades.

    A coalition on the basis of a Parliament with 3 Conservatives to 2 Liberal Democrat MPs would be vastly different to what we have now. While I agree with you that there is a need to question some of the assumptions that have come from previous governments being either all-party or one-party governments, I don’t think we should do anything which draws attention away from the fundamental issue of this government being based on a huge distortion of the relative representation of its two parties. It’s a miserable little compromise, and let’s say that – we were forced into it by the electoral system, we go along with it for the sake of democracy and because the British people when asked seem to want the distortion that led to what we have now. Indeed, we should make clear that since it’s the electoral system which makes the Tories so strong in this government, and Labour support that system while we don’t, it’s Labour who are the true proppers up of the Conservatives.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 7:40pm

    David

    Suppose, for instance, that the ratio of Tory to Lib Dem was more like 5:4 — how would that help?

    Rather obviously, we would need to get just 1 Tory on to our side. Whereas with 5:1 we have to get 4 Tories onto our side. You are assuming the split would always be on party lines, I am not. Remember, this is not a public vote, we’re talking about decisions made behind closed doors. At the moment, as I said, the small representation of the Liberal Democrats makes us about the same as the extreme right-wing faction of the Tories in terms of influence. We can only make a difference if it happens that just under half the Tories agree with something, then we can swing the balance.

  • Since the Liberal Democrat leadership went into the coalition promising to make it a showcase for how We Can Make Coalitions Work In Britain, it’s only fair to assess it on its merits. And one must admit that not all coalitions are going to be 50-50 partnerships. Most of them won’t be, and the same excuses could be offered regardless of the voting system or the discrepancy in size between the partners. The Liberal Democrats are a small party and can expect to be junior in any coalition. There’s no plan for getting out of being the junior partner who always gets stepped on and becoming a majority or at least a plurality party.

  • Paddy can say what he likes, if the liberal democrats are unprepared to stand up against something as fundamentally illiberal as secret courts than it seems they have no real reason for existing as a party. There is such as thing as a Pyrrhic victory, If the cost of winning the battle (getting into government and slogging it out for one term) is to lose the war (undermining liberalism in this country and potentially destroying the party as a force in politics for the forseeable future) then no, winning does not count for much

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '13 - 2:05am

    David

    Since the Liberal Democrat leadership went into the coalition promising to make it a showcase for how We Can Make Coalitions Work In Britain, it’s only fair to assess it on its merits. And one must admit that not all coalitions are going to be 50-50 partnerships.

    I am not saying all coalitions are going to be 50-50 partnerships. This one is a 50-10 partnership. The party leadership should have been clear from the start that this is what it was, and clear from the start also that this imbalance was not of our making, it was down to the way the people of this country voted and the distortions of the electoral system. It should have been judged on this basis. That would be properly assessing it on its merits.

    Instead, people have judged it assuming it is something like a 50-50 partnership, and from that have been very disappointed by the Liberal Democrats because they don’t like what they see because it is very close to the Conservatives’ ideals and very far from the Liberal Democrat ideals. Language like “And I dreamt every hour of my Leadership of our Party, that one day we would have the opportunity to be where we are now, in Government; making a difference” does this. It raises expectations that we cannot fulfill. In making us look very happy and satisfied with a situation where we have an influence commensurate with being one sixth of the coalition it makes us look as if we have very limited ambitions, or if people don’t realise how limited our influence has to be in such a situation, it makes us look like people who are happy to give in and be walked all over when people see a very right-wing government which is almost purely Conservative in policies doing many things which are very far from what we stood for in the election and us saying how wonderful that is, just what we always wanted.

    Can’t Paddy Ashdown SEE that? This is embarrassing. I can’t go knocking on doors for the party if this sort of thing is going to be our central message in the next general election.

  • Matthew, I wish I had longer to discuss your concerns, but it’s Mother’s Day, so I can only spare a moment.

