Jeremy Browne MP writes… Proud of our record in Government

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The fundamental question for Liberal Democrats gathering for conference is this: are we proud of our Government or ashamed of it?

I think we should be proud.

The Coalition Government came together in 2010 when Britain was in deep trouble. We had been hit by an economic shockwave. The last Government was borrowing a ruinous £450 million extra every single day.

We also faced serious problems which held our people back and threatened our future prosperity. Entrenched inter-generational poverty and welfare dependency needed to be tackled head-on. School standards had fallen behind our international competitors, wasting the talent of our young people and squandering our national economic potential.

Britain badly needed stable government and a clear-headed economic recovery plan. And – with the Liberal Democrats entering office as part of the Coalition Government – that is what we got.

Today our country is only part of the way down the road to recovery. But we have made real progress. Our economy is not yet running full-steam ahead, but it is off its knees and back on its feet. The crippling deficit has been cut by a third. More apprenticeships have been created. There are over a million extra new jobs in the private sector. And interest rates remain low for businesses and home-owners.

These are all Liberal Democrat successes just as much as Conservative successes. We have stuck with determination to the policies that have made this progress possible.

And the Liberal Democrats have taken the lead in Government on policies to help people with the cost of living. Tens of millions of workers on middle and low earnings have had their income tax cut. Millions of retired people have seen the state pension rise by more than inflation.

But the Liberal Democrats have not just made the popular decisions. Not everyone likes the cap on welfare, or reductions in military spending, or the rise in VAT to help tackle Britain’s debt mountain, but we have supported these policies too. We have been willing at all stages to make the necessary but tougher decisions as well. We have voted through the changes that Britain needed to start on the road to recovery.

So Liberal Democrats have taken the difficult but correct decisions over the last three-and-a-half years, but now, with the General Election approaching, we also need to win the credit we deserve for turning round our country.

That means Liberal Democrats embracing our role in Government and being proud of our overall record.

We cannot be half-in Government and half-out. We cannot claim credit for the popular policies but pretend the unpopular policies are nothing to do with us. We cannot be in the Government but campaign against the Government at the same time. We cannot lapse into the opposition comfort zone of echoing Labour’s policies on 50p tax rates and welfare reform.

The Liberal Democrat Conference is an opportunity to trumpet our achievements, not to amplify the attacks of our critics. Our objective in the Coalition is to be a more effective governing party than the Conservatives, not a more effective opposition party than Labour. It is our Government and we need to own it and celebrate it.

If Liberal Democrats run down the achievements of this Government we will not deserve to share in the credit for the Government’s achievements.

It boils down to this. If there were only two choices for Britain – the Coalition Government and the Opposition – which would win next time? I believe the Coalition Government would win and would deserve to win.

The Liberal Democrats are central to that success. The economic recovery, sticking to Plan A, the new jobs, cutting the deficit, our national renewal – none of these would have been possible without the Liberal Democrats. We have been fundamental to putting our country back on track.

But voters in reality have more than two choices at the General Election. The Coalition Government will not be on the ballot paper. People who support the strong record of the Coalition will have the option of voting for either the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives.

The Liberal Democrats are an independent party and we will stand on our own manifesto, but we will only get the credit for our achievements if we unambiguously stand by our record in Government. No foot dragging. No craving the easy gesture politics of opposition. No fence sitting. We have risen to the challenge and we have served our country well. We deserve to stay in office and continue our positive work. The Liberal Democrats should be proud of our Government.

* Jeremy Browne is the MP for Taunton Deane, and was previously a minister in both the Home and Foreign offices.

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21 Comments

  • Wow. This is a pretty blatant rejection of working with Labour in favour of working with the Conservatives.

    It’s up for political parties to choose their politics, but if you’d asked me 5 years ago if I thought the Lib Dems would end up as natural partners for the Tories I would have laughed at you.

    How times change.

