My first appearance on the proper BBC1 News – “Not perfect – but in the circumstances we’ve done the best we possibly could”

Late at night at that delightfully random end of Conference Glee Club, in between The Land and The 12 days of Coalition (doesn’t Gareth Epps look like he’s going into a wee trance when he sings “B***** all?”, I checked my phone to see if there was a goodnight text from my family. There wasn’t, but there was one from the BBC, asking if I’d do an interview with political correspondent Vicki Young on the Coalition’s record and Nick Clegg’s speech.

Linda Jack and Caron Lindsay on BBC NewsI thought I might as well go for it, expecting it to go out on the news channel at 3am as most of my media stuff seems to end up. I was told to go to a cafe near the Minster for 10 am and that I’d be on with my friend Liberal Left’s Linda Jack.

We turned up at the Habit on Goodramgate. If it hadn’t been 10am, I’d have indulged in several pints of the real ales on offer. The menu  makes me want to go back there at some point.  In fact, the whole of York makes me want to drag my family back there for a weekend at the soonest possible opportunity.

We went upstairs on to the decking which had York’s historic Minster as its backdrop. In the sunshine, it was the perfect location for our interview.

The Final Cut of our interview troubled BBC1 News bulletin viewers for about 10 seconds of their lives. We did, however, film several minutes of conversation. I talked about how we’d built a sustainable recovery and done so much to enable people to get into work, and how Nick Clegg’s priorities had always been around improving the chances of disadvantaged kids and how he’d done that in government. Linda made the point she’d made before that if you’re a vegan, you’d  never allow your partner to buy a leather sofa.

It actually took about 20-30 minutes to get all the footage. You film the interview and then they film it again to get the background shots that they need to make it look good.

You can watch the whole clip here but for the sake of ease, here’s what we both said:

Linda Jack:

 It is good to see some of our key policies getting enacted but proud overall, no because I actually believe we have been part of a government that has destroyed a lot of lives.

Me:

I think we can be overall proud. I mean nobody’s going to be happy with everything the Coalition has done. Nobody’s ever going to he happy with everything any government has done but I think in the circumstances we inherited we’e done the best we possibly could.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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28 Comments

  • Simon McGrath 9th Mar '14 - 10:25pm

    How does Linda think her comment will help our candidates in May ?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '14 - 7:56am

    Simon McGrath

    How does Linda think her comment will help our candidates in May ?

    If it reminds our voters that, contrary to much of what comes out from Party National HQ, this current government is VERY FAR from what would be our ideal, it might save a few seats.

    It is possible to accept that the Parliamentary balance in 2010 meant joining the coalition was necessary, without believing it was the best possible option or what we wanted all along. It is a government which is five-sixths Conservative, and what it is doing reflects that. The official line that the current situation is wonderful and marvellous is damaging and defeatist, as it suggests our ambitions go no more than where we are now – a minor influence in a government dominated by another party. If we were to say like Linda Jack, that there are a lot of things the current government is doing that we don’t like, and add that if there were more Liberal Democrat MPs we would have a government doing more of what we do like and less of what we don’t, we would have a much more positive message to give out, which is “If you want Liberal Democrat policies, vote Liberal Democrat”.

    This lies at the heart of why our party has been doing so badly since the formation of the coalition. The way it keeps being put forward as something we can be “proud” of, as something we are so happy to be involved in, makes it seems as if we are in full agreement with all it is doing, rather than accepting it as a compromise (and really a “miserable little compromise” given the balance of seats due to our distortional representation electoral system) where we can do a little, but very far from what we would be able to do if we had a Liberal Democrat led government.

  • “… I think in the circumstances we inherited we’e done the best we possibly could.”

    You’ve changed your mind about secret courts, have you?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '14 - 8:20am


    Linda made the point she’d made before that if you’re a vegan, you’d never allow your partner to buy a leather sofa.

    This is why “marriage” is a silly analogy for the coalition, and one that should never have been allowed to flourish. What we SHOULD have been done is to make sure that every time the coalition was described as a “marriage” in the press, a letter was sent to the paper by our Leader saying “No, it is not a marriage, and we do not welcome that language being used”.