    I personally think we can both push our accomplishments in government, but also say that we are only a minor partner in the coalition – I certainly do. It makes our position even stronger for what we’ve achieved. You’ve got to remember Paddy’s speech was a rouser; pushing positives, rather than bemoaning our lot. It doesn’t mean that’s the word for word campaign line, and it shouldn’t mean that, as activists, we can’t use the fact that we are a minor part of the coalition to hammer our opponents.

    Lastly, please keep the faith. I don’t want to sound like Princess Leia, but passionate activists are our only hope.

  • I agree with Rob on secret courts however. We have to be able to justify our actions – no question – it’s surely our whole ethos. If we can, that’s fine. If we can’t, then we need to look at that decision.

  • Carry and please pat yourselves on the back for ‘gaining a little power’. I assure you, it is the last bit of power you will feel for another one hundred years.
    I have spent my adult life wishing for a party who was ‘really different’ from the main 2. For years you promised this. Today? well today by agreeing to secret courts you have proved yourselves as trustworthy as a the worst kind of eastern block governments.
    Keep reading your poll results, because I can assure you, I know at least 100 people from one small area in the UK who have turned their back on the Lib Dems, that includes me. You lied to us and I feel an idiot for falling for it (that alone the number of people I convinced to vote in my area)
    Never again

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    Surely it does not matter the size of the junior coalition party.

    Where in the rules does it state that you get “x” amount of influence in return for “x” amount of MP’s

    That’s just nonsense, that;s not how coalition governments work around the world.

    Coalition Governments have to compromise on policies, that’s clearly obvious. However, that does not mean that junior coalition partners have to vote for polices that goes entirely against it’s core beliefs, Secret Courts, NHS, Education to name but just a few.
    The government does not win “every vote” presented to the house, as we have seen many times before. It does not mean that the government collapses.
    The only time a government is brought down is when it loses the vote on things like the budget and the queens speech.
    All the policies in between should be up for individual MP’s and parties to decide upon by their conscience.

    It just seems as though we are hearing constant excuses from people like yourself to be honest.

    Yes the country voted against AV. That is democracy. But just because the party lost the AV vote, does not give them a green light from the electorate to constantly use the excuse, this is not our fault this is what YOU voted for.

    The party has to take it’s share of the responsibility for the policies that it votes for.

    That’s the crutch of politics.

    It does not matter if the junior coalition party has 20 MP’s or 57. They will be judged by the electorate on how they acted in government and how the party represented “their” supporters of the party. That’s the way things should be.

    Constant excuses will not win back lost supporters.

  • @ Matt
    “Surely it does not matter the size of the junior coalition party.”

    That is frankly a preposterous statement. Are you seriously saying that if we’d had more MPs than the Tories rather than less than a fifth there would have been no difference to our level of influence? It’s unbelievable how ideologically blinded you must to make such a statement.

    “Constant excuses will not win back lost supporters.”

    Well it’s worked pretty well with Labour, hasn’t it? “We didn’t ruin the economy and the public finances, it was the financial crisis that did it.”, and other such refrains seem to have gone down a treat and allowed voters to go flocking back.

  • @RC

    If you bothered to read my post, I said “x” amount of MP’s does not = “x” amount of influence.

    That works both ways, regardless of whether the Libdems were junior or the larger party.

    Mp’s are voted for by the electorate to represent “them” not the “government”
    Liberal Democrats get’s their support from voters in ALL constituencies, regardless of whether they won that seat or not, based upon the promises made by the candidate and the parties policies as a whole.

    The government loses confidence of the house if it is not able to gain support on the key votes which are the budget and the queens speech.
    All other legislation is up for wins or loses, it does not mean that the coalition would collapse.

    It is entirely appropriate for the electorate and the parties supporters to judge the MP and the party as a whole on how they voted and represented them in government. And the excuses that keep getting peddled on these forums about AV and influence will not win back lost supporters.