  • The trouble is, we haven’t even begun to communicate the things we’ve done in government and meanwhile the Tories are being given credit for the economic recovery. How we get this message across is crucial.

    At the same time there are plenty of people who have *still* failed to grasp the difference between being in government alone with a majority and being in government as the (unfairly) smaller parliamentary partner to a right-wing party. They keep on going on about some supposed “swing to the right” in the party which in reality never happened. What has happened is that the range of possibilities available in terms of the public finances has contracted dramatically.

    There are vast swathes of the electorate who have never even heard our message. How we address this problem in the next 18 months will be crucial to our future.

  • Richard Church 14th Sep '13 - 8:24am

    I am proud of joining the coalition, and I am proud of Lib Dem achievements in it, but I am not proud of everything it has done, why should I be? I’m not proud of the attacks on immigration, on the crude implementation of the bedroom tax. I’m not proud of police commissioners or the massive extension of faith schools.

    Jeremy Browne uses the call for pride in the coalition to reject the 50p tax rate for high earners, but then says the coalition will not be on the ballot paper at the next election and we will fight as an independent party. Whatever the merits of the 50p tax rate, defending the coalition is the worst argument to use against it. To be independent, the Lib Dems are bound to have some policies at odds with the coalition, as of course will the Tories, its time to say so.

  • tom ireland 14th Sep '13 - 8:27am

    Why is Mr Browne “very proud” of the current broken drug policy?
    When will he push for his own parties drug policy?
    When will he stop speaking for the Conservatives and speak against T. May, et al?

    No time soon, I suspect…

  • Liberal Neil 14th Sep '13 - 9:07am

    No, the fundamental question is whether we believe our role in this government has been successful in helping to achieve our political objectives.

    The secondary question is whether it was a more effective way to do so than the other available options.

    My answer to those questions is that it has been and that it almost certainly was.

    It is a coaliton government, in which we’ve won some ground and lost others, and most Lib Dems accept that.

    Not sure most of will accept the argument put by Jeremy above.

  • I am intrigued to see what Matthew Huntbach’ comments are going to be to this article.

    One thing I have noticed on LDV, apart from a very few MP’s and a couple of members of the Lords , is the complete lack of interaction on these forums from the parliamentary party.

    Then soon as conference is looming, Ministers come forth, telling everyone how great everything is this, what wonderful things they have done in government, how bad Labour is and it’s all Labours fault. They then expect the party faithful to tow the party line and cast aside their doubts.
    It doesn’t really matter what happens at conference, because the party ignores everything it has to say.

    When the commons returns, Nick Clegg and the party carries on as normal, ignoring the voices from the grassroots.

    It’s a cycle that will continue right up to the 2015 election.

    This complete lack of understanding, empathy and dismissal of those who see themselves as left of center, is not going to win back any of those lost supporters.

    I live in the marginal constituency of Norwich, Simon Wright won the seat from Labour at the 2010 election on a majority of just over 300. I have not fully decided yet who I will vote for, as thing stands it is more likely that Labour will get my vote.
    I will not be able to vote for Liberal Democrats, whilst I see articles and opinions coming from Ministers like Jeremy Browne who seems to me to be promoting future coalitions with the Tories.

  • @ John Roffey

    “We know from Alistair Darling that Labour had a decent plan to reduce borrowing, if they had won the election [often repeated by Ed Balls until he attended the Bilderberg Meeting in June] which would have been more successful than Osborne’s because it would not have created such high unemployment initially and therefore would not have been so costly or painful.”

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    There was about £6bn difference between Darling’s plans and those of the Coalition. With an economy worth £1.5 trillion a year, that is 0.4% of the economy, just more than the growth seen in the first quarter of this year.

    Compared with other factors affecting the economy like high oil, food and commodity prices, the Eurozone crisis, high consumer debt built up before 2008, the over-reliance of the financial sector and the need to repair its balance sheet, our shrunken industrial base, Labour would have seen exactly the same problems as seen by the Coalition.