    A marriage is based on the idea of equal partnership. The coalition is not an equal partnership. A marriage is based on the idea of choice of partners. We had no choice of partners. A marriage is based on the idea of mutual love for that partner above all other. We have no special mutual love for the Conservative Party. A marriage is intended to last for ever. The coalition was intended to last for five years.

    So, allowing this description of the coalition as “marriage” to flourish gives the idea that we had plenty of alternatives, but we went for this one because we really like the Conservatives, we are equally responsible with them for the government policies we have, and we intend this to be a permanent relationship. This IS how many people see the coalition, thanks not just to how the media describes it, but how our Leadership has let them, and by the constant “it’s all wonderful, we should be so proud of of it” messages, encouraged them, so NO WONDER we have lost so many of our former supporters.

    IT NEEDN’T HAVE BEEN LIKE THIS. We could have gone into the coalition and done much the same, but portrayed it in a different and more realistic way. I have been saying that since May 2010.

    A better analogy would be to say suppose you were one member of a board, sitting alongside five others, choosing office furnishing. If the others were all in favour of leather sofas insisting that’s how it should be, you couldn’t do much. You could resign from the board, but that would lose you the influence you could exert over other things. But if the rest of the board was three to two in favour of leather sofas, you could swing the decision the other way round. That is much more like how the coalition works – we can swing things our way if they’re things where the Tories are fairly evenly divided with at least a large minority on our side.

  • “A better analogy would be to say suppose you were one member of a board, sitting alongside five others, choosing office furnishing. If the others were all in favour of leather sofas insisting that’s how it should be, you couldn’t do much.”

    But that’s not how the coalition works. Both sides have to agree to anything that’s not in the coalition agreement.

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    “A better analogy would be to say suppose you were one member of a board, sitting alongside five others, choosing office furnishing. If the others were all in favour of leather sofas insisting that’s how it should be, you couldn’t do much.”

    If the board required unanimity to make a decision (because their joint membership amounted to 6 out of the 11 electors that have to ultimately vote on the decision) then the other five members would have to persuade you about the leather sofas. Your analogy conveniently forgets that Lib Dem support is essential to everything the government does as, without it, the Tories don’t have a parliamentary majority. The converse is equally true – that the Lib Dems can’t pass anything without Tory support. As such, I think it reasonable to argue that everything that has been done by the coalition government has been done because both parties were happy with those particular policies, with the exception of traded policies, e.g. ‘free’ school meals, married tax allowance. The arithmetic of the split in the membership of the coalition doesn’t really matter given that they all need to agree to everything – what matters in terms of policy delivery is the proportion of shared policy agreement (not the proportion of membership) between the two coalition parties and that’s where disaffected Lib Dem voters like myself get upset at seeing too much of an agreement over a broad range of issues between the Lib Dems in government and what I would expect from the Tories. There is of course the marketing issue of making sure that the electorate knows the policies you would have liked to have delivered if you were in a majority government, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the coalition government’s policies are, effectively, a subset of Lib Dem policies. If the party adopted the line of reasoning that you are advocating then they would be telling the electorate that the party voted for a bunch of stuff they didn’t believe in because they didn’t have a choice and because they were afraid of losing their place at the table – I don’t think that’s a winning formula.

    I also don’t buy the argument that the Lib Dems only got a sixth of the seats therefore they only have a sixth of the power. The Lib Dems polled 40% of the votes for the two coalition parties and, as a party that believes in PR and as king-makers that can pull the plug at any time, the party has both the moral justification and practical ability to punch well above a sixth share of power.

    “We had no choice of partners. ”

    What, even if it was the BNP that had won the same number of seats as the Tories?

    “You could resign from the board”

    But the other five would then be in a minority and equally unable to influence much, given all votes would be on an ad-hoc basis and would still require a parliamentary majority.

