LibLink: Chris Rennard – Lib Dems must stress where they stand out

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Over at the Financial Times, former Lib Dem chief executive Lord (Chris) Rennard surveys the political scene and suggests policy areas where Nick Clegg can show how the party is making an impact in government. Chris notes the problems of being the junior party in a Coalition:

Junior coalition partners in many countries are familiar with getting the blame for what is unpopular and failing to get the credit for what goes well. Nick Clegg’s first priority has to be to show that the coalition works – even with unlikely partners – while maintaining the party’s distinctiveness. If he cannot demonstrate measures of independence (as sometimes appeared to be the case when Paddy Ashdown and Tony Blair were flirting over a Lib-Lab coalition), the Lib Dems will appear to lose their raison d’être, and with it the level of public support needed to thrive. Here the party faces the familiar problem that it is most distinctive in areas that simply are not of great interest to the public.

And there could, he notes, be regional differences:

If some aspects of government policy fail, meanwhile, Liberal Democrats will be particularly vulnerable in places, such as the urban north of England, where council and parliamentary seats have been won from Labour over the past 10 years. Policies like the new £1bn regional growth fund, which aims to soften the consequences of public spending reductions in poorer parts of the country, will be crucial.

The three issues he think can mark out the Lib Dems from the Conservatives? Scrapping Trident, ending tuition fees and a liberal immigration policy. And he believes the ‘Big Society’ can be made to work, but only if it’s created in a truly liberal image:

The party must also ensure that central and local government work together with the voluntary sector to ensure its vision of a “big society” can be achieved – a project that will fail if it simply becomes an excuse for government doing less, but can succeed if it becomes a complete rejection of the Thatcherite view that there is “no such thing as society”.

You can read Chris’s article in full here.

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