Five New Year’s resolutions for Liberal Democrats #1

So, it’s the morning after the New Year parties. Everyone else in my house, including the dog, is sleeping off a fun evening of Monopoly in which the two teenagers comprehensively bankrupted the adults over some seven hours. I therefore have time to suggest a few New Year’s Resolutions for Liberal Democrats to see us through 2016.

Don’t let anyone put us in the corner

I don’t know about you, but I am done with caution and contrition. Sure, we were in government for a few years and we seriously screwed a few things up. You’d think we were the only party ever to make mistakes, but we also did a lot of good things for good, liberal reasons. It was our Deputy PM who insisted that a judge-led enquiry investigate phone hacking when the Tories wanted to sweep it under the carpet. It was our Business Minister who brought in shared parental leave. It was our schools minister who gave extra money to disadvantaged kids in school. It was our Climate Change Secretary who faced down the Tories and made sure money was put into renewable energies. It was our Health Minister who started the long job of reforming appallingly poor mental health services which left many without the treatment they needed. Whatever you might think of Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander, the Tories’ recent welfare proposals show exactly what they would have stopped. It took a while for Nick Clegg to come round to the idea that Theresa May’s Snooper’s Charter was ridiculous, but once he got there he stood firm, for years. Oh, and there’s the small matter of protecting human rights legislation, too.

The coalition years were brutally tough and actually hurt us much more than we deserved. Part of that was our own fault and part of that is because the well-funded parties of government on this island are threatened by an establishment-busting party like ours and they want to kill us. If we don’t sing our own song with verve and passion, they will succeed. It’s time for us to walk tall, be confident and proud of our vision. We are an  establishment-busting, planet-saving movement with radical solutions to the world’s problems grounded in a profound respect for every unique individual and the communities in which we all live. We know that the only way to achieve a liberal world is to work with others, nationally and internationally and that’s why we are such passionate Europeans. We need to turn that into a mantra that we sing from every available rooftop.

As well as our record in Government, we are leading the way on arguing for a compassionate approach for refugees, presenting practical solutions to resolve the housing crisis that blights so many lives and when push comes to shove, we’re on the side of the lower paid and most vulnerable. On the doorsteps, people are warming to us again. Those agonising years of anger which then faded to indifference have passed, but if we want to win people back, we need to get out there and talk to them. I’ve been saying for years that genuine, unscripted conversations are more important to us now than leaflets. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in leaflets any more, just that I think we need to be visible and talking to people. Street stalls, door-knocking, petitioning will keep us in the game.

We have much to be proud of. In Scotland and Wales, we have provided quality opposition to the governments. While the SNP might come back at every criticism with accusations of negativity, they need reminding that opposition is a vital part of our democracy and, boy, have we given it. On the shambolic police service, armed police, excessive use of stop and search, on college places, free school meals and childcare and the invidious super ID database Willie Rennie, Alison McInnes and the Scottish Lib Dem team have forced the SNP government to change tack. We’ve been better than Labour who have 7 times as many MSPs. Liberals are very much needed as the SNP settle themselves down into the cosy establishment vacated by Labour.

In Wales, Kirsty Williams has ensured that extra money goes to disadvantaged kids in school and her bill to enforce safe nursing levels is making great progress.

We have a huge amount to talk about. We need to make our melody catchier by speaking with passion and about our values. If we don’t, nobody will listen.

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

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12 Comments

  • Stephen Howse 1st Jan '16 - 2:52pm

    I think our resolution should be to look forward rather than over our shoulders. Less sticking up for/slating the Coalition and Nick Clegg, more thought about how we can build trust and support in the communities we live in.

    Let’s spend 2016 being a political party, not a historical debating society. Please. After five and a half years of navel gazing, introspection and whingeing, it’s time to move on.

  • ‘Establishment busting party’????. The party that under Clegg assisted in unleashing the dreaded and painful Bedroom Tax. I hope Tim can free the party from the shackles of the coalition but contrition and lots of it is needed to get the voters back.

  • Screwed things up? Very blasé as the things you screwed up were peoples’ lives.

  • “The coalition years were brutally tough and actually hurt us much more than we deserved.”

    The voters are always right in a democracy – even when they are wrong.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Jan '16 - 10:52am

    Monopoly is a game

  • Thomas Shakespeare 2nd Jan '16 - 11:34am

    I think Caron was being was honest Anne. We made too many compromises with the Tories. Tuition fees was a big mistake – it was an issue of trust.

    However that doesn’t take away from the good stuff, as Caron said. The pupil premium gives more money to schools which takes on disadvantaged children. The increased tax free allowance has given 30 million working people a tax cut of £800. Zero hours contracts now have to allow employees to work for more than one employee. The list goes on and on.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 2nd Jan '16 - 12:01pm

    @Caron

    Getting rid of compulsory scripts really resonates with me. Surely canvassers should be allowed to speak from the heart if they have the experience? After all I’m sure that’s what voters want, not just canvassers reading a party message.

  • David Evans 2nd Jan '16 - 1:00pm

    Sadly yet another ‘never apologise and just walk away’ article, pretending that we have actually apologised for anything in coalition (other than Nick’s apology for making the pledge, rather than what was required, an apology for breaking it). Our voters have walked away from us in droves, in totally the opposite direction, and the proposal here is to carry on walking away from them. They are now getting very close to disappearing over the horizon and too many still seem perfectly content to simply let it happen. If they do go, we will not get them back in twenty years, never mind the four we have to avoid being wiped out in 2020.

    Our previous leader didn’t seem to worry about it. Tim does care, but he urgently needs to take some decisive action soon, or next May will be just another step in our onward decline.

  • Russell Simpson 4th Jan '16 - 8:02am

    @Anne. When Labour “screwed up” the result was 100,000s dead, £40B down the drain and creation of IS. Libdems “screw up” has resulted in more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds going to University! Spot the difference. And yes, Nick Clegg did apologise for the right thing. The public is stupid if it thinks a junior coalition partner can get all its manifesto in to Govt policy. Caron’s right. No consolation but even if the Libdem party dies, I’m convinced history will be kind on the Libdem’s coalition involvement. Most of the sensible newspapers implored voters to vote Libdem last year.

  • David Allen 5th Jan '16 - 12:03am

    “I don’t know about you, but I am done with caution and contrition.”

    I wasn’t aware that you had yet begun with any caution and contrition. The remark strongly reminds me of what Bob Diamond of Barclays Bank said about the crash: “There was a period of remorse and apology for banks. I think that period needs to be over.”

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