Nick Clegg’s conference speech

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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, wearing a Yes To Fairer Votes badge, closed the party’s Sheffield conference with a return to his theme of Alarm Clock Britain:

We’re on the side of the people I call Alarm Clock Britain. On the side of everyone who wants to get up and get on. People who, unlike the wealthy, have no choice but to work hard to make ends meet. People who are proud to support themselves but are only ever one pay cheque from their overdraft. People who believe in self-reliance but who don’t want to live in a dog-eat-dog world.

Who want everyone who can to work hard but they want children, the elderly and the vulnerable to be looked after too. People who believe it is as wrong to opt out of tax as it is to opt out of work. People who want the best for their children and need good local schools. Who rely on our NHS. Who want great public services but can’t stand seeing government waste. People who don’t want politicians lecturing them on how to live. And who are fed up with politicians taking their votes for granted.

‘Alarm Clock Britain’ is the successor in many ways to that much used phrase ‘ordinary hard-working families’, popular with politicians from all parties. The reference to “People who believe it is as wrong to opt out of tax as it is to opt out of work” is, however, an outlook very different from the views often expressed by Labour and Conservative politicians when talking of hard-working families. As Clegg put it,

These are the people liberals have always fought for. Fought to get them votes, wages, jobs and welfare. Lloyd George’s People’s Budget to make the wealthy pay their fair share and give a pension to all those who’d worked hard. Keynes’ plans to make our economy work for everyone and provide jobs for all. Beveridge’s radical blueprint for a welfare state to give security and dignity to every citizen. They may not have called it Alarm Clock Britain but they had the same people in mind. The people liberals have always fought for. And we always will.

That liberal theme was returned to regularly in the speech:

Nick Clegg speaking in SheffieldWe’re not the heirs to Thatcher. We’re not the heirs to Blair. We are the heirs to Mill, Lloyd George, Keynes, Beveridge, Grimond. We are the true radicals of British politics. That was true a hundred and fifty years ago and it is still true today …

Our opponents try to divide us with their outdated labels of left and right. But we are not on the left and we are not on the right. We have our own label: Liberal.

We are liberals and we own the freehold to the centre ground of British politics. Our politics is the politics of the radical centre. We are governing from the middle, for the middle. In government. On your side.

Liberal Democrat achievements in government were regularly mentioned through the speech, including:

Never, ever, doubt the value of being in Government. Would a Government without Liberal Democrats have ended child detention? Got an extra ten billion out of the banks? Would it have held a referendum on the voting system? Or put up capital gains tax? Ordered an inquiry into torture? Brought in a pupil premium? Or replaced Control Orders? Would a Government without Liberal Democrats have cut taxes for the poorest?

The economy, and the deficit, featured strongly:

Everything I want for Britain – great schools, world class hospitals, a balanced economy – can only be built on strong foundations, and on sound public finances.

Now, some people say to me: I understand we have to stop spending so much. I understand we have to sort out the deficit. But aren’t we doing it too quickly? In other words, why now?

Here’s why. By cutting the deficit decisively we have restored confidence in Britain. Essential – because without confidence there can be no growth. We have helped keep interest rates lower for longer, helping families, helping businesses. It has meant making difficult choices. But at least they have been our choices – not forced on us by the bond markets as they have been in Greece and Ireland.
And the risks of delay far outweigh the risks of swift action.

Labour’s delay would certainly be costly and could be deadly. And do you know what really annoys me about them? They refuse to set out how they would make their own cuts.

Ed Miliband even boasted that their plans are: and I quote “A blank sheet of paper.” They call for us to produce a Plan B. But they haven’t even got a Plan A…

We have protected spending on schools, on science and on health. Found extra money for the pupil premium and apprenticeships. Given councils more financial freedom than they’ve ever had before. And we are increasing the amount we spend on overseas aid.

We won’t turn away from the task of fixing the deficit. But nor will we ever turn our backs on the world’s poorest people. We are not just fixing the deficit. We are laying the foundations of a stronger Britain and a fairer world…

As for the banks, I agree with Mervyn King. The Governor of the Bank of England says that it simply isn’t sensible or right to have banks which are so big that if they fail we have to bail them out. It’s not good for the economy. It’s not good for taxpayers. And it’s not good for Britain.

Clegg also strongly signalled another increase in the income tax allowances in the budget:

From next month, 900,000 people will stop paying income tax altogether. Every basic rate taxpayer will pay £200 less a year in tax. We will take real steps every year, including in the Budget in ten days time, towards our goal that nobody earning less than £10,000 pays any income tax at all.

So too did electoral reform:

For the first time ever, the people of Britain choosing how to choose their MPs. You can tell the ‘No’ campaign are desperate. Making up ludicrous stories. Basically making it up as they go along. What are they so scared of?

AV is a small change that makes a big difference. It keeps what people like about the current system, like constituency MPs. It simply puts people, rather than politicians, in charge. Makes MPs work harder for your vote. And helps end the scandal of safe seats for life.

On the Yes campaign we have the Liberal Democrats, Labour party supporters, the Green Party, UKIP, Plaid Cymru, the SNP, Friends of the Earth, Colin Firth, Eddie Izzard and Helena Bonham Carter.

On the No side of the argument are the BNP, the Communists, the Conservative Party. John Prescott, Norman Tebbit and David Owen.

Tricky one.

On the NHS, in a section of the speech that was particularly warmly clapped by the audience, Nick Clegg added,

I know that many of you have concerns about the Government’s plans for the health service. What I need you to know is that all of us in Government are listening, and that we take those concerns seriously. We have campaigned for years for an NHS that gives more power to professionals and to patients. Do not believe for a moment Labour’s scare-mongering about privatising the NHS. No government of which I am part will tamper with the essential contract at the heart of the NHS: to care collectively for each other as fellow citizens. World-class health care for all. Publicly funded. Free. Centred on patients, not profit. So yes to health reforms. But no – always no – to the privatisation of health. We want a great NHS.

He finished,

When you go into this election campaign – and people are asking what difference we have made to government. You go ahead and tell them. Tell them that this government is getting our economy moving. Tell them that this government is getting the banks lending. Tell them that we are cutting income tax. And raising the state pension. Investing in our children. Renewing our political system. And restoring civil liberties.

Tell them how we are working to build a liberal Britain. Tell them – we are in government and we are on your side.

Buzzword bingo scorecard:

“Tell them”: 12
NHS: 5
“Alarm Clock Britain”: 5
William Beveridge: 4
Shirley Williams: 3
£400m: 3
David Lloyd George: 2
John Maynard Keynes: 2
John Stuart Mill: 2
David Cameron: 1
Ed Miliband: 1
“Community politics”: 0
“Social mobility”: 0

Here is the full text of the speech (excluding the late addition of section about the tragedy in Japan) – and an audio recording is also available:

This weekend is just the second time we’ve been together as a party again since those momentous events last May. I’ve really enjoyed fielding questions, queries – yes, some criticisms too – from many of you over the last couple of days. But it was a passing remark from one delegate that took me most by surprise. ‘It’s so nice to see you back’ she said. ‘I thought we’d lost you when you walked through that door of Number 10’.

Let me reassure you. David Cameron hasn’t kidnapped me. Although I gather some people were planning to this weekend. My life may have changed a fair bit since the last election. But I haven’t changed one bit. We all know that we did not take the easy path last May. But we did take the right path.

Yes, being in Government with the problems we inherited is hard. Explaining why we’re having to make cuts is hard. And being in Coalition with another party isn’t always easy either. Making compromises, settling differences, and going out to explain decisions which aren’t exactly the ones we’d make on our own.

But every single day I work flat out to make sure that what we’re doing is true to our values. Because that’s what I owe to the country. To the millions of people we represent. And I owe it to you.

I never forget that it is because of you, your tireless work, that Liberal Democrats are now in Government. I never forget that we are a party of fairness, freedom, progress and reform.

We cherished those values in opposition. Now we’re living by them in Government. So yes, we’ve had to toughen up. But we will never lose our soul.

The slogan at this conference says: In government, on your side. Some people have asked me: whose side, exactly? My answer is simple.

We’re on the side of the people I call Alarm Clock Britain. On the side of everyone who wants to get up and get on. People who, unlike the wealthy, have no choice but to work hard to make ends meet. People who are proud to support themselves but are only ever one pay cheque from their overdraft. People who believe in self-reliance but who don’t want to live in a dog-eat-dog world.

Who want everyone who can to work hard but they want children, the elderly and the vulnerable to be looked after too. People who believe it is as wrong to opt out of tax as it is to opt out of work. People who want the best for their children and need good local schools. Who rely on our NHS. Who want great public services but can’t stand seeing government waste. People who don’t want politicians lecturing them on how to live. And who are fed up with politicians taking their votes for granted.

These are the people liberals have always fought for. Fought to get them votes, wages, jobs and welfare. Lloyd George’s People’s Budget to make the wealthy pay their fair share and give a pension to all those who’d worked hard. Keynes’ plans to make our economy work for everyone and provide jobs for all. Beveridge’s radical blueprint for a welfare state to give security and dignity to every citizen. They may not have called it Alarm Clock Britain but they had the same people in mind. The people liberals have always fought for. And we always will.

Those of you who were at the rally on Friday will remember that Ros Scott passed on to our new President, Tim Farron a copy of a book: On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. A reminder that we are the inheritors of a century and a half of radical liberal tradition.

We’re not the heirs to Thatcher. We’re not the heirs to Blair. We are the heirs to Mill, Lloyd George, Keynes, Beveridge, Grimond. We are the true radicals of British politics. That was true a hundred and fifty years ago and it is still true today.

In government, especially in difficult times, it is more important than ever to know whose side you are on. When money is tight you have to make choices. And the only way to get them right is to know who you are making those choices for. We are on the side of Alarm Clock Britain. They have been failed for generations. Failed by the tired tribalism of left and right. Failed because both of those political traditions forget about people and place their faith in institutions. For the left, an obsession with the state. For the right, a worship of the market.

But as liberals, we place our faith in people. People with power and opportunity in their hands.

Our opponents try to divide us with their outdated labels of left and right. But we are not on the left and we are not on the right. We have our own label: Liberal.

We are liberals and we own the freehold to the centre ground of British politics. Our politics is the politics of the radical centre. We are governing from the middle, for the middle. In government. On your side.

The first order of business for this Government has of course been to tackle the budget deficit Labour left behind. There is no hiding place. There can be no ducking out.

But let’s be honest, this is not what we’re in politics for. I didn’t get into politics to balance the books. It is what we have to do – so we can do what we want to do. When we came into office, we were borrowing an extra £400m every single day. £400m we were asking our children to pay back.

Everything I want for Britain – great schools, world class hospitals, a balanced economy – can only be built on strong foundations, and on sound public finances.

Now, some people say to me: I understand we have to stop spending so much. I understand we have to sort out the deficit. But aren’t we doing it too quickly? In other words, why now?

Here’s why. By cutting the deficit decisively we have restored confidence in Britain. Essential – because without confidence there can be no growth. We have helped keep interest rates lower for longer, helping families, helping businesses. It has meant making difficult choices. But at least they have been our choices – not forced on us by the bond markets as they have been in Greece and Ireland.
And the risks of delay far outweigh the risks of swift action.

Labour’s delay would certainly be costly and could be deadly. And do you know what really annoys me about them? They refuse to set out how they would make their own cuts.

Ed Miliband even boasted that their plans are: and I quote “A blank sheet of paper.” They call for us to produce a Plan B. But they haven’t even got a Plan A.

Labour won’t take responsibility. They say they would cut but they won’t tell us where. They say their plan would be easier but they don’t admit their plan would mean three extra years of cuts. They want to be saying to the people in 2015: ‘more cuts are needed’.

We want to say: we’ve done what needed to be done.

This is a question of fairness. Above all, fairness to our children. Racking up £400m of debt in their name every day is not right. Our generation has a responsibility to the next. When it comes to the deficit, the real question is not when, or if. The real question is how.

We have protected spending on schools, on science and on health. Found extra money for the pupil premium and apprenticeships. Given councils more financial freedom than they’ve ever had before. And we are increasing the amount we spend on overseas aid.

We won’t turn away from the task of fixing the deficit. But nor will we ever turn our backs on the world’s poorest people. We are not just fixing the deficit. We are laying the foundations of a stronger Britain and a fairer world.

In local government, I know the cuts are difficult. But our councillors are showing what imagination, compassion and a bit of liberalism can do. I cannot tell you how proud I am that not a single Liberal Democrat-led council is closing a single Sure Start children’s centre. Sheffield has had a budget cut of more than 8%. Every lost job is a loss we all feel keenly. But the Liberal Democrat council here has kept compulsory redundancies down to 270. And they have kept open every children’s centre, library and swimming pool.

But cross the Pennines into Manchester, a council having to make almost identical savings. You’ll find a Labour council letting nearly 2,000 people go. So don’t let Labour take the moral high ground. In councils up and down the country they’re the ones making the decisions to cut services that could be protected. Some people say Labour are making cuts for political reasons … So they’ve got something to blame the coalition for in their local election campaigns.

Let me say this. Anyone who sacks a member of staff or shuts down a public service for political purposes is a disgrace to politics and a disgrace to Britain.

So yes, we have to tackle the deficit. But we are not a cuts government. If we get to 2015 and all we’ve done is pay off Labour’s deficit, we will have failed. Deficit reduction is just a fraction of the work we are undertaking. Bit by bit, step by step.