    As for the Labour argument and the economy, you should really try and finish the arguments you make on previous threads before repeating the same old mantra on every thread you involve yourself in :-) that’s another excuse that is not washing with the electorate and besides it is just as arguable that Liberal Democrats in this government are destroying growth, the economy and public finances.

  • case in point http://www.libdemvoice.org/lib-dem-conference-overwhelmingly-votes-to-oppose-secret-courts-again-33612.html
    Conference and liberal democrats supporters have voted against secret courts.

    Liberal Democrat MP’s have been voting with the government against the wishes of the parties supporters.

    So it is entirely right for them to be judged on this by the electorate and the parties supporters.

  • RC “Well it’s worked pretty well with Labour, hasn’t it? “We didn’t ruin the economy and the public finances, it was the financial crisis that did it.”, and other such refrains seem to have gone down a treat and allowed voters to go flocking back.”

    I hope Lib Dems aspire to be somewhat better than Labour.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '13 - 8:13pm

    Jack Herer

    I personally think we can both push our accomplishments in government, but also say that we are only a minor partner in the coalition – I certainly do.

    I am not saying we should not push our accomplishments. However, we need to deal with the fact that we have a government which is extremely right-wing in economic terms and very far from the sort of government we seemed to be promising to deliver in the past, pushing many policies which long term supporters of our party find detestable – and many of these detestable policies CAN’T be excused as unfortunate necessities due to economic circumstances. They are Tory policies, and being pushed and got through because this is a Tory-dominated government. Therefore if we paint – as Paddy Ashdown did – THIS government as the fulfillment of our dreams, many of our supporters will think “I wish I had never voted for you if those policies what what you really were dreaming about, I feel let down, I feel you said something different from what you really wanted in your dreams just to get my vote”. This is a fact, this is what perhaps MOST of those who voted for us in 2010 are saying, and so why our opinion poll rating has gone to below a half of the share of vote we had then.

    So therefore I think we should be using a line completely different from the one Paddy Ashdown is using here – it should be one which says we are disappointed with the 2010 general election result, it is very far from what we wanted, we have had to accept it as the will of the people, and it has given us a small influence, but it is NOT the Liberal Democrats government we promised in our manifesto because how can it be with us having just 57 MPs to the Conservatives’ 303?

    Of course we can mention what we have accomplished in this situation, but not in a way, as Paddy Ashdown did, which makes it seem we think they mean we have reached our goal, which makes us seem satisfied with the compromise the electoral reality has forced us to settle with, or which makes us seem like naive people who have been fooled by the Tories into thinking the little things we have got through are massive achievements and somehow we can’t see – as most of our voters can – just how far from what we said we really wanted it all is.

    Look, I am saying this, because this is how we are being attacked, and Paddy Ashdown’s line comes across as supporting the arguments our attackers use against us, that we have given in to the Tories or that we were far more right-wing underneath than we let on. If those leading our general election campaign are going to use these lines, I’m sorry, but I cannot go our and campaign for the party because I feel what I would want to say in support of it is being undermined by our leaders. I would want to say things about what we have achieved, yes, but I think it is counterproductive to go on about them and ignore the fact that they are a small part in an otherwise overwhelmingly Conservative government.

    Isn’t this obvious? Exaggerating your achievements when everyone can see they are actually rather modest is poor tactics. It is better tactics to explain they are modest because you were not given scope to do more, and then say you could do far more if given that scope.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '13 - 8:16pm

    matt

    Where in the rules does it state that you get “x” amount of influence in return for “x” amount of MP’s

    In practice that is how it works. While it might not be an exact mathematical proportion, a party which forms one sixth of the coalition, as ours does, is not going to be in a position to convert the other five-sixths all to its position.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '13 - 8:30pm

    matt

    Coalition Governments have to compromise on policies, that’s clearly obvious. However, that does not mean that junior coalition partners have to vote for polices that goes entirely against it’s core beliefs, Secret Courts, NHS, Education to name but just a few.

    It just seems as though we are hearing constant excuses from people like yourself to be honest.

