Jane Merrick: “How we can all stop worrying and learn to love the Lib Dems..”

We haven’t seen many nice things written about Liberal Democrats in the last couple of weeks. However, in today’s Independent, Jane Merrick outlines reasons that we can be cheerful.

First she describes what a Liberal Democrat MP overheard on a train from two people talking about the party:

The MP (who was relieved to be unrecognised by his fellow commuters) listened as these two seasoned observers took apart the Lib Dems. One of the men said: “They’re always in trouble, aren’t they?” “Yeah, there was that bloke with the dog,” the other chipped in. “Who was that one who, you know …” said the first, tipping his hand to his mouth as if taking a drink – “… Kennedy? Yeah that’s right.” “Then the one who went to prison for speeding.” And so the conversation went, all the way into central London, with a roll call of Lib Dems and their misdemeanours. The MP could only shrink into his seat in embarrassment and despair.

But, she says, it’s not that bad. She describes 6 good things about the party. Here are three of them:

It is an open, democratic party. Yes, doing everything by committee and not allowing the leader much power over internal discipline has been a disaster. But it is a thing to celebrate that, generally, members and activists have a say in how their party is run – they are a true grassroots movement. The Lib Dems have also followed due process – this is important.

And what about our record in government?

3 They can be proud of their record in government. Clegg and his ministers can claim credit for the following: the pupil premium, where £2.5bn has gone to fund schools with poorer children, a big Lib Dem demand; free school meals for all infant pupils from next September; cutting taxes for all earners by raising the income tax threshold to £10,000 was a Lib Dem policy; and maintaining policies on tackling climate change.

4 They have acted as a check to Conservative excesses. The Lib Dems in coalition have blocked the following: plans to allow employers to fire at will; permitting schools to be run for profit; a £270,000 inheritance tax cut for the richest householders; an expensive replacement for Trident; a two-tier exam system and old-style O-levels; relaxed quotas for childcare; the “snoopers’ charter”; and plans to axe the Human Rights Act.

There are of course many more than 6 reasons to love the Liberal Democrats. For a start, as a bit of an expansion to point 1, we actually discuss difficult issues on the floor of our conference. Our activists actually changed the NHS Bill. We will be discussing immigration in York in March.

Then there’s the fact that we have a leader who’s willing to face the public every week, taking questions on his radio phone-in. He could have been forgiven for being overcome by gastric flu these last few weeks, but he didn’t.

Add in to that that Nick gets the failures of the NHS as regards mental health and he’s appointed a minister in Norman Lamb who gets it too. He’s already put an extra £400 million into talking therapies, helping half a million people but knows there is much more to do.

And then you have all Lynne Featherstone is doing to help women and girls escape violence and exploitation at home and abroad, the revolution in parental leave championed by Jo Swinson, supported by Nick Clegg and Steve Webb’s pensions triple lock. I could go on all day.

Later on in Merrick’s article, she also calls on the media to do Nick Clegg’s wife the courtesy of getting her name right:

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, the Deputy Prime Minister’s wife, showed her frustration when it was reported that it was she who was forcing her husband to get tough over Rennard. What must really get her goat, though, is that hardly anyone can get her name right. Even though she styles herself as Ms Gonzalez Durantez, she’s been described as “Mrs Clegg”, which she is not, or, perhaps worse, “Mrs Gonzalez”, as if she is a bigamist and there is a brooding husband named Mr Gonzalez living in a Madrid suburb, grumbling into his San Miguel about Clegg’s treachery on tuition fees. It can’t be that difficult, can it?

It’s good to see something fair written about the party and its record.

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46 Comments

  • Very good and balanced article from Jane Merrick. However – to be liked even loved by others – we must first learn to like / love ourselves again. Too many members have been stood in the middle of the road – like the proverbial rabbit – dazed by the juggernaut of government and the HGV of no shame Labour. Get back to what we do best – and be proud of what we have achieved – and hammer it home on the doorstep – How many of us have written to the local / national press recently and pointed out how the economy is improving because Clegg and team lib Dems stood up to the mark and were counted. Instead we have spent 3 wasted years navel gazing and looking to blame each other.

  • The coalition has been a disaster for us, see how our poll ratings have fallen. See how our membership has fallen. The Conservatives will get all the praise for everything that has gone well, and we will be left carrying the can for those that have gone badly.