We are putting in place the cornerstones of a fairer, more liberal Britain. The four cornerstones we put on the front of our manifesto:

  • a fair politics
  • a fair, sound economy
  • fair taxes
  • and fair chances for all our children

Maybe those changes don’t make the news every night like the cuts do. But they will be the liberal legacy of this Government. The legacy each and every one of us will be proud to share.

Part of that legacy is proving that a new politics is not just possible – it’s better. The old political establishment, on the left and on the right, hate what’s happening to our politics. The old left screaming betrayal every time politicians work across party lines or make a compromise.

The old right simply horrified to see Liberal Democrats in government at all. We are showing that new politics, plural politics, coalition politics, can work for this country. And it terrifies them. There are enemies of reason across the political spectrum. But there are friends of progress too – and the future of politics belongs to them. It belongs to us.

People used to say coalition governments weren’t British. I am sure our coalition partners will forgive me for reminding them of their attempts, in the last days of the election campaign, to portray the horror show of a hung parliament. Remember what they said? A hung parliament and coalition government would mean – “Indecision”, “Weak government”, “A paralysed economy”.

Well, it hasn’t turned out like that, has it? The Coalition Government is strong and it is radical. The main criticism now made of the government is that we are doing too much. That we are too ambitious. Perhaps the new complaint about coalition governments is that coalitions are too strong.

But two parties sharing power in Westminster is just the start. We need to share power with the people. Let me quote you some words that inspired me many years ago: “The old politics is dying. The battle to decide what the new politics will be like is just beginning. It is possible, just possible, that it will be a politics for people.”

Shirley Williams wrote that three decades ago, as she and others set out to change the shape of British politics. Shirley was an inspiration then, and is an inspiration today. Shirley, perhaps it has taken longer than you thought, but here we are.

A new politics is beginning at last. We must make it what you dreamt of: a politics for people.

The Coalition Government is shifting power from state to people: restoring civil liberties, protecting personal freedom and privacy, crushing the ID database, we’re ending the house arrest of Labour’s Control Orders, guaranteeing freedom of the press, undertaking the biggest devolution of financial power to Scotland since the formation of the United Kingdom, tearing up the Whitehall rules that dictate to Town Halls how to spend local people’s money, running a successful referendum to give more power to Wales, putting public health in the hands of local authorities, reforming party funding, giving voters the right to sack corrupt MPs, creating an elected House of Lords, finishing the job this party started a century ago.

We passed the policies, conference after conference…

Now, finally, we’re passing the laws.

And, of course, a referendum to change our voting system…

For the first time ever, the people of Britain choosing how to choose their MPs. You can tell the ‘No’ campaign are desperate. Making up ludicrous stories. Basically making it up as they go along. What are they so scared of?

AV is a small change that makes a big difference. It keeps what people like about the current system, like constituency MPs. It simply puts people, rather than politicians, in charge. Makes MPs work harder for your vote. And helps end the scandal of safe seats for life.

On the Yes campaign we have the Liberal Democrats, Labour party supporters, the Green Party, UKIP, Plaid Cymru, the SNP, Friends of the Earth, Colin Firth, Eddie Izzard and Helena Bonham Carter.

On the No side of the argument are the BNP, the Communists, the Conservative Party. John Prescott, Norman Tebbit and David Owen.

Tricky one.

It’s simple. If you want more duck houses: vote no. If you want more democracy: vote yes.

In seven weeks, the British people can sound the last post for first past the post. So we have seven weeks to get our message across. If you want MPs to work harder for your vote, vote yes. If you want politicians to listen to whole country, not just swing voters in marginal seats: vote yes. If you want an end to jobs for life in safe seats, vote yes. If you want a new politics, vote yes.

But it’s not just a new politics we need. We need a new economy. The deficit is the most obvious symptom of an unbalanced, unsound, unfair economy. An economy based on speculation and debt, rather than growth and investment. We need an economy that works for Alarm Clock Britain, not just for the financial elite. We need an economy that works for us all. Dealing with the deficit is just the first step to making that possible.

We have to get growth going again. A new kind of growth. The budget ten days from now will be a budget for growth. For green growth. For balanced growth. Building the homes our children will need. Getting young people into work. Investing in the low carbon economy of the future. No more dependency on the City of London and its coffers. A flourishing future for the great cities of the North and the Midlands. Cities which will be the engines of growth in our economy. As they were in the past and as they will be again.

As for the banks, I agree with Mervyn King. The Governor of the Bank of England says that it simply isn’t sensible or right to have banks which are so big that if they fail we have to bail them out. It’s not good for the economy. It’s not good for taxpayers. And it’s not good for Britain.

Under the old model, a handful of financial institutions were able effectively to hold the country to ransom. And who paid the biggest price for Labour’s failure to regulate the banks properly? Ordinary, hard-working taxpayers, that’s who. We will not let that happen again. So we are fixing the banks.

We are going to take £10 billion more than Labour planned in taxes off them this parliament. We’re making sure they lend £10 billion to ordinary businesses this year alone. Making them come clean about how much they pay their top people with the toughest disclosure regime in the world. And – most importantly of all – we set up an independent Banking Commission to advise us on a sustainable future for the whole banking industry. And we will act on what it recommends. The banks must go back to being the servants of the economy, not the masters.

And people are fed up with a system where those on ordinary incomes have to pay taxes they can’t afford. While people at the top accumulate vast wealth no questions asked. Forget the tired arguments of the left and right focusing solely on top-rate tax. We need proper tax reform. Liberal tax reform. My philosophy on tax is simple. Less tax on aspiration, enterprise and hard work. More tax on pollution and unearned wealth. These are the principles which are already shaping government tax policy and will continue to do so in the years to come.

From next month, 900,000 people will stop paying income tax altogether. Every basic rate taxpayer will pay £200 less a year in tax. We will take real steps every year, including in the Budget in ten days time, towards our goal that nobody earning less than £10,000 pays any income tax at all. From the front of our manifesto to the pay-packets of 23 million people. Do you know who did that?

You did that – everyone of you in this hall. You did it. You designed the policy. You voted for it at a conference like this one. You campaigned for it. And now it’s happening.

So get out there and tell people about it. On every doorstep and in every town. An extra £200 in your pay packet starting next month. By 2015, no tax on the first £10,000 you earn.

Labour think fairness means taking money off people and then making them fill out forms to get it back again. We say no. We say that you shouldn’t pay tax until you’ve got enough to get by. Work has got to pay. So we’re fixing welfare to make sure it always does – to break open the poverty trap Labour created. As Beveridge himself said: “The State should not stifle incentive, opportunity or responsibility”.

So our universal credit will send a simple, clear message. Work pays. Even an hour of work pays. Do what you can, and we will help you.

There are of course some difficult welfare cuts coming. We are building a system of welfare that is fair to recipients, and fair to the taxpayers. A system Beveridge would be proud of. And for pensioners, from next month our ‘triple guarantee’ will mean that everyone will be protected in retirement. Never again the indignity of Labour’s 75p pension rise. Under our plans, pensioners will get £15,000 more in state pension over their retirement than under Labour.

And who did that? You did that. So tell every pensioner in your community, on your street, about it. About the difference you made.

And let me also be clear. Responsibility goes all the way up the income scale. So we’re going to make the top bankers come clean about their own pay and bonuses. And we’re going to make sure they pay their taxes. We will always be just as tough on tax evasion at the top as on benefit fraud at the bottom.

Because ordinary workers in Alarm Clock Britain don’t set up offshore trusts to avoid paying tax. They pay their way – and that’s a standard everyone should live by. They also deserve world-class public services. That will mean change, some of which may feel uncomfortable. But we have to open up our public services if we want them to improve.

I know that many of you have concerns about the Government’s plans for the health service. What I need you to know is that all of us in Government are listening, and that we take those concerns seriously. We have campaigned for years for an NHS that gives more power to professionals and to patients. Do not believe for a moment Labour’s scare-mongering about privatising the NHS. No government of which I am part will tamper with the essential contract at the heart of the NHS: to care collectively for each other as fellow citizens. World-class health care for all. Publicly funded. Free. Centred on patients, not profit. So yes to health reforms. But no – always no – to the privatisation of health. We want a great NHS.

And we want great schools, too. A fair start for every child. Under Labour, the opportunity gap widened – even as billions of pounds were invested in our public services. That’s their legacy of shame; the wasted money that could have made a difference. We must do more, even though they left us with less. Life chances should not be determined by background. Prospects should never be narrowed by the postcode of the home you are born into.

Birth should never be destiny. As liberals, we believe in an open society. Where the power to shape your own future is in your hands Where all roads are open, to all of our children. That is why Sarah Teather is providing free pre-school education to every two year-old from a poor backgrounds. That is why we have introduced a pupil premium putting £2.5 billion extra into schools that take on the children most likely to fall behind.

That is why we are creating 350,000 new apprenticeships, helping people get a trade and get ahead. And that is why we are opening up our universities to poorer students. We are introducing a national scholarship scheme. So that young people from any background can go to university.

It is no secret that we could not deliver our policy to abolish tuition fees. And I know how deeply people regret that. But though we have been divided, we can now unite, together, behind one clear mission. To make university access fair, fair for all.

Right now, our best universities are almost monopolised by the better-off. A pupil at a private school is fifty-five times more likely to get into Oxford or Cambridge than a pupil who qualifies for free school meals. But what’s even more scandalous is that there are still some people in these institutions who shrug their shoulders and say, that’s just the way things are.

They are wrong and they will have to change. We are insisting that universities wanting to charge more for courses have to open their doors more, more than ever. And let me be clear to the universities – open your doors or we will cut your fees back down to size. No more blaming the system. Fair access: fair access now.

It isn’t just the universities. Many of our liberal ambitions will be opposed by powerful interests. But we are used to it. We have faced them throughout our party’s history. Let’s face them again.

The reform-blockers in the House of Lords, clinging to their unaccountable powers. The MPs in Westminster opposing voting reform that threatens their safe seats. The political party machines, afraid to wean themselves off big money. The unions standing in the way of reforms to give patients and parents more power. The financiers in the City of London, resisting fairer regulation and transparency. All looking out for themselves, protecting their turf, trying to close the doors against change.

Well, we’re not having it. Who stands up for the interests of the people without a lobbying group?

I’ll tell you who does. We do. And we are not going to let them down.

I do not underestimate the scale of the tasks we face. These are testing times for the country. Testing times for the Government. Testing times for us as a party.

Let’s be honest, after seven decades in opposition, 2010 was not the easiest time to return to Government. But we have shown ourselves to be up to the task. We will not shrink from our responsibilities as a party of government. We will not flinch from taking the difficult decisions to put this country back on track. We will not miss this opportunity to build a more liberal Britain.

I know that being in the Coalition Government means us having to take some difficult, even painful, decisions. But clinging to the comfort blanket of opposition would not have made life more comfortable for our fellow citizens. It would have been an abdication of responsibility.

Never, ever, doubt the value of being in Government. Would a Government without Liberal Democrats have ended child detention? Got an extra ten billion out of the banks? Would it have held a referendum on the voting system? Or put up capital gains tax? Ordered an inquiry into torture? Brought in a pupil premium? Or replaced Control Orders? Would a Government without Liberal Democrats have cut taxes for the poorest?

I don’t think so.

In just a few weeks time, we’ll be taking the liberal message to Scotland and Wales, and in council seats up and down the land. When you go into this election campaign – and people are asking what difference we have made to government. You go ahead and tell them. Tell them that this government is getting our economy moving. Tell them that this government is getting the banks lending. Tell them that we are cutting income tax. And raising the state pension. Investing in our children. Renewing our political system. And restoring civil liberties.

Tell them how we are working to build a liberal Britain. Tell them – we are in government and we are on your side.

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134 Comments

  • Philip Rolle 13th Mar '11 - 1:12pm

    But is Alarm Clock Britain really what Clegg appears to think it is?

    The Alarm Clock Britain that I see is resentful of benefits claimants for not having to get up at the same time as they do, but simultaneously angry that others get up even earlier and beat them to jobs and opportunities.

    They lap up the tabloid stories about anyone who doesn’t live as they do and complain, not about the price of their fillings, but that there are too many immigrants in the dentist’s waiting room.

    Clegg can talk a good game – more so than any current politican I reckon. However, I think he is barking up the wrong tree here. Is it really a good idea to paint himself as being on the side of a group of people who I believe many see as bigoted.

    Looks like a right wing core vote strategy in disguise to me.

  • “Tell them how we are working to build a liberal Britain. Tell them – we are in government and we are on your side.”

    Yes, good luck with that. Success in May awaits.

  • JohnRussell 13th Mar '11 - 1:34pm

    We’re on the side of the people I call Alarm Clock Britain. On the side of everyone who wants to get up and get on and knock off at 3 o’clock. People who don’t necessarily remember what job it is they’re supposed to be doing while they’re doing it. People who are proud to support themselves and are happy to go on a skiing holiday while they’re supposed to be running the country’s response to a major international crisis. People who, I like to call, Nick Clegg.

  • greg Tattersall 13th Mar '11 - 3:00pm

    Last twenty years alarm clock Britain has been savaged by both labour and tory governments.Anyone who wants to work and gain the fruits of their efforts has been taxed to high heaven.Meanwhile the super rich and the work shy get away with it.

  • David Allen 13th Mar '11 - 3:29pm

    Buzzword bingo:

    Liberal 22
    Democrat 7
    SDP 0

  • Labour 17

  • How did this speech get a standing ovation? His response to yesterdays NHS debate is so wishy-washy he’s clearly not going to do the things the party asked of him yesterday, he’ll get the tories to make a few cosmetic concessions and then trot out the usual lines about compromise and “we didn’t win a majority”. Clegg is looking ever more divorced from the party as well as from the public. This is the end for me I’m afraid, I’m out. As for the universally derided catchphrase “alarm clock Britain”… jeez, know when you’re beaten Nick!

