Hancock calls on Clegg to “end dictatorship over the party by 20 Lib Dem ministers”

Never say Mike Hancock doesn’t have a sense of timing… On the morning of Nick Clegg’s leader’s speech to the party conference, Mike has delivered what might be considered a stark warning:

I would be grateful if you could confirm in your speech on Monday that you will in the future bring any fundamental policy changes to the agreement without going through the triple lock democratic arrangements of the party. Or if that is not going to be the case that you will bring forward changes to the party constitution to change the triple lock. As I say that was not the case with the VAT rise and the Academies Bill. We are, I believe above all, a democratic party relying on the work and goodwill (more than the other parties) of our volunteers, activists and councillors. This cannot be a party of a dictatorship of 20 Lib Dem ministers.

However, before Labour activists get too excited that — like, erm, Charles Kennedy — Mike might be about to defect, he makes plain his continuing loyalty to the Lib Dems, and indeed to Nick:

Let me also be clear where I am as regards Labour. If Dennis Skinner can remain a member of Labour throughout the past twenty years of new Labour, I as a founding member of the SDP with over 25 years membership of the Lib Dems can certainly remain a member of the Lib Dems.

We should remind people of the actions of new Labour and the Labour ministers who are now going around trying to be their leader did. In fact there is such amnesia amongst them that I fear they have may have had a complete lobotomy! They supported things that you and I campaigned and voted against. Attacks on the poor through the abolition of the 10p tax rate. Attacks on students introducing tuition fees. Attacks on pensioners with the miserly 75p increase in the pension. Attacks on civil liberties with ID Cards and increasing the big brother state. The decimation of the local post office network. And just the down-right mean spirited with not allowing Ghurkhas to settle here. And you are rightly to be congratulated on the campaign that you ran on this.

I know that I and my constituents will not forget these things.

And Mike goes on to acknowledge the democratic strengths of the Lib Dems:

It probably remains one of your frustrations that leading the Lib Dems is a bit like herding cats! However it remains one of the strengths of this party that we can have a proper grown up discussion.

You can read Mike’s letter (PDF) in full here on his site, or below via Scribd:

Hancock Letter to Nick Clegg

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This entry was posted in Conference.


  • Spot on Mike.

  • Nice to know there are good mp’s on the side of the poor, it is not fair what clegg is doing what the tories real agenda is, attacking the vulnerable and the poorest.

  • Barry George 20th Sep '10 - 2:34pm

    Fantastic letter and well done and thank you for posting it Stephen. This is exactly the position I expect the left of centre of the party to be taking. Shame on those who are not. Blindly following the coalition’s ideological crusade is not in line with the way this party works.

    The party has rules on how policy is formed and those rules are being thrown out the window. This is not Nick Cleggs party to do as he wishes. It belongs to the members. The rules are in place to prevent a dictatorshp of the party. Lets use them people !

  • If the Lib Dems really want to convince the electorate that they are on the side of the poor then perhaps the party elite should work for the same wages and live in the same conditions.

  • Andrew Suffield 20th Sep '10 - 8:23pm

    I’m pretty sure that the triple lock never covered anything more than entering a coalition. Certainly MPs are not obliged to consult the members for every decision they take.

    Conference does come around regularly and is entitled to pass motions on policy. As long as the MPs accept those motions as the basis for policy (so far as they can, while in coalition), I don’t have a problem with this system.

  • The disabled are a very vulnerable group in society.Cuts are needed to get the economy back on track but this group in society did not cause the finacial meltdown back in 2008.The disabled must not be the ones to suffer the most for the greed of bankers and the city.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 20th Sep '10 - 10:27pm

    “I’m pretty sure that the triple lock never covered anything more than entering a coalition.”

    It applies to “proposals for an important change in strategy or positioning,” specifically “any substantial proposal which could affect the Party’s independence of political action.”

    Obviously the argument can be made that the party approved the coalition on the basis of a specific agreement on policy, and that substantial changes to the agreed policy should be approved in the same way.

  • I feel so proud to be one of those who helped Mike get elected 26 years ago.

  • Keep it up, Mike. You’ll have seen the bafflement on everyone’s faces today as they watched Nick Clegg speak. The unspoken question was “Is this guy really one of us, or could we have a cuckoo in the nest?”

    Nick got the benefit of the doubt today. It won’t last. And when it breaks down, it will be very important to assure our supporters that there were many members – of whom you present a leading example – who kept their political integrity.

  • @David Allen. Incrediblely impressive to look in everyone’s face in the middle of his speech without getting in the way.

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