    We are losing more of our voters to Labour than to the Conservatives. With a predicted halving of MPs in 2015 we may not be called upon to form a coalition for many years to come. With the ongoing rise of UKIP, which no doubt will be boosted by the Euro elections and many of the electorate voting for them for the first time and then being less inhibited to vote for them in the General Election, we may conceivably find ourselves as the fourth party, behind UKIP.

    We have to do something dramatic to turn this around, we have only just over 3 months to do it. Yet we get obsessed by sex scandals and petty trivia. If we passively stand idly by and let UKIP take the votes in May then we are lost, and I do worry that we may never recover. We have to be the main party seen to be attacking UKIP, not leave it up to the Conservatives or Labour to do all of the hard work.

    Please tell me that I am wrong about our situation, somebody.

  • David, you end your comment with –
    “”. How many of us have written to the local / national press recently and pointed out how the economy is improving because Clegg and team lib Dems stood up to the mark and were counted. Instead we have spent 3 wasted years navel gazing and looking to blame each other.”

    Why should anyone write to the local/national press to say something that they do not believe? The last three and a half years have seen Clegg step back from the mark, hide from the mark, pretend that it had nothing to do with him. From NHS reorganisation, to the bedroom tax, to nuclear power, to tuition fees, to the failure on Lords Reforn, the ridiculous AV nonsense and this last week of utter and complete farce, we have had a leader who has brought he party into disrepute. Today’s Sunday Times poll shows what the publi think him.

    This is not naval gazing or looking to blame ech other. This is recognising the facts. This is an objective record of the repeated failures of Clegg as a leader. It is time for him to go and to let loyal party members and supporters take their party back from the people who have taken us down the orange book cul de sac.

  • “The Conservatives will get all the praise for everything that has gone well, and we will be left carrying the can for those that have gone badly.”

    It is quite striking how different the perceptions of the government are among supporters of the Tories and the Lib Dems.

    According to the current YouGov poll, among Conservative supporters, 85% approve and 8% disapprove of the government’s record to date. Among Lib Dem supporters, only 43% approve and 34% approve (with 23% don’t knows). And of course that is among the 9% which YouGov has still supporting the Lib Dems.

  • I agree – there are some things this government has done that we do not agree with – its not a Lib Dem government!!! It is a coalition – there has to be compromises. I am sure we all have our own line in the sand – the problem is that they are not all the same ones. I think we have to be honest – do we want to be part of government – with all its trials and tribulations – or go back to being a party of protest where local Lib Dems can more easily get elected as cllrs – but we oppose everything the government of the day does – red or blue – knowing that we will always get a protest vote because we wont be involved. What did we get involved with in politics for in the first place?

  • Peter Chegwyn 26th Jan '14 - 3:42pm

    David – In answer to your question I would hope most of us got involved in order to put liberal principles and policies into practice at both national AND local government level.

    One of the tragedies of the past four years is that our local government base has been decimated, especially in the north, where a generation’s hard work to gain power in Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester etc. has been totally undermined by the actions of our national party leaders. We have lost hundreds of good, hard-working councillors and hundreds more hard-working party activists with the prospect of even more local council losses to come this May.

    Yet most of the comments on this forum only mention national government and Nick Clegg himself hardly ever refers to our battered army of local councillors (except when he’s trying to tell councillors in places like Portsmouth what he expects them to do). The party nationally gives the appearance of not really caring about local government even though it was local government success that built the foundations for our advance into national government.

    Where does the problem lie? Well according to today’s poll Nick Clegg’s personal rating is minus 58 (down 7). 75% now think Clegg is doing a bad job as Lib Dem leader, just 17% a good job. It represents Clegg’s worst score since last May. At this rate Nick Clegg will have a minus rating of minus 100 in just six weeks time, making him the first-ever politician to be disliked by every person in the land. No mean achievement!

    Something needs to change and fast or our party is heading for an electoral disaster this May and in 2015.

    It’s time for a change! How long before more people wake up and smell the coffee?

  • @ Peter Chegwyn

    “One of the tragedies of the past four years is that our local government base has been decimated, especially in the north, where a generation’s hard work to gain power in Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester etc. has been totally undermined by the actions of our national party leaders.”

    …who made cuts in government spending because they were an absolute necessity to stop the nation’s finances going down the plughole.

    When was any government that took power in 2010 EVER going to be popular? Particularly in the North, which is so much more dependent on public spending. What would you have had them do instead?