  • From the BBC:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12724194

    “The Lib Dem leader promised to take their concerns about the proposed legislation seriously – but aides said he would not be bound by every detail of the rebel amendment.”

    Well here’s the thing Nick. You are not a dictator and the party you represent has made a pretty clear statement. If you cannot live with that and follow it through then you need a different job. The Tories plans for the NHS will lead to disaster they do not need amending so much as ripping up and starting again.

    As I’ve stated before on this blog a massive deciding factor to me in voting Lib Dem was the democratic nature of how policy was created. Blair and Brown robbed normal Labour members of any real say in how heir Government would act. So I hate to disagree with you Nick but if you let people down on this one you are the heir to Blair.

  • @ JohnRussell

    Never let the facts get in the way of a good twisted, fabricated news story, eh?

    Nick Clegg does NOT stop work at 3pm. Do you understand? He stops taking on new tasks unless they are extremely urgent. That means he spends the rest of the day working on stuff he already has in his in tray.

    I would have thought even the simplest of minds could take in that clear distinction. Shish!

    I am sick to the back teeth of these stupid made up, sniping, distorted media stories about senior members of our party leadership.

    As for taking a holiday, do you know how much holiday Nick Clegg actually takes? How much holiday do you take annually? How do you know it wasn’t the first time he had had with his family for weeks?

    It sounds to me like you need a reality check, seriously.

  • Cleggstatic 13th Mar '11 - 5:04pm

    @R C
    How do you know it wasn’t the first time he had had with his family for weeks?

    Don’t be silly. He knocks off at midday on Fridays so he can spend more time with them.

  • Seriously, to all Lib Dem members, you’re going to have to keep up the pressure on Clegg – because he’s clearly not going to try and get them to change the NHS Bill without an awful lot of kicking and screaming. Already, we saw Andrew Lansley on the Politics Show earlier saying Lib Dem delegates had “misunderstood” the reforms.

    You’re going to need to do everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – to stop it. Not just wringing your hands but ultimately letting your MPs getting away with it, like on tuition fees. Because if you let the Tories wreck the NHS, you’ll be even more screwed at the next election than now.

  • Cleggstatic 13th Mar '11 - 5:36pm

    @Andy Henton

    It was in all the papers a few weeks ago. You must have seen it.

  • “As I’ve stated before on this blog a massive deciding factor to me in voting Lib Dem was the democratic nature of how policy was created.”

    and yet you are arguing that Lib Dems should seek to fully implement this policy in parliament, which would be undemocratic at a national level. Democracy is important at all levels and goes beyond party and setting party policy. Lib Dems have long supported PR and coalition government as the most democratic way of running a country. Setting policy can only ever mean setting the position from which you push and move policy in this situation… that’s hard for people who believe they are right to take, but it’s the most responsible, democratic, position when you have 60 million voices who don’t all agree with you.

  • @ Alex

    Who voted for these health reforms? Who wants them implemented?

  • “and yet you are arguing that Lib Dems should seek to fully implement this policy in parliament, which would be undemocratic at a national level. Democracy is important at all levels and goes beyond party and setting party policy. Lib Dems have long supported PR and coalition government as the most democratic way of running a country. Setting policy can only ever mean setting the position from which you push and move policy in this situation… that’s hard for people who believe they are right to take, but it’s the most responsible, democratic, position when you have 60 million voices who don’t all agree with you.”

    How is it democratic and in the spirit of coalition government for a policy to suddenly materialise that wasn’t in EITHER coalition party’s manifesto? It simply wouldn’t happen in coalitions on the Continent.

  • Andrew Suffield 13th Mar '11 - 6:33pm

    The Tories plans for the NHS will lead to disaster they do not need amending so much as ripping up and starting again.

    The conference delegates rejected your opinion here (that was roughly one of the alternatives represented by combination of amendments). Instead, the conference delegates approved a list of specific issues with the proposals which need to be addressed.

    and yet you are arguing that Lib Dems should seek to fully implement this policy in parliament, which would be undemocratic at a national level

    No it wouldn’t. This might have some truth to it if the Lib Dems had a majority, but what we’re dealing with is a coalition. It is entirely correct for the members of the coalition to seek to implement their respective policies, and then reach an agreement on how much of that is actually going to happen this year. The rest can be revisited next year, and those points on which they cannot reach agreement become relevant to the next election. That’s pluralist politics at work.

    Setting policy can only ever mean setting the position from which you push and move policy in this situation

    You managed to get the right idea down here so I guess you just forgot that we have a coalition government now.

    The quote from NC’s aides @Steve Way quotes (via the BBC story) is troubling. Suggests someone needs to have a quiet constitutional word and prescribe a refresher course.

    No, I double checked this one some months ago, and it’s strictly true (for a particular interpretation). The Lib Dem party leader is not obliged to obey the party policy that is laid down by conferences. Instead, a conference has the right to recall and replace him if it wishes – which tells us immediately that minor violations will probably be tolerated while major ones will not. Hence, the aide’s statement is accurate: Clegg is in no sense obliged to obey every detail of the motion. That’s not the same thing as saying he can ignore it completely. Partial compliance is expected.

  • @ Cleggstatic, John Russell et al.

    I’m sure it’s very therapeutic being able to vent all your rage for everything against Nick Clegg.

    Labour unable to form an administration because it doesn’t have enough MPs? Government has to make cutbacks because of massive deficit? Blame Nick Clegg. Coldest December in 100 years? Blame Nick Clegg? Price of petrol goes up? Blame Nick Clegg. Row with partner? Blame Nick Clegg. Stub your toe? Blame Nick Clegg.

    There is a really weird hate-fed scapegoat cult going on at the moment and it is getting progressively more bizarre as time goes by. Yes, everyone’s having a bad time at the moment (as they would be if Labour were in power) but putting all the blame on one single person is completely twisted and illogical.

  • “It should be noted, however, that the motion conference passed did not say that we just oppose outright any reform of the NHS; rather it listed a series of perfectly reasonable concerns which would not be beyond the wit of man to fix within the framework of the government’s proposals. It won’t make everyone who’s worried about the NHS being privatised happy, but it will make the policy vastly better and less harmful if they are addressed.”

    Although the reforms wouldn’t be quite as bad as currently if the overt marketisation measures are removed, I’m afraid even a “low-fat” version of Lansley’s plans would be a disaster. Anything that abolishes the current primary care trust structure won’t end well at this point in time. Any massive reorganisation/restructure always costs an awful lot of money – and NHS spending is going to get its smallest rises in history over the next 5 years (yes, smaller than the Thatcher years). NHS Administration costs have been falling quite quickly in recent years, precisely because the Labour government finally learnt to leave the damn thing alone, stop reorganising it and let the professionals get on with running it. A historically massive reorganisation, at a time when the NHS has severe spending constraints, would mean the frontline would be starved of funds on an unprecedented scale.

    I’m all for tweaking the current NHS structure (making PCT’s more democratic/accountable by including more councillors, for example), but, if the entire structure is torn up like Lansley wants, even without any privatisation measures, it will still be a disaster.

  • Lib Dem Titanic 13th Mar '11 - 7:04pm

    Clegg didn’t pepper a crucial speech before the May elections and AV vote with probably the most widely mocked political phrase outside of “the Big Society” did he ??? He did! Wow.

    Who didn’t laugh at the vacuous and patently silly phrase “Alarm Clock Britain” ?
    Everyone buy Nick it would appear.
    He needs a far longer ski-ing holiday if he still thinks that one is ever going to fly with the public.

    “So yes to health reforms.”

    And with that you just ensured your replacement as Leader will be sooner rather than later Mr Clegg.

    The Party might have just about put up with the tuition fees debacle because of the smallprint in the coalition agreement, but the catastrophic NHS reforms were in nobodies manifesto or the coalition agreement and the Party just told you in overwhelming numbers to dump it and distance yourself from the Cameron and Lansley’s market led madness.

    You might be able to ignore the voters for a while Nick, but ignoring your own Party is far more dangerous as you well know since you were one of the ones who helped despose Ming Campell.

    The NHS is one of those red lines you should never cross and you just leaped over it.

  • Cleggstatic 13th Mar '11 - 7:07pm

    @Andrew Suffield
    The Lib Dem party leader is not obliged to obey the party policy that is laid down by conferences. Instead, a conference has the right to recall and replace him if it wishes – which tells us immediately that minor violations will probably be tolerated while major ones will not.

    Oh yeah, I can really see them sacking Clegg if he doesn’t tow the line – LOL.

  • Lib Dem Titanic 13th Mar '11 - 7:16pm

    Apologies for the over-itilicisation. :blush: Typo with the code.

  • Well that all means what exactly?

    No change from Mr Clegg then… so what now?
    Liberal Democrats soul is not the same interpretation to Mr Clegg as it is to the foot soldiers.
    What happens if the MPs follow the government line and not the party line… no matter I see spin is taking over again.
    I think May is going to be a real painful lesson one way or another.

  • David Allen 13th Mar '11 - 8:27pm

    Andrew S,

    I think you are saying that:

    (a) Conference decided not to oppose Lansley root-and-branch, but simply to oppose two or three really objectionable key aspects which are unacceptable. Roughly, this leaves us with what Daniel calls a “low-fat” Lansley (and thinks would still be a disaster).

    and

    (b) Nick Clegg is then entitled to water down substantially the policy decisions which Conference has taken.

    I don’t think you are going to get away with saying both of these things at once. Not before time, the Lib Dem rank and file have drawn some crucial red lines. This time, Nick is going to have to take notice, if he wants to continue in office. Does he realise that yet? I’m not sure.

  • Lib Dem Titanic 13th Mar '11 - 9:10pm

    There are also those who can recall previous two previous leaders being ruthlessly deposed.
    Nick Clegg remembers as he was one of those doing the deposing.

  • @Alex
    I think you mis understand my point. Those who hold the party whip in parliament should represent the party policy. On some areas there is definate scope for compromise, but where the will of the party is clear, and the issue was not in the coalition agreement Lib Dem MP’s should follow the party and not their coalition partners.

    I have stated numerous times on this blog that I do not expect the 2010 Manifesto to be fully implemented, the Lib Dems did not win. The coalition agreement sets out where the partners must make compromise on all other matters the policy of the party should be the guiding force.

  • @RC
    I’m no fan of the way Nick Clegg has approached the coalition but you are quite right to jump on the comments regarding his working practice. It is entirely sensible to put time limits on work in (with the exceptions in place for urgent issues). I would also expect that the holiday slots of senior cabinet members are pretty much decided for them. Cameron was not incapacitated or on holiday himself, with the Technology and resources available to him he can still make decisions when away from the Country.

    Knock Clegg for his decisions but let’s try and make it for those and not for some misleading red top headline.

  • Andrew Suffield 13th Mar '11 - 10:26pm

    Nick Clegg is then entitled to water down substantially the policy decisions which Conference has taken.

    No, I think that he’s neither likely to get away with, nor stupid enough to attempt to substantially water down the policy decisions.

    I do think that he’s likely to ignore some of the details where they are either irrelevant to or hard to define in relation to the government’s policy objectives for this year. Amendment 1 point 7, for example: ” The continued separation of the commissioning and provision of services to prevent conflicts of interests.” If he did nothing about this point, nobody’s going to call for his removal. It’s pretty obvious that the first few points are the hot button issues on which movement is expected. Similarly, amendment 2 point 3a mentions: “all organisations in the local health economy funded by public money, […] are subject to Freedom of Information requirements.” – it’s a great idea, it would be really nice to have, and nobody’s going to claim he’s defecting to the Tory party if it just doesn’t happen.

    There isn’t really a problem here. You just have to understand that conference motions contain a mixture of the important, the mundane, and the largely irrelevant.

  • Oh, OK Andrew. Yes, if you are only talking about ignoring detail, then I don’t disagree with you.

    That said, I don’t think amendment 1 point 7 is minor detail. It is one thing to have public authorities buying from private providers. It is quite another to let privatised commissioners spend public money with private providers who may have business links to the commissioners. That way corruption lies.

  • Ruth Bright 14th Mar '11 - 8:19am

    I love Lloyd George being invoked as a supporter of Alarm Clock Britain. Surely he was more likely to spend his mornings tucked up with a mistress? Was Lloyd George an early riser? A question that grips the nation even a century later.

  • Call Me Cynical 14th Mar '11 - 9:08am

    Those NHS Renegotiation Talks in Full:

    Nick: [Entering Dave’s office mid-morning.] Dave …
    Dave: Yes, Nick?
    Nick: Er – well, I know we said we were perfectly happy with Andy’s NHS plan. And I realise we’ve been telling everyone how fantastic it is. But the thing is that the party isn’t very happy with it, and –
    Dave: The party’s unhappy? Sayeeda hasn’t said anything.
    Nick: No, I mean my party. [Pause] The Liberal Democrats.
    Dave: Oh, yes, of course. Go on, Nick.
    Nick: Well, I just wondered whether we could maybe – er – whether we could maybe completely change the plan.
    Dave: No, of course not, Nick.
    Nick: Not even a little bit?
    Dave: No.
    Nick: Oh. [Turning to leave]
    Dave: There is one thing, though.
    Nick: Yes, Dave?
    Dave: Please try to remember it’s two sugars next time?