    And who, matt, might be this “people like yourself”? Here I am, explaining that I am so unhappy with the party’s leadership that I probably won’t bother doing any campaigning for it in the next general election, and yet you are STILL dismissing me as some sort of, well I won’t use the word, but how much further do I have to go to convince you I am not a robotic “follow me leader” fan of Clegg et al?

    One thing you need to consider is that the Conservatives can – and ARE – using just the same lines you are saying the Liberal Democrats should use. They too can say “why should we vote for policies we disagree with?”. You seem to be blithely assuming the Liberal Democrats can force all Conservative MPs to abandon Conservative polices and instead vote for Liberal Democrat policies. I think that’s unrealistic. But if you look at Conservative forums, or even some parts of the Tory press, you will find THAT is what Conservatives are saying. You will find them saying this government is “Liberal” or “Social Democrats” and not Conservative. You will find MOST active Conservative Party members are unhappy with this government because they believe it has conceded far too much to the Liberal Democrats.

    You may find this incredible, but it is true. Go and look at a few Tory discussion forums to confirm that. The reality is that the Conservative Party has moved hugely to the right from where it was when it was last in government. If you think this government is indistinguishable from what a pure Conservative government would be like, that just shows how far the Conservative Party has moved to the extreme right, because what is actually a compromise most Conservative members believe is a compromise too far is still quite a bit ti the right of what the last pure Conservative government stood for.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '13 - 9:02pm

    matt

    The government loses confidence of the house if it is not able to gain support on the key votes which are the budget and the queens speech.
    All other legislation is up for wins or loses, it does not mean that the coalition would collapse.

    What you are in effect saying is that the Liberal Democrats should make the country ungovernable. They should vote against anything which is not directly in line with their manifesto. Well, the other parties can do that as well. The Conservatives and Labour can equally vote down anything the Liberal Democrats propose.

    The first thing any government has to do is make a budget, it has to say how it will pay for things. So if a party has promised not to increase taxes, it breaks its manifesto unless it makes spending cuts in order to cover no tax increases. If a party has promised not to cut services it breaks it promises unless it supports tax increases. It’s easy to vote AGAINST tax increases and vote AGAINST services cuts, but that leave a gap where there isn’t a majority voting FOR anything.

    So, do you think if by virtue of the Liberal Democrats voting against the service cuts but the Conservatives refusing to agree to tax increases there is no viable budget, the people of this country will thank the Liberal Democrats? My feeling is they wouldn’t. My feeling is that Labour, the Conservatives and the right-wing press would unite in a campaign (as they did in the “No to AV” campaign) on the lines “get rid of the LibDems to give us back the two-party system and make this country governable again”. Sorry, you have this brave idea of the Liberal Democrats standing form and saying to the Conservatives “Abandon your policies, or we let the country fall into a mess because there is no agreed budget”, and the people of this country cheering them on? I wish. Reality, I feel would be the LibDems painted as selfish people making a mess of the country for their own selfish aims despite having fewer than 1 in 10 MPs.

    Remember in all this that, thanks the distortions of the electoral system, an alternative compromise between the LibDems and Labour is ruled out as both parties together still have less than half the MPs. The distortion which rules this out was what people voted for when they voted “No” to AV. That is why a “No” vote for AV was a “Yes” vote for this government, it was a vote for a system which meant only this government was viable. Anyone who voted “No” to AV was voting FOR Cameron as PM, they were voting FOR the idea that the LibDems should be weakened and so unable to exert much of an influence on Cameron government. Anyone who voted “No” to AV might as well have gone about wearing a blue rosette wit the words “Vote Conservative” written on it. They were supporting this government as effectively as they would have done had they done that in 2010. That is why I hold the many Labour MPs and Labour supporters who supported the “No” campaign as the true proppers up of the Conservative Party. It is why, however much I may detest the current leadership of the Liberal Democrats, I will NOT be supporting Labour at the next general election.

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