LibLink: Simon Hughes – The hard reality of power

Over at the New Statesman, the Lib Dems’ deputy leader Simon Hughes argues that the party is now bringing about real change, “coming of age” as a constructive force of progressive politics. Here’s an excerpt:

… [there are] huge opportunities to implement a liberal agenda in every year of this parliament. The opportunity will come this year to win the referendum for a fairer parliamentary voting system – a huge and important prize not delivered by Labour during its 13 years in power, despite manifesto pledges, and now resiled from by many Labour MPs who were elected on this very commitment only months ago. There is the referendum in March on further powers for devolved government in Wales, as well as the significant transfer of powers to local government in England contained in the recently published Localism Bill. Above all, there are the plans – never delivered by a Labour or Conservative administration in the past 100 years – for a predominantly elected second chamber of parliament. Liberals are delivering urgently on a progressive agenda where Labour has consistently failed.

Economic and social liberalism remains as important as constitutional and political reform. I believe in reversing the gap between the rich and the poor: economic fairness should not just be a mantra or an election slogan. In my constituency of “two cities” – which has a greater percentage of council property than any other in England and some of the most expensive riverside homes – restoring the earnings link between state pensions and average earnings matters (a link broken by Margaret Thatcher and not restored by Messrs Major, Blair or Brown). Taking people earning less than £10,000 a year out of tax altogether matters, as does ensuring that richer people pay higher capital gains tax. All three are now government policy. None would have happened without progressive Liberals in this government.

You can read Simon’s article in full here.

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4 Comments

  • “The opportunity will come this year to win the referendum for a fairer parliamentary voting system – a huge and important prize not delivered by Labour during its 13 years in power, despite manifesto pledges, and now resiled from by many Labour MPs who were elected on this very commitment only months ago.”

    Quite.

  • I agree with most of his words, and until he slipped in my eyes in the tuition vote always held him to be a politician of the highest integrity. But there are a couple of points to take issue with.

    “and now resiled from by many Labour MPs who were elected on this very commitment only months ago.”

    Not really true I’m afraid Simon. The Labour manifesto promised a referendum on AV and an elected Lords. The Bill many voted against was overly complicated by Clegg including 5 year parliaments and boundary changes. He was asked several times to seperate the issues and refused. Labour has never stated they had a joint opinion on the matter. Just like Europe the “big two” are split on this, although Labour more evenly. There is no need to add the spin to this Labour failed on reform because they like the power an unreformed system gave them for 8 years, they’re warmer to it now of course!

    Where he is spot on is that the Lords reforms which seemed to start well floundered into the long grass never to be seen again under Labour, even when they had two unasailable majorities.

    “restoring the earnings link between state pensions and average earnings matters”

    It does, but at the same time the index used for disabled servicemen and women and war widows was downgraded to CPI from RPI. A move that will hurt another group of pensioners (albeit generally younger) whose needs are great.

    I just wish he had more of a say, I make no bones that I would prefer him to be leader than Clegg.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '11 - 12:53am

    No doubt Simon has to keep in with the leadership in order to avoid being complete sidelined, but I don’t think what he has written is helpful. We have a Tory government with a chance for a little Liberal Democrat influence. Our influence is inevitably small as we have far fewer MPs (thanks to the electoral system which worked as its Labour and Conservative supporters praise it for doing – twisting the reprsentation of the largest party up and of the third party down), and also we were the biggest losers in the election – our poll share steadily dropped, and plummeted at the end – that is why we couldn’t be more forceful as we would be the main losers in an early general election.

    So it is just damned STUPID to write of “huge opportunities to implement a liberal agenda”. This just gives the impression we agree with most of what this government is doing as it is giving us these “huge” opportunities. Then this is causing the steady loss of our support as it gives the impression we have all become gung-ho extreme right-wing free marketeers 100% in support of this “liberal” government. Well, it may not be personally stupid for Simon to say it to save his own skin, but it is in terms of saving the long-term existence of this party in the form that encouarged me to join it and work for it so many years ago. It would be a MUCH better tactic for us to play down what we can achieve in this junior coalition partner situation, to admit we have fairly small opportunities, and to say that the sort of liberal things we can get through tend to be those that don’t hurt the money-bags type who rule us. I.e. when we said “none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”, we can throw away the first because they don’t agree with that sort of liberalism, we can throw away the second because they want the population to be Murdochised into ignorance (the old “bread and circuses” ploy), and the latter is strictly limited to those forms of nonconformity which do not affect their plans to turn us all into conformist consumer couch potato morons, slaves to the big business they run.

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