  • Lost Lib Dem 14th Mar '11 - 10:07am

    Huge humanitarian catastrophe in Japan with earthquake, tsunami, explostions in nuclear reactors, etc. What do we get in Sheffield, but “Alarm Clock Britain”. A phrase that even Nick Clegg struggles to explain. These political soundbites and empty rethoric need to go and be replaced with speeches of substance which focus on the issues and talk about *solutions*. I think the LIb Dems are sunk as a party if this is the best that can be done.

  • LibDems still seem unable to understand why they did unexpectedly poorly at the last election. It’s because ‘alarm clock Britain’ still generally votes Labour or Tory because they understand (or at least think they do) what those parties represent. But the core Lib Dem vote is minimal; most votes come from Labour leaning supporters fed up with Labour but desperate to avoid the Tories, and Conservative leading supporters fed up with the Conservatives but desperate to avoid Labour. What happened in the election is simply that the first group grew dramatically and the second fell dramatically compared to 2005, hence Lib Dem support – and seats, were about the same.

    Next time around, neither group will exist. The first will all return to Labour. The second will just vote Tory. Those of us who used to vote Lib Dem in Lib Dem / Tory marginals to keep the Tories out now feel so totally disenfranchised (which AV won’t change a jot) we either won’t bother or will ‘protest’ vote for the Greens, Mebyon Kernow or whoever. Do you really think you will hold ANY seats in the SW or Scotland?!

    Guys, I like the Lib Dems – or used to until ten months or so ago. We need an alternative. But unless you get a quickie divorce from Cameron’s crew, it won’t be you. As an effective force in British politics you will no longer exist.

  • I have just watched a short video of Mr Clegg giving his speech, were my eyes deceiving me or have the Liberal Democrats changed the colour of the logo and backdrop at conference, they appeared to be two shades of blue.

    I am curious, an important message no one seemed to notice, who knows?

    Too late to worry about it now…

  • “But the core Lib Dem vote is minimal; most votes come from Labour leaning supporters fed up with Labour but desperate to avoid the Tories, and Conservative leading supporters fed up with the Conservatives but desperate to avoid Labour.”

    This is why it is so important to build a coherent Liberal philosophy that is economically and socially Liberal, and a build a demos to support it.

    Trading on the disenchanted voters of two other parties is a strategic hiding to nothing. This is evidenced by by-election successes and general election stagnation over several decades. If the Lib Dems are ever to be anything other than a repository for protest votes that situation has to change.

    For precisely the reasons you evidence, the past strategy of leaning towards Labour fails in its own terms. We have at least now started repositioning firmly in the centre, which is where we belong.

  • There is no such thing as a ‘radical centre party’, almost by definition. I recall an ‘on camera’ debate between Michael Meadowcroft and Des Wilson, at the time of the merger debate (Liberal & SDP). Michael agrgued that such a party could not exist at the time. Nick Clegg has a blind spot where the left/right political spectrum is concerned and calls it old fashioned. It exists, whether or not Nick chooses to see it.

  • Hi Tabman,

    You didn’t lean towards Labour, you moved to the left of Labour.. or at least Labour moved to the right of you. Maybe some of each. I personally found that LibDem party very attractive. This ‘repositioning’, though, is just interpreted by many either as moving wherever there might be the most votes, or chance of a slice of power or, less cynically, just having no consistent ideology or identity. Through in things like the tuition fees fiasco and abject voting reform (sorry, but where is my chance to vote for PR?) surrender, just adds seeming lack of principles to the list.

  • @Tabman
    “We have at least now started repositioning firmly in the centre, which is where we belong.”

    But is it democratic to reposition straight after an election? The people the MP’s should represent are those that voted for them, and for their representatives stated positions. Re-position by all means but the only way to make big changes with integrity would be to offer the New Lib Dems to the electorate.

  • Lost Lib Dem 14th Mar '11 - 11:45am

    Rob Stanley articulates the Lib Dem problem well. For too long, the party has relied on the tactical votes from other parties (whether Labour or Conservative) alongside a fairly minimal core Lib Dem vote. Both the Labour and Tory leaning voters will now disappear leaving only the core Lib Dem supporters for the party to appeal to. Unfortunately, this core now feels aggrieved because of all the U turns on tuition fees, PR, NHS, etc…. in short they no longer understand what the party stands for (and seemingly neither does the party). This lack of trust in the Lib Dems is a big, big problem…. with the party becoming a tarnished brand like the “nasty” Tories. Unfortunately, I dont think some of the “activitists realise this and are stil trying to fight elections along the old lines. Its time to define principles and stick to them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Mar '11 - 12:15pm

    Daniel

    Seriously, to all Lib Dem members, you’re going to have to keep up the pressure on Clegg – because he’s clearly not going to try and get them to change the NHS Bill without an awful lot of kicking and screaming.

    Yes, but to you and many others saying this sort of thing, we need your support. That is, we need to be able to show that there are people who are sympathetic to the party and who will back it if it appears to be in conflict with its leader. If we can show the more we push the party back to its core historic values, the more support we can re-gain, the more we can do it. The line that will be used against us – always is in this situation – is “if you criticise the leadership in public, the party will look divided, people will think it’s not serious, and it will lose support”.

    We are not helped by the way media covers politics, as if the parties are all about their leaders and party members are just brainwashed devotees who will do whatever their leaders tell them. That is the OPPOSITE of the liberal democratic model of a political party. Yet how many ordinary members of the public who have no great interest in politics see it in the liberal democratic way? I am fed up with constantly being criticised in these columns and in many other places as if just because I remain a paid-up member of the party I must be 100% in agreement with what its leader is doing.

    All we seem to be getting from people who are not members of the party making comments in Liberal Democrat Voice is “I am never going to vote for you again”, accompanied by a complete inability to engage in any sort of constructive debate over how else we could have managed the difficult situation we had following the May 2010 election. The consequence of this is to strengthen the hands of the leadership for their line “we’ll be destroyed if you rock the boat”.

  • “You didn’t lean towards Labour, you moved to the left of Labour.. or at least Labour moved to the right of you. Maybe some of each.”

    This “to the left of Labour£ is a fallacy – see:

    http://www.politicalcompass.org/ukparties2010

    Economically there’s little to choose between all three parties; all are to the Centre Right. Its the Authoritarian axis that’s the real differentiator.

    Inevitably in a coalition, the coalition position will be between where the two parties individual positions lie, and more towards the stronger partner.

  • To exapnd on this, previous rhetoric has givena false impression of where the party was compared to where it actually was. My view is that this is intellectually incoherent and almost bound to lead towards the kind of sense of betrayal from people who thought they were getting something that they were not.

    TBH, though, no other major party was offering it either and the only long-term solution is a form of PR which breaks open the party coaltions into their constituent parts.

  • ex Liberal voter 14th Mar '11 - 12:32pm

    “All we seem to be getting from people who are not members of the party making comments in Liberal Democrat Voice is “I am never going to vote for you again”, accompanied by a complete inability to engage in any sort of constructive debate over how else we could have managed the difficult situation we had following the May 2010 election.”

    Here is what you could have done.

    You could have stuck to your principles instead of giving them all up for a brief view from the hill, and it will be brief, only your support of the Tory’s tactics in the general strike, back in the days when you were Whigs has done more damage to this party.

    You were cast into the wilderness then and you will be now.

    Here is the bottom line, you not only lied, you lied so publically that people will not forget, your credibility is shot and the Liberal party will struggle for decades before this is forgotten.
    The damage that Cameron will do will be heaped at your door, not because you are the most responsible but because you are the party that turned its back on its principles and members, not the Tory’s, they onl;y did what we expected them to do, but they would not have been able to do it without your help and now you seek to justify this cowardly act by repositioning yourself in the political landscape.
    Well it wont wash , with your members or the public and no amount of chest beating about how the public doesn’t understand you will make it, we understand you far too well

  • “The damage that Cameron will do will be heaped at your door, not because you are the most responsible but because you are the party that turned its back on its principles and members, not the Tory’s, they onl;y did what we expected them to do, but they would not have been able to do it without your help and now you seek to justify this cowardly act by repositioning yourself in the political landscape.
    Well it wont wash , with your members or the public and no amount of chest beating about how the public doesn’t understand you will make it, we understand you far too well”

    What utter rot. The governement we have now was delivered by the voters and mediated through the current electoral system.

    Any “blame” for the current electoral situation lies firmly at the door of the Labour Party, who had 13 years to ensure that a referendum (as they promised) was held on electoral reform.

    They failed, totally and utterly.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Mar '11 - 12:40pm

    Rob Stanley

    This ‘repositioning’, though, is just interpreted by many either as moving wherever there might be the most votes, or chance of a slice of power or, less cynically, just having no consistent ideology or identity. Through in things like the tuition fees fiasco and abject voting reform (sorry, but where is my chance to vote for PR?) surrender, just adds seeming lack of principles to the list.

    This is typical of the negative and destructive line we are getting. The Liberal Democrats have ma aged to get many small liberal things through the Coalition, but it is a Conservative-dominated coalition, so inevitably the things the party can get are those things which are least in conflict with Conservative Party values.

    The choice in May 2010 was to sit back and allow a minority Conservative government to get in – and call another election in a few months time on the grounds “give us a majority so we can do the job properly” or to form a coalition where we could get a little and could prevent the Conservatives from pulling off the early new election trick, but at the cost of enormous damage to our party, because that’s what happens to junior coalition partners – they get all the blame for the bad things but none of the credit for the good. Those of us (most of the party) who realised this last year and so backed the formation of the coalition did not do so out of “moving wherever there might be the most votes” or “chance of a slice of power” or “having no consistent ideology or identity”. It didn’t give us members any power, and we knew full well it would lose us votes. We actually did it because we are democrats, we realised the country needed a stable government, and we recognised there was only one such thing possible due to how the people voted. That’s democracy, isn’t it? Democracy means accepting what the people voted for even if you don’t like it much. So this constant accusation thrown at us, what is it for? All it really does is serve the anti-politics ideology that so dominates public thinking “all politics is bad, all politicians are just in it for themselves, we should not let politicians have any power”. And the consequences of this ideology are what we have now – power has been handed over to the bankers instead because they are” go-getting private-sector entrepreneurs” etc, not evil nasty politicians. The extreme right – I mean that in terms of Cameron’s ideology, I don’t regard fascism as “extreme right” – are the true beneficiaries of the anti-politics mood which is so stocked up by comments such as those of Rob Stanley’s first sentence.

    The fact is that as a junior coalition partner with less than one fifth of the number of MPs of the senior partner, our party has very little power. “Where is my chance to vote for PR?”, well, we didn’t win a majority, so we couldn’t give it to you. Isn’t that flipping obvious? Why don’t you ask that question to Ed Miliband? If Miliband said now “We’ll offer a coalition, which will give a referendum on PR and much more that the LibDems want than the Conservatives will give” that would be the proof there was an alternative on offer, so the LibDems could be rightly accused of rejecting it. But MIliband isn’t offering it, is he? What could the LibDems do to force Cameron to offer it? Answer that question, Rob Stanley, before throwing your accusations at us.

  • @Matthew Huntbatch
    If we can show the more we push the party back to its core historic values, the more support we can re-gain, the more we can do it.

    How are you going to do it? By having another amendment in six months? Clegg must be killing himself laughing.

  • Matthew – you’re wasting your typing fingers trying to apply logic and reason here.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Mar '11 - 12:54pm

    ex Liberal voter (in response to me)

    You could have stuck to your principles instead of giving them all up for a brief view from the hill,

    Could you please answer the question “What should we have done” in terms of practical action? When you say “You could have stuck to your principles’ what actually do you mean? Do you mean “let Cameron be appointed PM as leader of a minority government, and vote it down at the first opportunity unless it implements the Liberal Democrat manifesto in full”?

    (of the Tories)

    they would not have been able to do it without your help

    They won the bloody election. They got more MPs than any other party. There were not even enough Labour MPs to be able to form a coalition with them. You seem to be under the illusion that a junior coalition partner who can’t even use the threat that it will form an alternative coalition with the other big party can nevertheless get anything it wants from a party five times its size in terms of MPs. The only alternative was to let them form a minority government, then they WOULD have called another election, just as happened in 1974.

    So you illustrate just what I said. You have nothing constructive to say. You live in a fantasy world, not the real world. Here I am, someone who despises Nick Clegg, who thinks he’s done an appallingly bad job as leader, who would love to get shot of him, yet I turn round to see what sort of backing there is for that move, and I see is the sort of stuff you’re putting out. Pointless, mindless, and anti-democratic.

  • ex Liberal voter 14th Mar '11 - 1:02pm

    Tabman
    “What utter rot. The governement we have now was delivered by the voters and mediated through the current electoral system”.

    You see this is the problem with people who are close to the problem, I know of 3 people who voted Liberal rather than Labour, because they felt that the Labour party had failed, voting reform was never in their thoughts, nor is it now.

    They voted Liberal because they wanted an alternative, and they didn’t get one, in fact what they got was a party that enabled David Cameron to run the country (the last thing thery voted for), they feel betrayed and to be honest thats what happened, they were betrayed.

    “Any “blame” for the current electoral situation lies firmly at the door of the Labour Party, who had 13 years to ensure that a referendum (as they promised) was held on electoral reform.”

    Nobody cares, seriously, most of the public dont understand PR, or AV or any other voting system and they probably wont turn out for the AV vote anyway, but if they do and we do get a more proportional voting system, tell me, is this what I can expect from my “fairer” system, ie one party propping up anothers ideology whilst ditching its principles for a taste of power.