  • Interesting to see how many posters on LDV now say the same thing I was called a prophesier of doom for posting in 2010. After the coalition was cobbled together I predicted big losses in council elections and a big drop in Lib Dem polling.
    I was right. Glad to see so many Lib Dems now having to accept reality.

    My prediction is that 2015 will see the the number of Lib Dem MPs more than halved and it will take 10 years or more to regain voter trust. Call that a jeremiad at your peril.

  • Tony Dawson 26th Jan '14 - 4:27pm

    @RC :

    “When was any government that took power in 2010 EVER going to be popular? ”

    This remark does not bear any serious notice being taken of it. It is a desperate straw-clutching, the kind which has contributed to the downward spiral of Lib Dem support.

    You may not have noticed this but there has been hardly any drift away by the Conservative supporters in 2010 from their Party. And, in respect of the Local Government cuts, there were many other things which could have sensibly been cut back to ease some of these. They could also have been distributed more fairly. The trouble was that past serial spendthrift Eric Pickles, with the zeal of a ‘covert’ to austerity, offered up massive cutbacks in Northern and Municipal local government and our Party did not stop him. 🙁

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Jan '14 - 4:43pm

    Hi RC, the north might be more dependent on public spending, but I think the south is more dependent on state granted monopolies and a heavily state subsidised banking centre. Geographic differences might benefit the south too, but I just want to provide the counter arguments, otherwise it encourages prejudices about a lazy dependent north.

    Regards

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Jan '14 - 4:59pm

    The bottom line is, yes we were probably always going to lose support up north by going into coalition with the Conservatives, but we still could have done more for the north since the coalition and not through freebies, but genuine rebalancing and potentially more devolution. We’ve been too cynical with public spending too.

  • Steve Griffiths 26th Jan '14 - 5:29pm

    @Peter Chegwyn

    “How long before more people wake up and smell the coffee?”

    A good portion of the former left of the party smelt the coffee a while ago now and either left the party or down tooled, like me. We were after all told that we were no longer required anyway by Nick’s special advisor Richard Reeves; Nick has also failed to repudiate that advice by Reeves, which says it all really.

    We were very committed activists and formed the bulk of the teams that largely got the party where it was before the Cleggistas took over. Many of us were the councillors (now decimated in numbers as you say) which were the backbone of the party. I think like others on this thread that the Lib Dem MPs will be more than halved in numbers after the next general election. I suspect the party will then be asking us to please return and to rebuild the Lib Dems again locally and nationally as we did all those years ago, and quietly forgetting that senior advisors told the left of the party to clear off..

  • Off topic – but worth letting people know,

    Eleanor Scott has resigned her cabinet seat on Portsmouth Council, and from the Lib Dem group, in protest at the way the Hancock complaint has been handled.

    http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/politics/councillor-resigns-over-hancock-cabinet-job-decision-1-5834001

    Good for her, hope others will follow.

  • Peter Chegwyn 26th Jan '14 - 6:45pm

    I agree with much of what Sandy, Tony, Eddie & Steve say. I’ve been saying much the same since 2010. We’ve suffered hefty local election losses in 2011, 2012 & 2013 with more losses likely this May. We’ve lost thousands of members and activists. I see nothing to suggest this trend will change in 2015 and anyone who thinks UKIP will only do well in the Euro elections should look at last year’s local election results. UKIP are now mopping-up the ‘plague-on-you-all’ protest vote and, in my view, will do a lot better in 2015 than many people think, especially as our own party HQ seems to have no idea of how to take them on.

    Whatever party members think of Nick Clegg and the coalition, the plain hard truth is that Nick is toxic with large swathes of the electorate. A minus 57% poll rating today. 75% think he’s doing a bad job. Only 17% a good job. And the figures are getting worse, not better.

    If people don’t wake up soon to what’s happening then we are heading over an electoral cliff from which it will take many years to re-build.

    Sorry for the rant but having been a party member for 40 years and councillor for 35 years it pains me to see what’s happening. It’s tempting to quit the party like so many others, not least after the shambolic events of the past week, but resignation achieves nothing, genuine liberals have to stay and fight, someone has to stay and help pick up the pieces after May 2015.

  • Peter Chegwyn 26th Jan '14 - 7:17pm

    Just to be clear, I agree with Sandy’s earlier comments, not her comment about Eleanor resigning.

    Our Portsmouth Council Group have handled a difficult and sensitive situation extremely well over many months and have stayed united throughout.

    It will be a great pity if the intervention of the Party Leader last week undermines that unity and creates problems rather than resolving them.