  • Matthew Huntbach is right about most things in most of the comments he writes. But I do not think that the reason that the party has done badly is solely down to the presentation of The Coalition. Things started to go wrong even before the 2010 general election. Except for the brief and strange phenomenon of Cleggmania (a couple of weeks in April 2010) the lack of popularity of both Ming Campbell and Nick Clegg as leaders goes all the way back to the knifing of Charles Kennedy. Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy were hugely popular with the public and successfully put across a centre left popular message. Ming Cambell and Nick Clegg have never enjoyed popularity anywhere near that of Ashdown and Kennedy. Check out the IpsosMori record of satisfaction with party leaders.
    The rise in the party of the right wing young men with an agenda of their own ( often associated with the Orange Book) accelerated the decline in public support for the party. Clegg is the poster boy of this right wing clique who have captured the top of the party. I would suggest to Matthew that it is the undermining of the party’s appeal by this right wing element which is the reason for not just the last four years but the last six years of declining party membership and huge drop in support from voters. The right wing element seem to be happy with 10% in the polls and maybe scraping together a few more percentage points when the general election comes along.
    Edward Davey has spent the last few days going around the media interviews reminding the public that a year before the Coalition began we came fourth behind UKIP in the last European Election – any thoughts why he is doing that?

  • Linda will always be Linda, and that’s why I respect her, and the fact that Linda and Caron can have a perfectly reasonable discussion where they disagree but remain in the same party is why I’m a Lib Dem.

    BTW, I do agree with the marriage point, but it is the first UK Govt inter-party coalition (as opposed to the many intra- ones that we’ve had) and so it was always bound to be difficult, for us, for them, for the political commentators, and for the voters and general public.

    The fact that it’s actually been reasonably steady is an achievement in itself, irrespective of whether one agrees or disagrees with all of the policy choices that have been made

  • David Allen 10th Mar '14 - 2:15pm

    I didn’t get Linda Jack’s comment at all until I replayed it. Then I understood why it hadn’t made sense the first time.

    It was a comment which only made sense when you heard the last five stinging words. In the film clip, just as Linda gets to those words, the camera shifts away to the nodding interviewer. So the viewer suddenly loses the ability to lip read, and (in my case, anyway) loses the plot. I don’t suppose it was deliberate….

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '14 - 3:26pm

    John Tilley

    Matthew Huntbach is right about most things in most of the comments he writes. But I do not think that the reason that the party has done badly is solely down to the presentation of The Coalition.

    Oh, sure. I don’t think it’s solely down to the presentation of the Coalition, and of course the way the Coalition has been presented has also very much been skewed by the right-wing clique putting it in the way they want it to be seen. All I’m saying is that they are destroying it in two ways – first by pushing in a direction where there’s no great pool of voters waiting for it to go, and second by not even being able or willing to think in a pragmatic fashion which might at least keep a few more supporters from not entirely abandoning it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '14 - 3:40pm

    Steve

    If the board required unanimity to make a decision (because their joint membership amounted to 6 out of the 11 electors that have to ultimately vote on the decision) then the other five members would have to persuade you about the leather sofas. Your analogy conveniently forgets that Lib Dem support is essential to everything the government does as, without it, the Tories don’t have a parliamentary majority.

    Yes, and what would general feeling about the Liberal Democrats be if they were forever holding the country up to ransom on positions that most people would feel, with the right-wing press egging them on, to be silly party political bickering points?

    Sorry Steve, I hope I have said enough to show I have no love for Clegg or the Cleggies, but part of the reason I’m still just hanging on to the party is that I don’t want to be associated with silly comments which show no understanding of the reality of multi-party politics, which is all we seem to get from those to the left of us. One of the reasons I’ve just given up is this total lack of support for those of us on the left of the party from those outside the party who we might hope would give us some sort of support. I am trying to make constructive suggestions as to how this could have been handled differently, it isn’t helped when all we get from others is unrealistic comments like yours.

    Can you point to anywhere in local government, where joint party control is not unusual in this country, or in other countries where a small third party has managed to force a much larger party in a coalition to abandon all its policies and instead take up the smaller party’s policies? No, you can’t. The line you use, is the line EVERY party and faction in a coalition can use, but they can’t all simultaneously have everything their way, can they?