    That may be not what you see happening, but you see it doesn’t matter what YOU see happening, what matters is that the voters of this country see a party with no principles led by a man with even less and will vote accordingly

    Call it utter rot if you like and I am sure that in your terms it must seem that way, but the people who have a direct bearing on your future, only see a man who lied to them in the most blatent way and sold them a bill of goods they didn’t ask for.
    I have an interest in politics and understand the need to compromise, but there is a difference between making mutually benificial deals and just bending over, and the people who matter to you wont even give you that much sympathy, come out into the world of the “alarm clock people” who work hard every day to make ends meet and see how much they resent having to do it and realise that they dont care about anything but the fact that we have a Tory goverment that is going to take more from them so they have to work harder to make those ends meet.

    What they will see is that you lied, and you did it in public and no amount of repositioning or rebranding will change that and Barnsley is the shape of things to come and I personally am so angry that I look forward to watching you’re demise

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Mar '11 - 1:02pm

    Tabman

    Matthew – you’re wasting your typing fingers trying to apply logic and reason here.

    No, I’m proving the point. Now we can see, these people have been shown up as devoid of logic and reason. They need to be argued with to show that. I am someone who would be in support of a motion of no confidence in Nick Clegg as leader, and the coalition ended early after that. But when I look round and all I see is idiots like those who have been exposed here, who haven’t a clue about the restrictions of real world politics, who haven’t a clue about true liberal democracy, who spout the Murdoch/bankers’ line “all politics is evil” with its unspoken “so give power to us rather than to democracy”, I know it isn’t worth it, there just isn’t the support and understanding for the position I would like to take. Isn’t this crazy – all these people are just making me sympathetic to Nick Clegg because they just prove more his line “there is no alternative” by their utter failure to be able to comprehend one.

  • What do Liberal Democrats expect the reaction to be, when campaigning Liberal Democrats made certain commitments to gain support, then once in government Liberal Democrats abandon those commitments you made to those who voted for you.

    For years Liberal Democrats have made campaign statements depending on what area you are campaigning in, but let’s forget those little ones, the promises and pledges made to the public as a whole; on TV and posters even in the live TV debates, the promises and pledges people who voted for Liberal Democrats believed you would keep, even your own core supporters expected you to keep.

    Less than 1 year in government and the same people who voted for Liberal Democrats now find that polices that no party announced before or during the election are being forced through without asking the people if they agree to this.

    Liberal Democrats have a belief they are doing the right thing for the country and the people of the country, that is your right to believe such, until of course those people get a chance to vote again, then we will see if the people who voted for Liberal Democrats to put you in power agree with you.

    Liberal Democrats have chosen to ignore those warnings that have been given; telling you it is not what those voters want, those voters Liberal Democrats are supposed to be representing, you are telling them we Liberal Democrats know what’s best for you, so be good and shut up because we are not going to listen.

    If someone sells me strawberries and when I open the bag to find sour grapes, take them back to have the seller say what’s the problem you paid for fruit and you got fruit, I will take my cash back and never buy from that seller again…

    That should tell you why you have voters saying I will never vote Liberal Democrats again, why you have polls showing you very low standings, all before the cuts really start to bite.

    Once May 5th is past Liberal Democrats will have no way back from oblivion even rebranding will leave you tainted for generations.

    Prey tell what did you sell your souls for…oh yes… a piddling little compromise

  • “What they will see is that you lied, and you did it in public and no amount of repositioning or rebranding will change that and Barnsley is the shape of things to come and I personally am so angry that I look forward to watching you’re demise”

    Great, well I hope that you feel better if/when that happens.

    Meanwhile, Britain will continue to oscillate between full-on Conservative-authoritarianism and its pale Labour imitation and nothing will ever, ever change. And I’ll be off elsewhere.

  • “Liberal Democrats have a belief they are doing the right thing for the country and the people of the country, that is your right to believe such, until of course those people get a chance to vote again, then we will see if the people who voted for Liberal Democrats to put you in power agree with you.”

    Maybe the people who “pout us in power” will agree with us, maybe they won’t. At the same time many other people who didn’t put us in power, or put anyone in power, will also have the chance to see whether they agree us.

  • While the NHS remains under imminent threat of dismemberment I see that as the priority and not arguments about why Ed Milliband isn’t offering a PR deal to woo the LibDems. Some people really have got to waken-up to what is actually important to ordinary people.

    The reason as I am fed-up pointing out that Milliband can’t offer a PR deal is because it is not in the LP Manifesto.

    Party Policy is what is important here and although I applaud the steps taken by principled LibDems at the weekend they risk achieving nothing in terms of saving the NHS. The Tory Bill can’t be amended to make it acceptable as it isn’t designed to improve the NHS – it’s clearly designed to privatise it so that obscene profits can be made which will inevitably result in a poorer but more expensive health service.

    Sadly what will happen to the well-crafted motions passed to shackle the Tory ideology at work is that they will be ignored by even more well-crafted marshmallow changes which will allow the c hanges to happen anyway. In any case I seem to remember that PCT’s have already been legislated out of existance in a few years so if the BPs are going to commission who is?

    It goes on and on and on and that is how Clegg and the Tories will play it and the end result will be what the Tories want – big profits for shareholders.

    The only way to stop it is to destroy the Bill totally and stop believ ing that tinkering round the edges will prevent anything. One of the worrying things is how quiet it has gone on here from those rabid supporters of the legislation.

    They haven’t changed their mind because of the resolutions. Just like Clegg they are off regrouping and putting together the weasel words and amended clauses to achieve their ultimate goal – the destruction of the NHS as we know it.

    Ask yourself honestly – Do you believe that the NHS is safe in Nick Clegg’s hands?

  • 2nd sentence 4th para should read:

    In any case I seem to remember that PCT’s have already been legislated out of existance in a few years so if the GPs aren’t going to commission who is?

  • “The Tory Bill can’t be amended to make it acceptable as it isn’t designed to improve the NHS – it’s clearly designed to privatise it so that obscene profits can be made which will inevitably result in a poorer but more expensive health service.”

    Because the NHS is the best health service in the world – unlike, for example, the Swedish health service where government commisions health care from a plurality of public and private providers.

  • Ecojon – were you aware that GPs’ surgeries are private partnerships that contract their services to the NHS?

    No, thought not.

  • “We voted for you and we will not again whilst the memory of you is one of deceit and arrogance and while those who think they understand the public fail to understand the most important factor, which is, that it is not our job to understand why you lied but your job not to do it”

    Well said

  • “The Tory’s are in power because you allowed them to be, and yes you should have stuck to your principles, and forced another election if neccesary, because power without principle is not power.”

    Not so. What would have been unprincipled would have been to allow the Tories to get in on their own via a second election.

    – Lib Dems believe in plural politics – coalitions are part of our principles
    – Lib Dems exist to enact as much of their electoral programme as is possible given the above

    To have walked away would have been unprincipled; it would, in effect, have been to say to the public ” we don’t like what you’ve voted for and we want you to go away and change your minds”.

  • Ecojon – I suggest you go and have a read of this: http://www.medical-interviews.co.uk/GP-Partnerships.aspx

    Oh lookee here ….

    You share the profits of the practice with the other partners. If profits go up, so does your share. Partners working in a successful practice can therefore hope to gain a substantial income.

    You have stability of employment. Essentially, the business is partially yours, so unless you really mess things up and get ejected by the other partners, the chance is that you will have a job for life. This means that you can get your teeth into long term projects and can also enjoy more continuity of care with patients. Staying in a business for a long time can give you a real sense of achievement. It also makes things a lot easier when it comes to plannng your life such as schooling, house purchase, etc.

    You can go an play golf as much as you want (provided the other partners agree) and use salaried staff to build the profits that will fund your lifestyle (don’t think we’re joking! Some partners do think this way!

  • David Allen 14th Mar '11 - 2:09pm

    Matthew,

    You are right to point out that our choices after the election were much more difficult than most of our opponents would like to admit. However, don’t you dare call them idiots. We did have alternative choices and we still do. If we don’t consider them, we are the idiots.

    Confidence and supply would have been risky. Cameron might well have been able to use it as a breathing space before fighting a second election and winning it outright. Then again he might not. So does that mean we should be happy with having chosen a more predictable route – which has lost us half our support?

    Now we have the choice to continue the coalition agreement or demand it be renegotiated. Cameron has broken it already, big time, with the Lansley and Gove programmes. So we have every right to demand a renegotiation. We also have Cameron over a barrel. If he were to refuse our demands, break up the coalition and call an election, he would soon lose. Cameron does not want to be consigned to the history books. He would have to deal. Unless of course he can bluff Clegg, or sweet-talk Clegg, into capitulation.

  • ex Liberal voter 14th Mar '11 - 2:20pm

    “The Tory’s are in power because you allowed them to be, and yes you should have stuck to your principles, and forced another election if neccesary, because power without principle is not power.”

    Not so. What would have been unprincipled would have been to allow the Tories to get in on their own via a second election.

    – Lib Dems believe in plural politics – coalitions are part of our principles
    – Lib Dems exist to enact as much of their electoral programme as is possible given the above

    To have walked away would have been unprincipled; it would, in effect, have been to say to the public ” we don’t like what you’ve voted for and we want you to go away and change your minds”.

    Look I just dont understand, and i am not alone in this, what exactly have you done that I voted for
    You see I voted for a broadly left wing party who would help safeguard my education system, the NHS, and in short help to look after those of the population who are less fortunate.

    Now I am sure that you will be able to point out lots of things that you have done to “temper” the right wing Tory party but it all seems pointless when the main thrust of Tory policy is going to be imposed because you as a party have supported them and enabled them to push through the most right wing agendas since Margerat Thatcher .

    Lib dems may well believe in plural politics, but this is not that, this is you laying down in a desperate attempt to get a more proportional voting system in so that you can give us more of your particular brand of plural politics.

    I’m sorry if that comes across as being angry, but when my Grandfather, a man of 90 with little vision had his benefits reduced, I didn’t think – “it could have been worse if it hadn’t been for those plucky liberals and the their plural politics” I cant print what I thought and while it is true that had the Tory’s got in with a majority they would have done it anyway, they didn’t need to because your party rushed to their aid

    To walk away would not have been unprincipled, to join forces with a party that you share no morals with in order to gain an advantage, thats unprincipled.
    Hide behind whatever you like, you lied, we have suffered and you have no high ground to stand on
    You did wrong, stop trying to justify it, own up to it , try to do something about it and stop pretending that you did it for my benefit

  • So Labour ‘forced’ the LibDems into Coalition with the Tories – some people really need to get out in the fresh air from time to time.

    The LibDems had choices: 1) Enter a Coalition or don’t enter. For a variety of reasons I believe the only possible partner if they decided to enter one was the Tories.

    2) If they decided to enter then they had to decide on the form of that Coalition. Lots of choice here but I suppose the main ones would be some kind of joint agreement or a Supply & Confidence arrangement. Obviously level of detail could vary.

    3) Personally I have always thought that Supply & Confidence was the way to go if a coalition was decided on by the LibDems.

    4) However I actually think that – in the long-term National Interest – there should have been no coalition and an immediate GE. The public should have been made aware that as there was no clear victor a GE was necessary and no political party could be blamed for this. There should also have been a statement that a coalition would be formed if there was no clear re-run result.

    I do understand that in a FPTP election the LibDems would probably have lost out badly in the re-run which would probably have reverted to a straight Labour v Tory contest for the electorate. In the longer term national interest I think that might have been the best move and I actually believe that it may also have been the best move for the LibDems as a party.

    But we have what we have and time will tell whether the LibDems will be punished by the voters for not protecting them against the savagery of Tory ideology. A lot of ‘victories’ regarded as esoteric by most voters, albeit dear to Liberal hearts, mean nothing when contrasted with jobs, housing, benefits, education and the NHS.

    It is on these issues that the final judgement will be made but I have never been in any doubt that if the economy does turn-around and we enter the land of milk and honey then no way will the Tories allow the LibDems to share in the fruits of success, especially not if AV is in place.

  • ex Liberal voter 14th Mar '11 - 2:28pm

    You are right to point out that our choices after the election were much more difficult than most of our opponents would like to admit. However, don’t you dare call them idiots. We did have alternative choices and we still do

    Thats the worst of it, I am not your enemy, I never was.

    I thought your principles were good and more importantly I thought that you probably were not as jaded and cynical as the other 2 major party’s.
    I had this niave view of a party that believed in what it was doing, the reason I am so angry is that I really didn’t expect you to be so much like the other party’s and the fact that you were has left me with no hope for politics at all.
    I knew what the other party’s were, I though you were different, laughable really,

  • Cleggstatic 14th Mar '11 - 2:34pm

    @tabman
    were you aware that GPs’ surgeries are private partnerships that contract their services to the NHS?

    Well in that case putting GP’s in charge really will be privatising the health service!!!

  • “Now I am sure that you will be able to point out lots of things that you have done to “temper” the right wing Tory party but it all seems pointless when the main thrust of Tory policy is going to be imposed because you as a party have supported them and enabled them to push through the most right wing agendas since Margerat Thatcher .”

    No – that is exactly the point. The main thrust of Tory policy was always going to be implemented given our electoral system and the fact that more people voted Conservative than anyone else. The choice was between untramelled Conservative policy, or tempered Conservative policy.

    If the Lib Dems had sat aside, the Conservatives would have called another election and would have won given they were the only ones with any money left and Labour had breathed a collective sigh of relief that it wasn’t going to have to get its hands dirty clearing up the mess it left.

    Ecojon – “It is on these issues that the final judgement will be made but I have never been in any doubt that if the economy does turn-around and we enter the land of milk and honey then no way will the Tories allow the LibDems to share in the fruits of success, especially not if AV is in place.”