  • “What would you have had them do instead?”

    The poor have been hit proportionally a lot harder than those on middle incomes by this government’s policies.

    Whatever people think about the scale and speed of deficit reduction, the burden could and should have been shared more fairly among different income groups.

  • @ Tony Dawson
    “This remark does not bear any serious notice being taken of it. It is a desperate straw-clutching, the kind which has contributed to the downward spiral of Lib Dem support.”

    Probably not by those who are in complete denial about the reality of public finances in 2010. Please feel free to carry on in this bubble-like fantasy world if you like.

    “You may not have noticed this but there has been hardly any drift away by the Conservative supporters in 2010 from their Party.”

    You may not have noticed this, but Conservative supporters value public spending much less and therefore are not going to be worried about spending cuts. The same is not true of Lib Dem supporters. Also, they have not continually been pilloried continually by the press in the same way as the Lib Dems.

    “And, in respect of the Local Government cuts, there were many other things which could have sensibly been cut back to ease some of these.”

    Like what, exactly? Almost everything that could be cut back is being cut back. Defence, Home Office, Trade & Industry budgets. Everything. Your kind of assertion is really not worth taking notice of because it betrays a total unwillingness to grasp the reality of the UK government’s financial situation.

  • RC. The Conservatives in government and their supporters in the country are delighted with the LibDems’ almost unswerving support for their (theTories) policies. The Conservatives can justly claim to have governed in a way that was, and is, “Conservative”. The LibDems can rightly claim that they enthusiastically supported the government in its “Conservative” agenda. The (blindingly obvious) problem for the LibDem Party is that the LibDems are not supposed to be a rightish conservative political movement. For three years and more the LibDems have been enthusiastically endorsing a kind of politics that their voters and a large part of their Party loathe. Result? Millions of very happy Tories, and Liberal Democrat Party facing almost certain destruction. And all for what?

  • Bernard Salmon 26th Jan '14 - 11:20pm

    @Peter Chegwyn
    Whatever party members think of Nick Clegg and the coalition, the plain hard truth is that Nick is toxic with large swathes of the electorate. A minus 57% poll rating today. 75% think he’s doing a bad job. Only 17% a good job. And the figures are getting worse, not better.

    If people don’t wake up soon to what’s happening then we are heading over an electoral cliff from which it will take many years to re-build.

    So is there anything Nick Clegg could do which would turn round his ratings (or at least make them not quite as abysmal)? And if the answer is there is nothing he could do, what could any alternative leader do to turn the party’s fortunes around with just over a year to go until the General Election?
    Genuine questions – I don’t have any answers myself but I’d be interested to see what you think.

  • David Evans 27th Jan '14 - 1:40am

    Yes. He could admit that he has made an almighty horlics of being in coalition and let DC and the Conservatives to get away with too much. He could then adopt a really tough approach to DC for the rest of the parliament . In parallel, he could resign as leader of the party because he has let us down so badly, lost so many members, councillors, MSPs etc, This would give his replacement a real chance, develop some half decent policies to get us back from the brink and leave us with some chance of not losing most of the rest of our MPs over the next three general elections.

    In that case some of us who have been in the party longer than we care to remember, will have a half decent chance to help rebuild the party we believe in and see some real progress again before we finally fall off our perches.

  • LDV not reporting anything about Eleanor Scott who resigned her Portsmouth council cabinet position ?

    Strong words from her. Calls on Lib Dem party leadership to ”concede they need to give me, and others here, support to clean out the Augean Stables.”

    Well done Eleanor. Don’t hold out much hope anything will get sorted though.

  • David Evans – We are back to apologies, again, aren’t we? I believe this apology would have to be all-embracing, and must encompass an admission that the economic and environmental and “division of the spoils” approaches have all been wrong, allowing space for the radical wing to take us into 2015. To be honest, I think it is actually a bit late for that now, and I think that those of us “who have been in the party longer than we care to remember” would have an impossible task, and would ourselves then be blamed for any May 2015 calamity which ensued!