    Coalition parties which can most successfully push above their weight are those with strong tribal support which sticks with them no matter what. The Liberal Democrats are the opposite of this. We have already seem on those occasions where the Liberal Democrats HAVE put their foot down, they’ve been rubbished by the right-wing press for it, but have had no support from the left who have continued the “nah-nah-nah-nah, you’ve rolled over and given in to the Tories line” and I suspect would be using this almost whatever the Liberal Democrats did or said.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '14 - 3:54pm

    Steve

    I also don’t buy the argument that the Lib Dems only got a sixth of the seats therefore they only have a sixth of the power. The Lib Dems polled 40% of the votes for the two coalition parties and, as a party that believes in PR and as king-makers that can pull the plug at any time, the party has both the moral justification and practical ability to punch well above a sixth share of power.

    Sorry Steve, any credence that argument had was DESTROYED by the vote against electoral reform in the AV referendum in 2011. The Liberal Democrats may believe in proportional representation, but as that referendum made clear, no-one else does, and there is no popular sympathy for the line that representation should be more in line with share of vote. Most people in this country think that when the Liberal Democrats go on about proportional representation, it’s just self-seeking whingeing and switch off. Most people don’t even understand the argument and tend to rub their heads and go “Duh”, if you try to explain it to them. In my experience most people in this country don’t actually realise that there’s such a big discrepancy between votes and seats. Remember in the AV referendum, how journalists and politician got away with the “Duh, it’s all a but mathematical to me, I don’t understand it, but it sounds like it means people who vote LibDem get an extra vote, so it must be wrong, duh”, and that argument actually WON the “no” side support.

    Regrettably, we live in a country where innumeracy is considered something to be proud of, and showing competency with mathematical argument enough to be able to explain and understand even AV marks you out as some sort of weirdo.

    I say all this as someone who is passionately in favour of proportional representation, and who HAS been out there on the streets, knocking on doors, writing letters, arguing with the very people who would most benefit from it why it is such a good idea. Have you done all this? From what you have written, I suspect you have very little real campaigning experience. Oh, it’s easy to be the expert when you’ve never tried doing it yourself.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '14 - 4:04pm

    Steve

    “We had no choice of partners. ”

    What, even if it was the BNP that had won the same number of seats as the Tories?

    The simple fact is that the number of MPs for each party meant a Tory-LibDem coalition had a stable majority, a Labour-LibDem coalition did not.

    I’m sorry Steve, but given the complete lack of wider support in the country the Liberal Democrats have had when they have tried to force things their way in the coalition, what makes you think the country would be cheering them in if they were more forceful? The right-wing press would be putting every jitter in the stock markets down to “uncertainty due to the Liberal Democrats blocking the government from making the decisions it needs to make”, and Labour would continue to play the “Nah- nah-nah-nah-nah, Liberal Democrats support the Tories, yah booh sucks, bums and poo” line they’ve been playing since 2010, which means any wider appeal the LibDems tried to make for their stand would get nowhere.

    I am ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that had the current coalition not been formed, Labour and the Conservative would have contrived to get another general election called pretty soon after the May 2010 one with the theme “Get rid of the Liberal Democrats, get us back to the old two-party system, so we can have firm government instead of these political games where all other politicians are suppose to bow down and give in to this silly little party with less than one in ten of the MP”. Isn’t that JUST how they worked together in the AV referendum?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '14 - 4:10pm

    And anyone who thinks a minority Conservative government would have scrapped university subsidy, pushed forward unpopular NHS reforms, made any unpopular spending cuts, etc during the few months of its existence while it was preparing for the general election it would have been planning for has not an ounce, not a milligram, of political sense in their head.

    Quite obviously, had there been a minority Conservative government, they’d have done nothing at all to show just how right-wing the party has become. Any economic wobbles due to not tackling the deficit would be written off as “Oh, blame the Liberal Democrats for that, by their existence, they’re damaging our economy as we can’t make the decisions we need to make”. And, quite obviously, the Labour Party would have been cheering them on with this.