    If the economy is restructured and turned around then that is reward in itself.

    I note you haven’t responded to my point about GPs.

  • “Well in that case putting GP’s in charge really will be privatising the health service!!!”

    The NHS is already “privatised” by your definition.

  • @Tabman
    You are quite right to highlight that GP’s are (jn the main) private organisations. They are profit based and this alone should remove them from commisioning in my view. The idea in the manifesto I voted for for creating health boards (in effect adding real accountability to PCT’s) were head and shoulders above the options offered by the other parties.

    @MH
    The simplest few answers to your question about what could have been done differently are:

    1. “The Approach”. Clegg has refused to allow us mere mortals to see where disagreements exist and therefore we have no knowledge of where Liberal views are being pushed in Government. In both the Scottish and Welsh conferences hardly a word was uttered by Clegg against the Tories, not exactly effective with upcoming elections. The coalition agreement has the right of preview to leaders speeches, what a stupid idea. How can you keep your seperate identities if you are constantly worried about what the other party feels. The coalition (in fact any coalition) should be a marriage of convenience not a love in.

    2. The tuition fees issue was badly handled and should have been a red line in the coalition agreement. It’s been argued to death on here previously but it will come back to haunst the party for years….

    3. The NHS reforms currently planned go against the letter of the agreement and no Lib Dem MP (including those in Government) should feel obliged to vote for them. It’s worth looking at the following regarding the potential influence Clegg will have over the NHS changes:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12734324

    4. The lack of flexibility in the economic plans. The Lib Dem manifesto talked about taking actions when the economic circumstances allowed. Osbourne has stated that he will not be pushed off course by circumstances. One is the type of real world approach to any problem the other a blinkered dogmatic approach.

    I supported the creation of the coalition, but it’s impementation has been poor. The Torygraph exposures showed that Lib Dem ministers are being forced to hide their true opinions because of Cleggs approach. The Party has now spoken about the NHS issues, Clegg must now come through with the changes or withdraw Lib Dem support from the Bill. The coalition agreement allows him to do so.

    Some people do seem to expect the unachievable on here. I do not expect the Lib Dem manifesto to be implemented in full, but I do not want to be force fed spin when issues cannot be addressed. Spinning the pupil premium as new money when it patently isn’t is not a productive approach. Telling us it is the best that could be achieved against Tory arguments would mean more to voters and show that the coalition is just that, a coalition and not a merger…

    You may feel I am also an Idiot, but I do not see my wish list as being incompatible with effective coalition Government. The current coalition, unless there is a change of course, has the potential to make the voters do everything possible to avoid another for many years.

  • ex Liberal voter 14th Mar '11 - 2:52pm

    Tabman

    “No – that is exactly the point. The main thrust of Tory policy was always going to be implemented given our electoral system and the fact that more people voted Conservative than anyone else. The choice was between untramelled Conservative policy, or tempered Conservative policy.”

    How are you tempering Conservative policy?
    You are helping them put through policy that even they were unwilling to admit to before the election

    And if you had stayed in oppositon and voted against Conservative policy it wouldn’t have mattered they would have had to compromise anyway, or is that not plural enough for you

    The original point was that you have “enabled the Tory’s” that is still true and the consequences of that are that you will lose lots of votes in the future, that is still true, and reading your convulated arguments has done nothing to change that viewpoint, contrawise it has merely made me realise that your party is full of people who suffer from a lack of principles and a belief that the rest of us are stupid enough to believe that you have OUR interests at heart.

    Not that stupid, a lie is a lie however you dress it up and to continue down a path of making more bad decisions in order to justify the first one is very much the road to hell

  • Tabman wrote –
    “The Tory’s are in power because you allowed them to be, and yes you should have stuck to your principles, and forced another election if neccesary, because power without principle is not power.”

    Not so. What would have been unprincipled would have been to allow the Tories to get in on their own via a second election.

    Oh now I get it, the Party was actually being principled when it ditched it’s principles, so Tabman, when are you going to prove that black is white so I can watch as Clegg gets run down on a zebra crossing?

  • OK … let’s turn it round.

    What did the Lib Dems say they would do in the event of no overall majority? Permit the largest party to attempt to form a Government. This was made explicit many times, and anyone who voted for the party knew this would be their approach. Funnilly enough this is exactly what happened.

    So if you don’t like the result of the election, that’s your prerogative, but to blame the Lib Dems for reacting to electoral cicrumstance in the way that we did when we made it explicit that that’s how we’d react, is somewhat disingenuous.

  • @Tabman who said: ‘Ecojon – were you aware that GPs’ surgeries are private partnerships that contract their services to the NHS?

    No, thought not.’

    Of course I was aware of that Tabman – and your point is? Or are you just attempting and failing to be offensive?

    Personally I have always thought that the biggest flaw in the NHS when it was set-up was the inability to make GPs ’employees’ and that is one of the reasons why I am so suspicious of the motives of current GPs who want to get their snout into Lansley’s trough – could it be something to do with profit rather than the health of their patients.

    Of course without allowing this privileged contractual position for the overwhelmingly Tory GPs after the war we would never have had achieved an NHS – it was a price we had to pay and is should never have been allowed to continue and, indeed, the LibDems have been reinforcing and extending that position as part of the Tory destruction of the NHS.

    I see in relation to the LibDem NHS conference motions on the NHS that the prime minister’s official spokesman today said: “There are not about to be significant changes to the policy.”

    He added that MPs and peers would have the chance to debate and, if necessary, amend the Health Bill.

    Well well well – hasn’t taken Cameron very long to issue Clegg with his orders.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12734324

    Someone has just told me that on Defence Qs that it was stated that Trident is going ahead and that it is Coalition policy to do this – didn’t hear it myself but looks like another piolicy sea change to me or perhaps policies are just all at sea for the forseeable future 🙂

  • richard heathcote 14th Mar '11 - 3:07pm

    i dont really agree with tabman the Lib-Dem candidate for Warrington made a great deal of the fact that a vote for the Liberal Democrats was the only alternative to Labour basically saying that the Conservative vote had no chance.

    what happened, in what is a left leaning town, is the vote was split between both parties that campaigned as left wing and it left us with a Conservative MP. i can tell you now in Warrington come the next oppertunity to vote the Lib Dem party will be finished i know plenty of people in my local area who gave the Lib-Dem candidate their vote based on the literature they read at the time

    http://www.electionleaflets.org/full.php?q=3235#l7906

    this is the stuff people will remember campaigning as a left of centre party and jumping into bed with the right wing. the very things Jo Crotty promised to do are all being reversed the votes the liberal democrats gained at the expense the Labour party in Warrington allowed the Conservatives in. I can be absolutely certain in the next General Election that Labour will retake Warrington and i would imagine this will happen in quite a few more places around the UK

  • “Of course I was aware of that Tabman – and your point is? Or are you just attempting and failing to be offensive?”

    The point is, that the profit motive has been part of the NHS since its inception. Yet no party has adressed this since the founding of the NHS, least of all Labour.

    So to argue against the profit motive in the NHS is disingenuous, and part of the fundamental hipocricy of the Labour Party on this issue.

  • “What did the Lib Dems say they would do in the event of no overall majority? Permit the largest party to attempt to form a Government. This was made explicit many times, and anyone who voted for the party knew this would be their approach. Funnilly enough this is exactly what happened. ”

    Agreed, but what the Lib Dem voters didn’t expect was the enthusiastic support the Party leadership is currently giving to Tory policies when pre-election the Party would of condemned the same polices wholesale.

  • Richard Heathcote. Answer to this – ful proportional voting system and transparent political parties not forced ot seek votes at the expense of others (and BTW all parties do this).

    And as to your “splitting the vote” point. Labour had 13 years to address this artefact of FPTP and failed utterly to deliver the manifesto promise when winning a landslide.

    So don’t blame the Lib Dems, blame Labour – they could have done something about it and did’t.

  • ex Liberal voter 14th Mar '11 - 3:14pm

    Step away from the coalition

    If you as a party wish to remain a force in politics in the future.
    This is all to the Tory’s benefit, all you stand to gain is the 40 pieces of silver (the AV referendum)
    If you showed some steel now and fought for what you believe in, you could come out of this heroes, but if you carry on as you are, I believe you know what will happen and whether you believe it or not, I would be saddened by that

  • Ex-Liberal – I believe in tackling the deficit, because if we don’t the country is f****d and we won’t be able to afford to do anything else.

    That is and should be above party politics. Then, when the problem is dealt with, we can go back to “normal”.

  • “I believe in tackling the deficit, because if we don’t the country is f****d and we won’t be able to afford to do anything else.
    That is and should be above party politics. Then, when the problem is dealt with, we can go back to “normal”

    Also agreed, but as the ‘problem’ is being dealt with, how much Tory ideology will the Lib Dems support and actively enable?

    Just one more side question Tabman did you disagree with the Party before the election when it came to deficit reduction or did you have a ‘road to Damascus’ moment as Clegg did? (hang on, didn’t I read somewhere that Clegg had already changed his mind before the election but forgot to tell the electorate about it)

  • @Tabman who said: ‘I note you haven’t responded to my point about GPs.’

    You didn’t make a point Tabman – you made an erroneous statement. I have pointed out your misconception and asked what your point was all about.

    Believe it or not Tabman I don’t spend my day waiting on your posts and, in any case, I seldom find anything of interest in them and certainly derive little mental stimulation in being involved in any capacity with someone whose mind appears to be closed on every topic that comes up for discussion.

    I don’t come to this site to win anyone to my politics but primarily to understand the LibDem view of politics in a rapidly-changing and interesting political period. A poster who is always right and holds rigidly to their position irrespective of counter-issues raised which are well-worthy of consideration is of little or no interest to me and I’m afraid I consigned you to that pigeonhole a long time ago.

    Btw Tabman I won’t be responding to you further for the reasons I have just mentioned and many many more which might land me in trouble with site moderation policy were I to be more forthcoming.

  • ex Liberal voter 14th Mar '11 - 3:45pm

    Tabman

    I have to go to work.
    I believe that you believe whatever you are told to believe, you know as well as I do that there a multitude of approaches to dealing with the deficit, and the Tory policy has very little to do with that.

    Tax evasion alone would cover most of the debt, a refusal to renew Trident( a policy that you once believed in) would deal with a great deal of it also.
    I’m afraid I tend to agree with nige that you would willingly argue black is white and I frankly have had enough, remember that most of the people here are like yourself politicized and of a Liberal leaning and yet you seem to be able to find little support for what your leaders are doing.

    A rethink is in order, a bad decision was made at the election by the Liberal party, the intelligent and honourable thing to do would be to rectify that, the dishonourable and stupid thing would be to continue refusing to admit the initial mistake and compound it with a series of similar mistakes.

    The statement from conservative headquarters about how much change they will make to NHS policy mere hours after conference voiced its displeasure should tell you all you need to know about how this coalition works and how much harm you are doing by pretending you have a say in goverment policy.
    Be the Liberal party I and others thought you were and break up this unholy alliance, stop defending the indefensible and show us your true colours, unless you already have

  • Cleggstatic 14th Mar '11 - 3:46pm

    @Tabman
    The NHS is already “privatised” by your definition.

    No, because Gp’s aren’t in charge of it. Lansley is going to abolish PCT’s and put GP’s in charge instead. Do try to keep up. No wonder Clegg is able to run rings round you when you havent got a clue what’s going on 😉

  • “Tax evasion alone would cover most of the debt”

    Er, no it won’t – latest estimates for tax evasion from HMRC (FY 07/8) stand at c£40bn p.a.. And remember – we’ve got two issues to deal with;

    1) the deficit (the amount we spend each year greater than revenues – currently c£150bn p.a.
    2) the cumulative debt, all of which has to be serviced via interest payments – rapidly approach £1trn

  • “Many Lib Dems, including party president Tim Farron, believe they need to try to win back disaffected Labour voters who have supported the party in past elections but deserted it since the formation of the Coalition.
    But in yesterday’s speech, which was cleared by David Cameron, Mr Clegg insisted the Lib Dems instead had to focus on attracting votes from Middle England.”

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365872/NHS-reforms-review-promises-Health-Secretary-Lib-Dems-deliver-bloody-nose-Clegg.html#ixzz1GamkcV85

    which speech was cleared by Mr Cameron?

  • Jim – the Mail hates the coalition because it thinks its a lefty sell-out. Hence it will do what it can to undermine it.

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    Now we can see, these people have been shown up as devoid of logic and reason. They need to be argued with to show that. I am someone who would be in support of a motion of no confidence in Nick Clegg as leader, and the coalition ended early after that. But when I look round and all I see is idiots like those who have been exposed here, who haven’t a clue about the restrictions of real world politics, who haven’t a clue about true liberal democracy,

    You sound like an old style Leninist in the vanguard of the revolution because nobody else understands or can see the light so a select self appointed elite is required to deliver until the people are re-educated into understanding what is best for them.

    From what I’ve always understood “true Liberal Democracy” protects against elites by placing faith in the people to settle on a rationale course. I must have missed the small print that states “except of course if the people are actually just idots who don’t understand real politicss.”

    Are you seeking support from potential allies or confirming why many have deserted you in the first place?

  • Many have talked on here about the election. I voted Labour, as I’ve said many times, but Conservatives got the most votes, they got the most seats, hence by my reckoning, David Cameron perfectly entited to be the Prime Minister.