    Mark Pack, in his thread today writes about lessons he draws from Liberator commentary from 1979 to the early 1990s. He doesn’t refer specifically to the “People First” campaign of, I think 1990, but he may have that in mind in his talk of “attempting to revive community politics”. As I remember, People First had quite an electrifying effect on the party, its activists and its results, dragging us fairly quickly out of the doldrums to which Paddy Ashdown, in particular, as then Leader, often compares our position today. For any similar stimulus to work now, people would need to see a complete and believable change in the way the Parliamentary leadership is going, and a complete change in personnel in order for them to trust in it. People generally are not trusting of politicians, and also have this thing about administering the punishment (as they did to the Tories in 1997). During late 1996 and early 1997, you could see a small recovery in Tory performance in local government elections, but people were still determined that their main players in Parliament be punished heavily in the 1997 GE. I think we may already be seeing small signs of that mini – recovery in some council byelections, though Cowdenbeath reminded us that this does NOT transfer to a wider stage., It remains overwhelmingly likely that we will take an almighty hammering in the Euros and London elections in May, and a pasting in May 2015. David, I would be interested in your take on this, and whether the scenario you paint (which none of us think very likely anyway) could avoid the pitfalls I have described.

  • We simply face disaster, its a typical junior coalition partner position. I just wish we would face it, it is inevitable, it will happen and only after that can we make any attempt to rebuild. Life is swings and roundabouts and the it will eventually come back again, probably after I am no longer on this earth. It is so sad, a lifetimes work just gone up in flames. Still that is life.
    Oh yes we are a laughing stock at the moment, again, yet again. Will we learn from this I doubt it. Not whilst we keep putting a gloss on things, the only trouble is that this particular brand of paint does not dry it just drains away leaving the bare horrible picture underneath for all the world to see.

  • @DaveN – “The Conservatives in government and their supporters in the country are delighted with the LibDems’ almost unswerving support for their (theTories) policies”.
    I think you’ll find Nadine Dorries,Peter Bone and their ilk would beg to disagree with you.Furthermore Press reports suggest that should the option arise post 2015 Tory back benchers would insist on minority govt rather than coalition.Hardly an endorsement of your statement.

  • Dean.W

    There have always been right-wing oddballs among the Tory backbenchers – remember the ‘bastards’ under John Major’s government – and they have been dissatisfied with the actions of previous Conservative governments just as they are with those of this one.

    Their utterances are indication at all that this isn’t in essence a Conservative government, whose record Conservatives supporters in the country are well pleased with. I quoted above the latest YouGov poll, showing that among Conservative supporters, 85% approve and 8% disapprove of the government’s record to date. That’s the reality of the situation, no matter what spin Clegg’s apologists may try to put on it.

  • We took a couple of our grandchildren to the pantomime two weeks ago. It was hilarious on 2 levels as usual. The only political joke was the mention of the name ‘Nick Clegg’
    Says it all doesn’t it? I smell coffee.

  • Paul Reynolds 27th Jan '14 - 2:38pm

    There might be a bit of a contradiction in emphasizing the democratic structure of the party and its collegiate decison-making, but then blaming the leader alone for all the problems.

  • Tony Greaves 27th Jan '14 - 2:39pm

    In the past four years the richest 1% have got richer and the poorest 10% have got a lot poorer. There has been a net transfer of resources from peripheral regions (eg North of England) to London and the South East. Government policies have delayed (bot promoted) the nascent economic recovery. That recovery is heavily concentrated in London and the South East, And so on. I am sorry but I do not write letters to the press defending these things.

    On the other hand there are a myriad of things that LD ministers have done or changed or stopped compared with what a 100% Tory government would have done.

    It seems to me, as has been shown again this last week, that the party’s press and media operation is less than competent.

    Tony

  • Peter Chegwyn wrote —– “the plain hard truth is that Nick Clegg is toxic with large swathes of the electorate. A minus 57% poll rating today. 75% think he’s doing a bad job. Only 17% a good job. And the figures are getting worse …”

    The logical answer to the question “What can be done?” is that Clegg must go.

    However good the party’s press team might or might not be, the toxic reputation with the voters will remain whilst Clegg iis leader.

  • David Evans 27th Jan '14 - 3:59pm

    @RC Unfortunately you seem to have a serious knowledge gap when it comes to government finances and the cuts. DCLG has cut local government finance massively more than any other area of government. End of.

  • David Evans 27th Jan '14 - 4:05pm

    Tim 13. My take is that if we carry on as we are, things are going to continue to deteriorate into the indefinite future. When we change course, in the short term things will get even worse, but once that is over things can start to rebuild and we can start to reduce the speed of fall and ultimately turn it around. Not a pleasant scenario, but the alternative is do nothing and carry on falling away to oblivion.