    As I have said, anyone who supposed it would not have been like this has not a milligram of political sense in their head, has no experience of the reality of politics in this country, no experience of how the Old Pals Act works,

  • What I have learned from your comments is that I am silly and you want to distance yourself from the likes of me, the electorate are innumerate and vote for bad things so let them have what they want, paying for higher education using progressive taxation as advocated by the Lib Dems for quite a while was actually a ‘subsidy’, the Labour party consists of people going ‘nah nah nah nah nah nah nah’, a minority of conservative MPs would have been able to impose their will on a larger number of MPs from other parties and get their way on increasing tuition fees, spending cuts and NHS reform and anyone that disagrees doesn’t have a milligram of political sense or how politics works in this country.

    No, you’re right, I don’t have your campaigning experience, but I’m not convinced that trying to persuade the electorate of the impotence of the Lib Dems in a coalition is a big vote winner for a party that realistically can only engage in coalitions with your current share of the vote. You seem to be arguing that the electorate don’t want pluralist politics so that’s what they deserve – but in that case what’s the point of voting Lib Dem? My biggest disagreement with you seems to be about what the Lib Dems could have done in government – you seem to think that the drop in electoral support is mostly down to a presentation thing because, policy-wise, things couldn’t have been much different anyway.

    My opinion is that of someone who used to vote Lib Dem and until 2010 would have seen myself as a natural Lib Dem supporter – someone that needs to be persuaded to vote for you again (and someone that would like to see the party go back to standing for the things it appeared to stand for a decade ago) – none of your comments above entice me to vote Lib Dem again.

  • The link doesn’t take you to the video any more.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Mar '14 - 1:23am

    Steve

    No, you’re right, I don’t have your campaigning experience, but I’m not convinced that trying to persuade the electorate of the impotence of the Lib Dems in a coalition is a big vote winner for a party that realistically can only engage in coalitions with your current share of the vote.

    It isn’t a big vote winner, it’s just reality. Coalition was always going to be difficult because of this widespread belief that junior coalition partners can get what they want, and therefore disappointment when that doesn’t happen. All I;m saying is that having played along to this, Clegg has made a difficult situation even worse.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Mar '14 - 1:54am

    Steve

    You seem to be arguing that the electorate don’t want pluralist politics so that’s what they deserve – but in that case what’s the point of voting Lib Dem?

    Well, I don’t think people think through these things logically. A large number of people are saying “After seeing how Clegg has given in to the Tories, I don’t like coalitions, I prefer single party governments, and I like the idea of the electoral system being distortional so it’s more likely to give us that” – that was the winning line in the AV referendum. But it is a line without logic. What it is saying is “I don’t like the way Nick Clegg has given in to the Tories so I want to give in to the Tories even more, and give them a majority even though they don’t have majority support”. If one’s line is that single party government is best, so distortion to hand all government power to one party is a good thing, then surely one should be cheering Nick Clegg along every time he gives in to the Tories because that makes it closer to this idea l single party government. But people don’t think this way, do they? Instead they simultaneously say they like the idea of single party government and they don’t like Nick Clegg because that’s what he seems to have given us.

    The point of voting LibDem remains that the more LibDem MPs there are, the more Liberal Democrat government will be. At the moment less than one in 10 MPs are Liberal Democrat. Why should anyone suppose that a block of less than 10% of the MPs could achieve anything it liked? The number of LibDem MPs is roughy equal to the number of loony right Tory MPs, by “loony” I do mean actually people whose ideas are so right-wing they most pepole would regard them as bordering insanity. Now, if one in ten MPs can get whatever they want, that block of loony right Tories can do so as well.

    The choice we had in May 2010 wasn’t a comfy semi-social democrat government, or what we have now. It was a pure Tory government or what we have now. Most LibDem MPs represent constituencies which without an active Liberal Democrats presence would return Tory MPs. If a large part of those who voted Liberal Democrat in May 2010 had not done so, we would have a majority Tory government now – we would have it even if all those people had voted Labour, because it would just have meant Labour having some better second or third places.

    Anyone who thinks that wouldn’t be much different to what we have now should spend while spying on Tory discussion groups and see just how right-wing they are. The opinion among many Tories is that this government is hugely influenced by the Liberal Democrats, that the LibDems are having a role way beyond their rightful share. What I see in places like that is frightening, and I mean that.