    Unless you are a paid up, card-carrying member of the Labour party, I’m surprised to see someone posting arguments like yours on Lib Dem Voice.

  • “Compared with other factors affecting the economy like high oil, food and commodity prices, the Eurozone crisis, high consumer debt built up before 2008, the over-reliance of the financial sector and the need to repair its balance sheet, our shrunken industrial base, the difference between the two fiscal strategies would have made no difference at all. Labour would have seen exactly the same problems as seen by the Coalition,” I meant to say.

    However, for once I agree with Matt for once (first time ever). While the Coalition was a necessary but very unpleasant evil, to go around trumpeting it as a recipe for future success is totally wrong. We need to be able to work with Labour just as much as with the Tories and the tone set in Jeremy Browne’s comment steers us very much in the wrong direction. We are fundamentally a reformist, progressive, egalitarian party and the Tories are fundamentally anti-reformist, anti-progressive, anti-egalitarian and contrary to most of our values.

  • “I am proud of joining the coalition, and I am proud of Lib Dem achievements in it, but I am not proud of everything it has done, why should I be? I’m not proud of the attacks on immigration, on the crude implementation of the bedroom tax. I’m not proud of police commissioners or the massive extension of faith schools.”

    This. Thank you, Richard.

  • Robin McGhee 14th Sep '13 - 11:06am

    This doesn’t seem to give many people a reason to actually vote Liberal Democrat. It lists the successes of the coalition government (and naturally ignores the failings) without explaining exactly how those successes were the result of the Lib Dems and not the Tories. Nor does it explain how we have prevented the Tories from doing things- an essential reason for why many activists and voters have stuck with the party.

    Ignoring what you think of Jeremy Browne, I do rather fear for his seat if he can’t give coalition-friendly constituents a credible reason to vote for him and not his Tory opponent.

  • Jeremy Browne will hopefully be voted out at the next election. I’m saving a bottle of champagne for it!

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 14th Sep '13 - 3:04pm

    Richard Church states it as many now see things.

    For me I have to agree that it was right to join the Coalition, but I feel we have also let ourselves and more importantly those we claim to protect (the vulnerable) down by acquiescing to Tory intolerances. For many external of the ‘Westminster Bubble’ we have squandered our position of influence and we have a lot of work to do to win back the trust that we have lost.

    Should we be ashamed, overall no for this is very negative, we simply need to return to Liberal Democrat values and stop mimicking the Conservatives populist proposals that lack gravitas and have been develop on a ‘fag paper’.

    Hopefully Conference will vote to return our Party back to the Liberal Democrats.

  • Neatly side stepping home office matters (again), I see…

  • got to agree with `Tom Ireland`,

    Why are you so proud of the current drugs policy of prohibition at the home office?
    its now at the point that police need to be qualified chemists to understand these so called `legal highs`. as soon as you BAN 1 of these nastys another 10 take their place the following day.
    APPLE pips contain cyanide, maybe its time to ban apples…?
    too much SALT can kill a person, maybe another ban is in order…?
    drinking too much WATER can become toxic for the body and kill so why not ban it too….?
    i wont get started on the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, over-the-counter or prescription only medications or even caffine laced energy drinks.

    when are you going to make better progress on the current idiotic drugs policy of PROHIBITION that is insisted upon at the home office? after all people are trusted NOT to kill themselves with the above substances, maybe its time to at least tolerate people who choose the safer drugs namely cannabis and MDMA.
    can i urge you to stop making the statement you keep making about herbal cannabis being comparable to `downing a pint of neat vodka` it really sticks in my throat- simply because its total and utter nonsense,`skunk` is a specific strain of cannabis and certainly not the strongest or most potent strain and i AGAIN challenge you to put this to a practical test-
    i look forward to seeing you down a pint of vodka and once and for all you will see which is REALLY the more dangerous activity.