    The sooner we start to turn around the more people we will still have and the sooner we can rebuild. It really is a no-brainer unless you are tied to only one vision.

  • I have been informed of a new nickname for our party leader. Clegg is now known amongst the pollsters in the office as TOXIC NICK.

  • paul barker 27th Jan '14 - 4:36pm

    The plain fact is that a lot more voters like or approve of Clegg than say they will vote Libdem, up to 3 or 4 times as many by some measures.
    British Politics being very tribal, as the 3rd largest tribe we have more people claiming to hate us/our Leader. The point is, since AV was rejected Voters cant actually vote against anyone.

  • David Allen 27th Jan '14 - 4:52pm

    Paul Barker, you are comparing apples with pears yet again, aren’t you? You are referring to Clegg’s approval rating, which is typically about 20% favourable 80% anti, and suggesting that this can meaningfully be compared with the Lib Dem “who would you vote for” figure. No doubt you could claim by the same “logic” that Salmond is miles more popular than the SNP, since he has a high approval rating, but only a tiny fraction of the UK public intend on voting SNP!

    Previously when posting, you have made it clear you are comparing apples with pears. Previously, frequently, you have been told by many respondents just how unacceptable that is. So now you have resorted to disguising the dishonest argument and repeating it yet again.

    It’s only a suggestion but – why not be honest for a change? Why not just drop it?

  • David Evans 27th Jan '14 - 5:35pm

    Paul, the number of times you have come out with this faulty analysis to support Nick. As a leader he has presided over the greatest overall loss of members, councillors, MSPs, MPs and voters ever. He failed to get Lords reform, he failed to get AV – all in his Job Description as DPM. On top of that he is the most unpopular of all the party leaders, and I believe possibly the most unpopular since records began. His failure to make anything like enough of the opportunities presented by coalition are plain for all to see. He ignored conference over Secret Courts and NHS reform where someone had to invoke Shirley Williams to get him out of the mess he was in. What is there to support?

  • Bernard Salmon 27th Jan '14 - 5:36pm

    I’m no fan of Nick Clegg, but those who think he is just going to turn round and quit this side of the General Election are probably guilty of wishful thinking.
    And in the very unlikely event that he does, that isn’t going to change overnight the situation the party finds itself in – any damage to our electoral standing has probably already been done and any new leader will face an uphill task to try and bring voters round.

  • Paul in Twickenham 27th Jan '14 - 5:51pm

    Re. Mr. Clegg’s personal approval rating: polling at the height of the Watergate scandal was better for President Nixon than Clegg’s numbers right now.

  • How long before the lunatics get to reclaim the asylum?

  • George Crozier 27th Jan '14 - 11:24pm

    Dear oh dear what a counsel of despair from some on here.

    When I worked in the whips office ten years ago I’d sometimes hear MPs moan that taking control of the local council was a disaster because they were having to make unpopular decisions that were jeopardising the MP’s seat. Reading some comments above you would think the job of Lib Dem MPs was to avoid ever getting into power and making themselves unpopular because it would damage our local government base. Both views are equally wrong-headed (and I say that as a council candidate in a Labour-facing area)!

    I know there are some in the party, including some good friends, and some who have left it, again including friends, who disagree with the Government’s central economic strategy. I personally think the coalition’s got it about right, including the much under-played flexibility that has been shown. As The Economist noted a couple of weeks ago: “When tax revenues disappointed, he [Osborne] extended austerity instead of redoubling it. By European standards, British austerity has not, therefore, been terribly austere”. Maybe that’s a slight overstatement, but it is certainly the case that many on the right of the Conservative Party are rather grumpy that public spending isn’t falling as much a they’d like. I think we should probably give Danny, Vince and Nick a bit of the credit for that.

    That’s not to say I’d have cut in all the same places, or that I’d agree with every policy decision (tuition fees comes to mind as a particular misjudgement). But overall I would say we’ve been instrumental in an economic strategy which has led to the recession being less painful than it might have been (eg unemployment not rising as much as many predicted) and which is now leading to an increasingly robust recovery.

    I know there are parts of the country where any association with the Tories is toxic but I do recommend getting out on the doorstep and talking more to those not following every word of the Westminster debate. Certainly in my area while I’ve found a handful of people unhappy with our record in power I’ve found more who are understanding, and more still who are much more interested in talking about improving the local town centre, getting the roads repaired and dealing with antisocial behaviour, rather than anything going on nationally. May’s elections won’t be easy but if we do the work we will win the seats.