    My biggest disagreement with you seems to be about what the Lib Dems could have done in government – you seem to think that the drop in electoral support is mostly down to a presentation thing because, policy-wise, things couldn’t have been much different anyway.

    As I’ve said, the drop in support was always going to come because of the unrealistic expectations about what was achievable in the coalition. Clegg has made it worse by building up the expectations only to see them dashed, or to claim very modest victories as if they were huge triumphs. In reality I think Clegg probably has achieved what was possible given the balance in Parliament. I know it’s not much, I wish it could be more, maybe we could have achieved a little more with a Leader who wasn’t so naturally right-wing anyway. However, if people don’t want a Tory government, they shouldn’t vote Tory – but more people voted Tory than for any other party. We have an electoral system which twists representation so that the Tories get many more MPs than their share of the vote and the LibDems many less. If people don’t like what that leads to – which is the coalition we have now – they shouldn’t vote for it, but in 2011 they did, by two to one. I realise the line “I don’t like a government where the Tories are too strong and the LibDems are too weak, so I’ll vote for an electoral system which makes the Tories strong and the LibDems weak” makes no sense, but it seemed to be a popular line in 2011.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Mar '14 - 10:48pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    We have already seem on those occasions where the Liberal Democrats HAVE put their foot down, they’ve been rubbished by the right-wing press for it, but have had no support from the left who have continued the “nah-nah-nah-nah, you’ve rolled over and given in to the Tories line” and I suspect would be using this almost whatever the Liberal Democrats did or said.

    And here‘s an excellent example.

    Are people like Steve going to stand up and defend the Liberal Democrats against things like this? Or are they going to continue to use the line that the Liberal Democrats have rolled over and given up everything to the the Tories?

    Now, the point is that those of us on the left of the party who want to push it away from the right-wing direction it’s going need to be able to point out that our strategy is a winning one. We can’t do that if whatever the party does and whatever we on the left do, we still find this line constantly thrown at us that accuses us of having just given into the Tories, and throws that accusation against every single member of the party.

    If there was some support outside the party for what the Liberal Democrats were doing when they did stand up against the Tories, as in this case, if making that stand against Tory attacks brought some support for us from the left outside the party, then the party leadership might be emboldened to do more of the same, might be more willing to listen to those of us inside the party urging it to do more of it. But it seems when the party does make a left stand, it gets huge attacks from the Daily Mail and other right-wing organs, and still gets the usual “you’ve just given up your principles for power” attacks from the left.

    The point is, that if those of us who want the party to move back to the left can’t show any outside support for it, we’re on a losing streak. The right of the party can use the line that we on the left are just being divisive, that we’re just damaging the party by not being Clegg chearleaders, that no-one is interested in what we have to say, so we should just shut up and do what our Leader tells us.

  • If you want to analyse the Liberal Democrats’ electoral predicament based on polls and public reaction, you need to factor out the consistent Labour vote and the consistent Tory vote. The main group the Lib Dems need to be thinking about are the people who voted Liberal Democrat nationally in 2005 and 2010, and who have been in the habit of voting Lib Dem locally, but who have withdrawn their support since 2010. That group is now not only larger than any number of voters that might be pulled directly from the Tories, Labour, or other parties, but is probably larger than the Liberal Democrats’ entire existing base of support. Those are the people the party needs to start winning back in order to stop the hæmorrhaging.

  • I thought you’d finished!

    “Are people like Steve going to stand up and defend the Liberal Democrats against things like this?”

    In one my comments above I said something about the policies enacted by the coalition being an overlap of common ground between the two parties (so a subset of each others policies to a lesser or greater extent depending on influence) unless explicitly stated as a quid pro quo arrangement. I cited, as such an exception, the very policy you are highlighting – the ‘free’ school meals vs married tax allowance trade-off. I gave that as example of how the Lib Dems can highlight their policy input that has made a difference to how a pure Tory government would have presumably acted, so your question is answered by my earlier comment – yes, I did say that it is possible to defend such things as being a Lib Dem influence. The fact that you and I both came up with the same example might suggest that there is a paucity of examples though.