    i firmly believe that if people are NOT criminalised for possession of cannabis or MDMA and were able to obtain these substances in the correct environment, namely cannabis dispensaries, coffee shops or even pharmacies with the relevant safety information provided at point of sale including age checks then this vast `legal high` market would be halted in its tracks, after all 40years of prohibition seems to have worked a treat eh! its as plain as the nose on your face that prohibition has helped created this market.

    as a matter of urgancy i would also like to know when are you going to allow prescriptions for medical grade cannabis for those in the most dire need for it, by this i mean cancer patients, HIV/Aids sufferers, crohn`s patients, people with arthritis and chronic pain sufferers, PTSD patients quite possibly soldiers who have been involved in questionable conflicts in Iraq or Afganistan,i could go on???

    it would not surprise me in the slightest if somebody/group takes you to court for witholding medicine from people.

    I FEEL DISGUSTED BY YOUR IGNORANCE ABOUT CANNABIS AND YOU SIR SHOULD FEEL ASHAMED , NOT PROUD MR BROWNE!!

  • A Social Liberal 15th Sep '13 - 12:44am

    “The fundamental question for Liberal Democrats gathering for conference is this: are we proud of our Government or ashamed of it?”

    A good portion of the reps I met at conference today are ashamed of much of the part played by the Lib Dems over the last three years.

  • Geoffrey Payne 15th Sep '13 - 1:11am

    Does Jeremy Browne think that “ending welfare dependency” is something to be proud of? Isn’t that just another way of saying that government welfare reforms have made people destitute? For a party that looks forward to a society where “none shall be enslaved by poverty, isn’t that rather shocking and against what we stand for?

  • We should be able to be proud of OUR record in government, but we have made many mistakes. We can take credit for the state of the economy since the general election because it may well have been different if we hadn’t disregarded our manifesto and agreed with the Conservative one. What have we done to help the young with regard to inter-generational poverty? Was there really an issue with welfare dependency or was it just because for the last 35 years governments have given up on full employment and there was a lack of jobs? Have we really sorted out youth unemployment? How have we increased our economic potential?

    Yes pension reform and taking some poor people out of paying income tax are Liberal Democrat successes as is the pupil premium (has any research been done to discover if the poorest children are preforming better because of it?).

    We could try blaming the Conservatives for the rise in VAT if we could say we wanted to increase other named taxes to raise the money. We could try to blame the Conservatives for the welfare cap or the under inflation increase for benefits for 3 years or the bedroom tax because we had suggested other named cuts. We should not have supported these policies except because we had to compromise and so gained something elsewhere. Without this narrative we cannot be proud of this government.

    How can we be proud of secret courts or cuts in legal aid or the replacement to ASBOs?

    Yes we have taken up the challenge of government in the national interest to form a stable government, but we haven’t really risen to that challenge; we have fallen short with many failures.

    As an MP I expect Jeremy Browne will neither read these comments nor respond to them. LDV really should make it a condition of having an article published here that the author responds at least once preferable the next day once there are lots of comments (of course they could respond more frequently and always the next day).

  • Michael Parsons 15th Sep '13 - 5:48pm

    Vote Lib-Dem “soft”, get neo-liberal policies to the right of Mrs Thatcher. As Mr Clegg has shown himself a skilled practitioner of False Flag politics (you can’t even compound for an unrepayable studet loan under bankruptcy law), why should anyone give a hoot what his manifesto says? Sprats and mackerels, eh?

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 16th Sep '13 - 10:35am

    Should we have pride in this “Jeremy Browne says government should consider legislation to prevent young Muslim women being forced to wear niqab”?

    The comments are extremely naive and may well only assist in fuelling the fires of racial and religious intolerance. One cannot combat ignorance with ignorance.

    We have within the Party numerous skilled people with a profession and academic knowledge of race and religion issues who can advise, so please use them!

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat – Vice Chair

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