  • What a curious thing George Crozier says when he opines “Reading some comments above you would think the job of Lib Dem MPs was to avoid ever getting into power and making themselves unpopular because it would damage our local government base.”

    The one thing none of the posts refer to is an avoidance of power to avoid making the Lib Dems unpopular in Local Government. What there is, is an understanding that once in power the massive errors of judgement made by Nick, including his failure to deliver any of the important matters that came under him as DPM, have led to the Lib Dems and him in particular becoming so unpopular. This in turn has led to massive losses in local government, in Scotland and very soon in Europe and London.

    The thing that is a counsel of despair is an unwillingness by people lacking the courage to see the facts for what they are and their reliance on blaming the messenger for the party’s ills. The message “if we do the work we will win the seats” was never 100% true, but now it really is the last refuge of what will be seen to be political climate change deniers.

  • George Crozier 28th Jan '14 - 1:06am

    @David Evans

    David, I think we are simply in complete disagreement about the Government’s achievements. It’s disappointing that Lords reform and AV haven’t been achieved – they would have been additional substantial achievements if they had been. But I think you are personalising things to a ridiculous extent by holding Nick individually responsible. We all know who blocked Lords reform (and the price they paid), and while the causes of the AV referendum vote can be argued over pinning it solely on Nick is just silly.

    The party lost a big chunk of our support when we went into coalition with the Conservatives. We’ve lost some more as a result of unpopular (though in my view mostly right) decisions. Additionally our poll rating is depressed by mid-term blues. As a consequence it’s become harder to win council seats and we need to work harder than ever to do so. That’s not being in denial, it’s called being a realist.

    Quite frankly if we’re taking the right decisions then a bit of unpopularity is sometimes the price that has to be paid. I think we are generally taking the right decisions and I’m rather proud of that. And if it makes my job of getting elected in May a bit tougher then so be it. Winning elections is only a means to an end. I’m in politics because I want to see us governing and changing the country for the better. Within the constraints of coalition and the toughest public finances in at least a generation (inheriting a situation where government was spending four pounds for every three coming in if I recall correctly) I think we’re doing that.

  • George, there are a lot of people who let their personal animosity towards Clegg and the Orange Booker cannard cloud their judgement.

    To those unhappy with Clegg’s election, I have only two words to say: Chris Huhne.

  • Peter Chegwyn 28th Jan '14 - 9:16am

    Meanwhile the latest two polls show us behind UKIP on 9% (that’s five polls in a week showing us on 8 or 9%) and another poll in Scotland shows us 5th on just 6%.

    Nick Clegg’s personal rating is minus 57 with 75% of the population thinking he’s doing a bad job, only 17% a good job. And the figures are getting worse, not better.

    Yet contributors here dismiss this as ‘a bit of unpopularity’ (that) ‘is sometimes the price that has to be paid’ (for) ‘taking the right decisions’.

    Obviously the public aren’t impressed by ‘the right decisions’ and if the party gets hammered (again) in local and national polls we very soon won’t be in any position to take ANY decisions, right or wrong!

  • Tony Dawson 28th Jan '14 - 5:27pm

    @Paul Reynolds:

    “There might be a bit of a contradiction in emphasizing the democratic structure of the party and its collegiate decison-making, but then blaming the leader alone for all the problems.”

    I think it is more people are increasingly recognising that the electorate are identifying our Leader with being the cause of many of the problems.

    Tabman, who was ‘unhappy with Nick Clegg’s election’??? You are tilting at imaginary windmills. Similarly, who was unhappy with the Coalition decision?? Very few. It is the performance with which people are unhappy. Very unhappy.

  • Tony Dawson 28th Jan '14 - 5:35pm

    @David Evans:

    “The one thing none of the posts refer to is an avoidance of power to avoid making the Lib Dems unpopular in Local Government.”

    There are two significant criticisms of the current Lib Dem leadership. One concerns actions and the other presentation. Although there are particular issues (the NHS reorganisation fiasco is my ‘favourite'(sic) example the ‘actions’), the ‘presentation’ problem has far more impact upon our electoral prospects in significant areas.

    We have to accept that relatively few of the Lib Dem Ministers have ever had to fight their way from nowhere through to win seats or have experience of positions of responsibility in local government where you have to both do what needs to be done and communicate effectively with the electorate about that or else you lose your seats. The results are plain to be seen. Or not, if you prefer avoidance.

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