    Going off on a tangent slightly, ‘free’ school meals wasn’t in the manifesto and can hardly be described as being left-wing given that kids from poorer families already received subsidised meals, so it is the kids of rich parents that are now going to be subsidised to a greater extent by the taxpayer at the expense of whoever is on the receiving end of spending cuts elsewhere.

    Do I need to attack the Daily Mail when it prints nonsense? I’d be here all day. They attack anyone that doesn’t think that Britain was a better place in the 1950s before all the interfering do-gooders wrecked it. Labour get it in the neck all the time from the DM and the rest. The Lib Dems get the same flack but in a smaller quantity.

  • So, allowing this description of the coalition as “marriage” to flourish gives the idea that[…] we are equally responsible with [the Conservatives] for the government policies we have

    Isn’t that idea kind of required by cabinet collective responsibility, though?

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Mar '14 - 11:45am

    Steve

    Going off on a tangent slightly, ‘free’ school meals wasn’t in the manifesto and can hardly be described as being left-wing given that kids from poorer families already received subsidised meals, so it is the kids of rich parents that are now going to be subsidised to a greater extent by the taxpayer at the expense of whoever is on the receiving end of spending cuts elsewhere.

    Oh sure, it’s not a policy anyone was particularly pushing for as a priority, it’s not what I would have chosen as the thing to tradeoff against Tory nasties.

    It’s really the general point I’m illustrating, just picking up on the example that’s in the news now, I’m not defending this example as something wonderful. Junior coalition partners can’t dominate the agenda as you initially suggest, instead what tends to happen is that they end up getting attacked from both sides. If the Daily Mail gets like this over this issue, how much more would it get worked up if the Liberal Democrats had tried to force the sort of things that I would like to see forced through – I mean things such as serious taxes on property, enough to pay for full subsidy of universities. And what balance would there be against such attacks? Regrettably, party political knockabout means even if the Liberal Democrats were pushing harder for much more, Labour and Labour supporters would still be knocking them with “Yah booh sucks, you put the Tories in” lines.

    This is reality – I remember seeing it years ago in a tricky local government situation, and it’s what tends to happen in national governments elsewhere with junior coalition partners. See the recent example from the Republic of Ireland, how the Greens were destroyed by being in that position.

    That is something a decent leader of the Liberal Democrats should have been aware of at the start, and acted cautiously against it happening. Bu it’s also why, though I dislike Clegg and don’t trust him as I do think very much he is far to the right on economic matters, I can’t join in with the naive attacks on him which seem to assume he could just get anything he asked for. Coalitions just don’t work like that. Unfortunately, the silly knockabout way politics works in this country, an d the assumption of almost everyone that political parties work on Leninist lines, has made it hard to talk sense on this issue. Every time I try, I find I am shouted down by people who just assume that as I’m still a LibDem member, what I’m saying must be out of blind loyalty to the leader, even though I spend most of my time in this newsgroup criticising him for all he is doing that’s wrong.

  • Bob asks —– “Isn’t that idea kind of required by cabinet collective responsibility, though?”

    Cabinet Collective Responsibility has always been a nonsense. The Crossman Diaries record cabinets of the late 1960s and subsequent rows and press briefings where people cynically used the notion of cabinet responsibility to get their own way or to bully others. It has not improved since then.

    It is not what it the name suggests it is. ‘Hiding ministers and mandarins from scrutiny and accountability’ might be a more accurate description. Or ‘pretending the Prime Minister is something other than a dictator’ might be another.

    Blair notoriously replaced effective Cabinet Meetings with sitting on his sofa with an unelected chum or two whilst deciding to send troops into half a dozen different countries.

    In The Coalition, the meetings and decisions of The Cabinet run second to the decisions of The Quad.
    We are told that in The Quad just two Tories – Cameron and Osborne struggle against the joint intellect and political magnificence of Clegg and Alexander.
    Unless you subscribe to the recent revelations from Mr Laws that decision making at the top of The Coalition is all just “utter balls”.

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