    I said in May, if the Tories went alone, they are in government, but have to act in the national interest, you give them the votes to get through the queens speech and abstain on bringing down the government. Provides the Toires with 307 from 593, a majority of 21 – enough to last three or maybe four years – plus it gives you the chance to veto everything that opposed to your beliefs plus any Liberal Conservative legislation which is ideologically close pre the Libertarian epiphany of May 2010- could be put through together.

    Difference between that situation and reality is – you’re seen as responsible, supporting a government voted for by the people – maintaining firm opposition to anti-Liberal and anti-social democratic legislation – keeping promises, holding honesty with the electorate moves you to 25-30 in the polls – makes Labour’s task a lot more difficult in the marginals (as someone said in Sheffield at the weekend Clegg is the only person to have made a 15,284 vote majority look wafer thin, whilst creating a safe-165 vote majority.

    The theory of ‘taking office’ seems prevalent here – as though the Tories have the popular mandate you guys dont, Gordon Brown got a firmer mandate than Clegg did – so the idea that you took office, ignorant of the election result chose to take office – no other way around it, not getting involved would change anything? Cameron would still be PM.

    The worrying thing from the LDV is the Lib Dems some of them excusing it as they looked at what they could get out of it for the Lib Dems the wrong attitude to us, as you’re suppost to look at whats good for this country – still being told ‘Better Luck Next Time’ by one delegate shows what the Lib Dems as a whole think of the People

  • I really don’t understand the desire of some Lib Dems to convince themselves they have less power than they really do. The conservatives did not win the election, no one could form a government without the help of the lib dems, so how much power they have in this situation is more to do with their negotiating skills/tenacity than with how many MPs they got. This is even more true now, 10 months later, when all the polls make it clear that Cameron would be out if another election was called. The LD’s can do plenty in this situation, they have a good hand. But Clegg isn’t interested in negotiating or fighting for anything he believes in, he is more concerned with keeping everything civil at cabinet meetings. This is pretty shameless behaviour. And some of his party are going along with this… it’s truly baffling. Is it a fear of responsibility or something? Seriously, a good politician with some negotiating skills could really make a difference to the course this government takes; all Clegg can do is sit next to call-me-Dave and nod along. WHY???!!!??

  • Alex P – “But Clegg isn’t interested in negotiating or fighting for anything he believes in, he is more concerned with keeping everything civil at cabinet meetings. This is pretty shameless behaviour.”

    With respect, you have absolutely no idea what goes on or is said behind closed doors. I suggest you take some advice from Wittgenstein on this one: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

  • @muxloe

    From what I’ve always understood “true Liberal Democracy” protects against elites by placing faith in the people to settle on a rationale course. I must have missed the small print that states “except of course if the people are actually just idots who don’t understand real politicss.”

    Well, its exactly what the Lib Dem candidate had to say about the elctorate in Barnsley……

  • @peeb bee

    Precisely the point I’m making. Treating the voters as idiots is not very representative of Liberal Democrat ideals…

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Mar '11 - 9:29am

    Steve Way

    @MH
    The simplest few answers to your question about what could have been done differently are:

    1. “The Approach”. Clegg has refused to allow us mere mortals to see where disagreements exist and therefore we have no knowledge of where Liberal views are being pushed in Government.

    Yes, I agree with you 100% on this point.

    2. The tuition fees issue was badly handled and should have been a red line in the coalition agreement.

    Yes, I agree with you 100% on this point.

    3. The NHS reforms currently planned go against the letter of the agreement and no Lib Dem MP (including those in Government) should feel obliged to vote for them.

    Yes, I agree with your 100% on this point.

    4. The lack of flexibility in the economic plans.

    Yes, I agree with you 100% on this point.

    I supported the creation of the coalition, but it’s implementation has been poor. T

    Yes, that’s exactly what I have been saying.

    Some people do seem to expect the unachievable on here. I do not expect the Lib Dem manifesto to be implemented in full, but I do not want to be force fed spin when issues cannot be addressed.

    Yes, that’s exactly what I have been saying.

    You may feel I am also an Idiot, but I do not see my wish list as being incompatible with effective coalition Government.

    Why should I feel you are an idiot when you are making just the same points as I have been making?

    Now can you see my point? Here I am, agreeing with you, and wanting to work within the Liberal Democrats to push this line, yet I am pushed to anger (Mark Pack was quite right to have withdrawn my message which went on about “idiots”) by people writing here who seem unable to contribute any useful discussion about how we can move forward and who seem to have a totally unrealistic approach to what was possible in May 2010 and what is possible now.

    One of the things that makes me most angry is when people accuse me of being not just something I am not, but the exact opposite of what I am – which was what was happening here. In the end this was what made me feel so despondent when I was a councillor. I was giving up huge amounts of my time, my day job career really suffering because of that, the councillor’s allowance much less than I have lost in what I could have earnt had I put the effort into what would gain me promotion or consultancy work, yet when I went round canvassing in the election, I had so many doors slammed in my face and constituents abusing me and telling me “You’re only in it for yourself, I never vote, all you politicians are the same, you only want power and money”. I went into politics and stood and won in a deprived council estate ward because that’s the background I grew up in, and I care passionately for improving the lot of people living in those sort of places.

    I am trying to make the point to these people, “P Bird”, “ex Liberal voter”, “Daniel”, “EcoJon”, Rob Stanley, and yet whatever I say just does not seem to penetrate their minds. Here I am, perhaps the party member contributing to Lib Dem Voice who is most explicitly against the way Nick Clegg has led our party, and yet these people still just throw the abuse “all you Liberal Democrats are interested in is power, you have sold your principles” etc etc, and argue with me as if just because I don’t think all Liberal Democrats are bad people I must therefore be 100% in agreement with what Nick Clegg is saying and his strategy for leading the party. As I have been saying, they seem to have the mindset that political parties are top-down organisations run entirely by their leaders with all members having to obey those leaders unconditionally. That is absolutely against all that is liberal and democratic, and our party should NEVER be like that. Indeed, my strong feeling on this issue was the reason I opposed merger with the SDP in 1988 because the SDP had more of this top-down leader-oriented structure, and the merger was pushing politics in that direction, a direction which is against my deepest political principles.

    When I asked what should have been done differently, I meant the formation of the coalition, I did not mean after that. I came to the conclusion in May 2010 that there was no other realistic option given the election result. But, despite what “P Bird”, “ex Liberal voter”, “Daniel”, “EcoJon”, Rob Stanley, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all keep saying, again and again and again in these columns, never varying, never making any constructive points, agreeing that formation of the coalition was the only sensible option in May 21010 does NOT mean one agrees with how the coalition has been run by the leader of the party and by those producing its publicity since then. I don’t think I could have been more open about my position than I have – I agreed with the formation of the coalition, but I think our party has been appallingly badly led since then, and those at the top have made mistake after mistake after mistake.

    So, yes, all these people P Bird”, “ex Liberal voter”, “Daniel”, “EcoJon”, Rob Stanley, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all have driven me to anger by accusing me of being the exact opposite of what I really am – of being a Clegg loyalist who agrees with the party’s strategy since the coalition was formed, when actually I deeply disagree with it. But I apologise that as a result of this I sent an intemperate message which contained terms of abuse aimed at these people.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Mar '11 - 9:34am

    Steve Way – I agree 100% with your message posted on 14th March 2011 at 2:51 pm (I have explained this in a much longer message, but that is “awaiting moderation”), so why in that message do write “You may feel I am also an Idiot”? All I have posted is saying much the same as you are, my position is almost exactly the same as yours.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Mar '11 - 9:41am

    muxloe

    You sound like an old style Leninist in the vanguard of the revolution because nobody else understands or can see the light so a select self appointed elite is required to deliver until the people are re-educated into understanding what is best for them.

    What revolution? All I am saying is that these destructive attacks by various people on the Liberal Democrats are NOT going to help the cause of getting the party to change its strategy. I find it incredible that I am explicitly stating that I disagree deeply with the way the party had been led since the formation of the coalition, and yet I am getting attacked by people who seem to be assuming I am arguing in favour of it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Mar '11 - 9:53am

    David Allen

    You are right to point out that our choices after the election were much more difficult than most of our opponents would like to admit. However, don’t you dare call them idiots. We did have alternative choices and we still do. If we don’t consider them, we are the idiots.

    Yes, I have apologised for that, and explained that I was driven to distraction by people who seemed not to see what I was writing and who instead argued against me on the supposition that I was making almost exactly the opposite point.

    I do, however, find the argument many are making that because of Nick Clegg they will oppose electoral reform to be particularly absurd. If they oppose electoral reform, they are backing an electoral system whose proponents say one of the best things about it is that it generally gives a full majority to one party, and that is better than a coalition even if that party has well under half the votes. To me they are in effect saying we should have had a 100% Tory government now, that is the logic of opposing electoral reform on the grounds that FPTP generally rules out coalitions. Isn’t it ridiculous to attack Nick Clegg for being weak in negotiation, and then to say you support an electoral system where the main argument in favour is that it distorts representation in most cases weakening the negotiation power of the third party to nothing?

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Mar '11 - 10:27am

    David Allen

    Confidence and supply would have been risky. Cameron might well have been able to use it as a breathing space before fighting a second election and winning it outright. Then again he might not. So does that mean we should be happy with having chosen a more predictable route – which has lost us half our support?

    But I am not saying we should be happy with what has happened since the formation of the coalition. As I KEEP saying, accepting that the coalition was the only realistic option in May 2010 does NOT mean one necessarily agrees with the way the party has been led since then, the choices made by its leading figures, the sort of publicity it has put out nationally. Is this really such a difficult position to see that I should have to keep making it, and despite that still find myself arguing again and again with people who after I have explained that position still attack me on the grounds they suppose I have taken completely the opposite position?

    People who say we should have gone for “supply and confidence” don’t seem to know what those words mean. “Supply” would mean we had to vote for Tory budgets, and “confidence” would mean we would have to vote for whatever policies the Tories or Labour decided to make an issue of confidence. For example, almost certainly they would say “These NHS reforms are so important that whether they pass is an issue of confidence in the government”, so “supply and confidence” would mean we would be forced to vote in their favour.

    Now we have the choice to continue the coalition agreement or demand it be renegotiated. Cameron has broken it already, big time, with the Lansley and Gove programmes. So we have every right to demand a renegotiation. We also have Cameron over a barrel. If he were to refuse our demands, break up the coalition and call an election, he would soon lose.

    Yes, but my point is that we will be in a much stronger position in renegotiation if we can point to support in the country for us on that matter. That is why the sort of negative attacks I have been reacting to here are so damaging – if these people are really as they claim, supporters of the Liberal Democrats pre-election position in May 2010. If Clegg or whoever can say “look the people are behind us, they are supporting us in asking you to change”, he may be able to achieve something. But if all he can point to are people saying “Yah boo sucks, Liberal Democrats are nasty unprincipled people, I’ll never vote for them again under any circumstances”, Clegg has no negotiating power. Cameron can just say “Go ahead, make my day, I’ll call an election and you will be wiped out”.

    Whether the Liberal Democrats break the coalition early on the grounds it has proved impossible to work with the Conservatives is a fine decision. As I keep saying, we do have some responsibility to accept what the people voted for even if we do not like it. Calling another general election less than a year after the first does seem to me to be irresponsible. The result will be that people feel it is bad to have a third party because it means this will keep happening, so we’ll go back to politics being just Labour v. Conservative.

    On the other hand, if there is a real demand in the country for another general election, a real feeling amongst the people that voting Cameron in as PM was a mistake, it is an option that has to be considered. For that reason, I have always made clear my position was never “we’re in this for the full five years”. It does look like Clegg is so firmly attached to that position that if necessary he will go down fighting for it if the party as a whole turns against it. So be it. That’s a fine decision for the party to make, it should not be made lightly. The vote against the NHS reforms at the conference was a warning, and it is right that Clegg gets warnings and plenty of chances to act on them before there are serious moves to replace him as party leader. I think a minimum of two years is necessary before there are serious moves to bring down the coalition, probably with Clegg brought down with it, and even then it should be done only if there is clear popular support for doing it.

    The sort of negative “You Liberal Democrats are unprincipled people who only care for power” lines I have responded so strongly against here will serve only to stop the party acting in this way. What it needs is confidence that it will have popular backing should it do so. “I’m never going to vote for you again” is not such backing, is it? The lack of understanding of the difficult position we were in that forced us into the coalition in May 2010 is not the sort of backing we need if we are to step out and renegotiate or end it. All it will do is cause a closing of ranks, with a steady loss of those on the left of the party who are needed to stay there as active members in order to force through a change if there is some will to do it.

  • Matthew – I tink what you’ve picked up is that you’re arguing against people innured to argument. Their philosophy is top down, “we know best”, and yes that does mean that they’d prefer a system that gives them a turn of all the power rather than have to make compromises.

    They don’t understand the meaning of the word compromise and that is why they howl with rage when we have actively engaged that concept.

  • I’ve always found Nick’s speeches uplifting in the past – but not this one! As well as the ‘aIarm clock Britain’ phrase (previously derided by the Party) which has shades of I’m alright Jack and on yer bike about it – I was a bit alarmed by Nick’s comparison between two local authorities 8-10% cuts: Sheffield’s cut of 270 staff and Manchester’s cut of nearly 2000 – this is because Manchester has 10 times the budget of Sheffield! It’s elementary that one should compare like with like – anything less is grossly misleading.

    He then followed up by saying that anyone who “sacks staff or shuts down public services for political purposes is a disgrace to politics and a disgrace to Britain” (perhaps apeing Kinnock’s famous speech about Labour Councils) – but does he apply this standard to his role of DMP??

    I know he has a tough job and balancing act to perform, but am increasingly seeing a touch of demagoguery and unreality in his style and performance…

  • “I was a bit alarmed by Nick’s comparison between two local authorities 8-10% cuts: Sheffield’s cut of 270 staff and Manchester’s cut of nearly 2000 – this is because Manchester has 10 times the budget of Sheffield! It’s elementary that one should compare like with like – anything less is grossly misleading. ”

    In which case, one really should say that Manchester’s 2000 redundencies represent 17% of its workforce and Sheffield’s 270 redundencies represent 1.5% of its workforce.

  • daft ha'p'orth 15th Mar '11 - 12:54pm

    If Clegg or whoever can say “look the people are behind us, they are supporting us in asking you to change”, he may be able to achieve something. But if all he can point to are people saying “Yah boo sucks, Liberal Democrats are nasty unprincipled people, I’ll never vote for them again under any circumstances”, Clegg has no negotiating power.

    I hear what you’re saying, but I think you’ll find it easier to rally that support if there is a separate target for it to rally behind. Most voters don’t see the party structure as separate from the guys at the top. For most of us (and I suspect for Clegg himself) Clegg is the figurehead of the Lib Dems, and the party is just Lib Dem branding.

    ‘Negative attacks’ are in a sense actually positive indicators. Many ‘Yah boo sucks’ lines could very probably be reformulated as ‘Hey, if the Lib Dems made a stand, and stopped finding excuses to vote against their principles, pledges and party, I’d vote for them.’ There are worse reactions than attack. Many people will simply have sunk into permanent apathy, just like all the rest of the voters who’ve decided that voting has no measurable impact on government, or who prefer to vote for none of the above. You won’t see their messages on Lib Dem Voice or anywhere else except in the voter turnout statistic.

    What you’re asking people to do, from the perspective of your basic voter, is to offer unconditional support to Clegg in the hope that he suddenly wakes up and uses that support in asking for change. But we already played out that scenario; he had the support of 6.8 million voters, and I think it’s stretching reality a bit to suggest that he has made optimal use of it in ensuring change that works for Lib Dem voters. Why therefore would we voters continue to offer unconditional support? In the hope that he changes his mind? Where voting fails, protest begins, on the Web as in Trafalgar Square.

    I do see your point, though, especially as regards party members and ex-members. But perhaps they feel that they have tried to participate, and it hasn’t worked. Was it Einstein who said that insanity could be defined as doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results?

  • Tabman:
    “With respect, you have absolutely no idea what goes on or is said behind closed doors. I suggest you take some advice from Wittgenstein on this one: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

    Your point is essentially correct, but what with democracy being what it is I am afraid the perception of the situation is just as important as the reality. If we want any votes, that is. And he is certainly not putting out the impression that he’s fighting hard for the things he believes in, and if he is then he’s not getting very far with it. I see your Wittgenstein and raise you the Bible: “By their fruits ye shall know them…!”

  • Alex P – I’ll match your bible and raise you an apocryphal Chou En-Lai when asked about the impact of the French Revolution: “It’s too early to tell” 😉

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Mar '11 - 3:08pm

    daft ha’p’orth

    I hear what you’re saying, but I think you’ll find it easier to rally that support if there is a separate target for it to rally behind. Most voters don’t see the party structure as separate from the guys at the top. For most of us (and I suspect for Clegg himself) Clegg is the figurehead of the Lib Dems, and the party is just Lib Dem branding.

    That is the sad result of the way politics has been going in recent years. One of the reasons I joined the Liberal Party in the 1970s because with its community politics it was offering a completely different sort of politics than the top-down model. Politics ought NOT to be seen as all about leaders and branding. I have argued this point again and again in these columns, that our party ought to be offering a different sort of politics, one which is bottom-up, not top-down.

    As a result of this top-down view of politics, there is a profound and deeply disturbing anti-politics and hence anti-democracy attitude growing in this country. It is stoked up by the right-wing press and the financial elite, because the weaker the power of the ballot box, the stronger the power of money. Worse still, it seems to be in a vicious circle, whereby the powerlessness of elected politicians in the face of the dominance of the financial elite leads even more to people being led into thinking “politics and politicians are all bad” and so being content with solutions to problems which involve taking away democratic power and putting in its place the power of money.

    This suggest even more that if the Liberal Democrats could reassert what politics ought to be about by rejecting the model in which they are just salesmen for their leader, something very satisfying could be achieved – the turnaround of our society and the start of the rescue from all that has gone wrong in the past three decades.

  • What do the lib-dem party activist’s \ party members on here think of the speech? Seems to have been drowned out in the usual arguements.

    I’d be interested to hear.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Mar '11 - 3:18pm

    daft ha’p’orth

    What you’re asking people to do, from the perspective of your basic voter, is to offer unconditional support to Clegg in the hope that he suddenly wakes up and uses that support in asking for change.

    I have been attacking Clegg day in and day out in these columns, stating how I think he has done an appalling job as leader, stating that I have no confidence in him and I wish we could get rid if him, and yet STILL you accuse me of giving unconditional support to him.

    What could I say that would convince you that is not my position? I really don’t know, I despair.

    I would have thought it is crystal clear from what I have written that I am suggesting people’s support for the Liberal Democrats should be VERY conditional, basically “we’ll vote for you if you get rid of Clegg”. If there’s a clear sign from the public that our party would benefit from doing this, it would give members the courage to do it. The point I have been trying to make is the sort of negative criticism from “P Bird”, “ex Liberal voter”, “Daniel”, “EcoJon”, Rob Stanley, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all is NOT helping if that is something they would really like to see. Instead it is leaving Liberal Democrat members frightened that the party would be destroyed if they did something dramatic like that, and so supporting Clegg and the Cleggies in their argument we should stick with them because it will all turn out alright in the long-run (by 2015).

  • Matthew

    looking at your recent posts, you’re becoming more clear and your view is clearer today than it has been before. Where I truthfully all I’ve seen in your writing is blind loyalty – one of the comments you’ve made cemented that for me – but today is different. I’m very glad you’ve had the decency to apologise. It does not make me any less angry at whast has been directed at the voters here (a crime you’re not wholly guilty of – and so far the sole one to do so) – it’s forgotten sometimes that we’re all prospective voters and ideally, you guys would like us to vote Lib Dem so the keyboard contribution must be done so with care, its happened several times in the last few weeks and what does it show for the party as a whole?

    Looking back, I still see confdence and supply as the best working option for both the country, and the LD

  • Stuart Mitchell 15th Mar '11 - 7:09pm

    Tabman: “What utter rot. The governement we have now was delivered by the voters”

    Hardly. Not one single person voted for a Tory/Lib Dem coalition.

  • Stuart Mitchell 15th Mar '11 - 7:34pm

    Tabman: “In which case, one really should say that Manchester’s 2000 redundencies represent 17% of its workforce and Sheffield’s 270 redundencies represent 1.5% of its workforce.”

    Where’d you get those figures?

    According to the Manchester City Council website, they employ 24,000 people. The BBC reports that Sheffield employs 15,000. So your 17% / 1.5% comparison is whittled down to 8.3% / 1.8% straight away.

    But then – get this – Nick Clegg came up with a REALLY spiffing wheeze to make Manchester sound worse than Sheffield. For Manchester, the 2,000 figure he quoted is for TOTAL redundancies – including voluntary redundancy, early retirement, natural wastage, etc etc. But the 270 he quoted for lovely Lib Dem Sheffield is COMPULSORY redundancies only! What a stroke of genius!! No wonder this man is the Deputy Prime Minister.

    In fact Sheffield have told the BBC that they expect to shed 1,000 staff in total; the unions reckon even that is an underestimate and the true figure will be 1,200 (and they have figures to back that estimate up).

    So doing your comparison again, but this time with proper comparable figures, we get :-

    Manchester’s redundancies = 8.3% of workforce
    Sheffield’s redundancies = between 6.7% and 8% of workforce

    Hardly a fag paper between them.

    For Sheffield figures see :-

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/south_yorkshire/8541578.stm
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-12392980

  • daft ha'p'orth 16th Mar '11 - 12:58am

    @Matthew Huntbach

    Sorry – I’m not accusing you of blind loyalty, or at least I don’t intend to. The point is that you have a more nuanced understanding of lib dem party politics than most, because from the sounds of it you’re very much involved in that party. You see an opportunity to offer conditional support, and you’re right, for you it is there. For non-party members, mostly it isn’t. It’s a matter of perspective.

    For most there is no mechanism to say ‘yeah, but only if …’. The options for most are: vote once every few years (or not) and beyond that, either kvetch, or avoid politics entirely. So given those constraints, for most voters, you are asking the voter to convey too complex a message.The voter (unlike party members) is not in a position to communicate conditional statements. Either they are silent (which is generally taken as assent), or they are in angry disagreement, or it is election day and they are filling in a form, which doesn’t contain much conditional logic either, more’s the pity.

    There is a reason why politicians inspire anger – angry letters, angry emails, angry protests. For years at a time, it’s about the only feedback mechanism there is for the disgruntled voter 🙂 If we shut up, politicians assume we’re not bothered. If we don’t vote, we disenfranchise ourselves. Better to have angry voters than none at all…?

  • daft ha'p'orth 16th Mar '11 - 2:16am

    @Matthew Huntbach

    This suggest even more that if the Liberal Democrats could reassert what politics ought to be about by rejecting the model in which they are just salesmen for their leader, something very satisfying could be achieved – the turnaround of our society and the start of the rescue from all that has gone wrong in the past three decades.

    For what it’s worth – I agree with you. There was a reason why I voted Lib Dem since I was old enough to vote (before all this happened I was exploring the possibility of taking a more active involvement), and your statement – slightly idealistic, but in a good way, if I may say so – reminds me of what that reason was.

    The present government unfortunately does not. Instead, it reminds me of why I stopped believing in Father Christmas.

    The Thatcher years were the first decade of my life, then came Major. One of my first jobs was delivering laminated pledge cards for New Labour’s marketing agency, at £5 per thousand cards, the skinflints. It wasn’t political on my part, I just happened to work for the distribution group. Then I watched Tony Blair’s grinning face as he played silly buggers with the country – whilst for some idiotic reason apparently believing himself to be a rock star – and the country moved on to a whole new level of stupid; stupid, now with added spin.

    In my lifetime, we’ve gone to war based on documentation that my uni would have thrown out for plagiarism; we’ve seen industries die; university education has gone from £0 to £27,000+; ELQs are financially unattainable for all but the very rich; we’ve been inflicted on a national level with virtually every management philosophy known to humanity, particularly the stupid ones; we’ve developed an ever-strengthening case of respect-for-dogma, any dogma, who cares; we’ve had boom and bust and talking heads on the TV inviting people with untenable debt to take out 110% mortgages; we’ve had unelected Darth Mandelson and his sinister hordes determining policy by deciding which of his mates give the best dinners; and so much more that I can’t be bothered to list, all based on the vague peregrinations of (mostly) rich white people, mostly males, mostly wearing business suits. It’s not just the fact that I tend to disagree with the policies – it’s the way that they are generated and sold that turns my stomach. Seldom have I seen, heard, or read of a frontbench politician discussing matters honestly; Hansard is full of fascinating discussions that take place in an almost empty room, but magically a whole lot of suits appear when it’s time to vote, uninformed but somehow ready. And the sleight of hand – treachery, changes of plan, frequent application of the convenient excuse du jour (the economy) to explain the indefensible. Look at the scary economy/bird flu/swine flu/terrorists/unemployed/fake disabled/slacker students/overpaid union workers! I’ve grown used to the House of Lords, that much-hated unelected bunch of nobs, having more honest interest in reviewing what is proposed than the House of Commons does.

    There used to be politicians that I admired, but most of them died years ago. Today’s politics is as honest as pro wrestling, with the important exception that it is possible to watch and enjoy pro wrestling, even knowing that it is staged.

    I don’t think I’ve seen a single government that I would have been happy to have voted for, but I really did believe that the Lib Dems would acquit themselves nobly in coalition. If the party worked from the ground up – if I had seen it work that way – that would be like discovering that Santa Claus really does spend over fifty-one weeks a year in a workshop, with elves, making toys. It would change everything. Fingers crossed, therefore, that someday you get your way. 🙂

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Mar '11 - 9:02am

    P Bird

    looking at your recent posts, you’re becoming more clear and your view is clearer today than it has been before. Where I truthfully all I’ve seen in your writing is blind loyalty – one of the comments you’ve made cemented that for me – but today is different.

    My position and viewpoint now is no different than it has been since the first week after the May 2010 general election. My position on Mr Clegg’s suitability to be the Leader of the Liberal Democrats is no different now from what it was when the party’s leadership election took place and I used these columns to beg and plead members of the party not to vote for him. I have wasted hours and hours of my time trying to get you and a few others who were jumping to similar absurd conclusions about my position to see that. I would have thought it was obvious from what I was posting to anyone but a complete moron that I am very far from a blind loyalist to the Liberal Democrats as a party, particularly under the leadership of the Liberal Democrats.

    I’m very glad you’ve had the decency to apologise.

    Yes, I apologised for losing my temper and posting some intemperate words. I accept that one it is not good to insult people like this, even people who take hours and hours of my time to manage finally see what any intelligent person could have seen in seconds.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Mar '11 - 9:25am

    daft ha’p’orth

    There is a reason why politicians inspire anger – angry letters, angry emails, angry protests. For years at a time, it’s about the only feedback mechanism there is for the disgruntled voter 🙂 If we shut up, politicians assume we’re not bothered. If we don’t vote, we disenfranchise ourselves. Better to have angry voters than none at all…?

    You write as if politicians are some aliens imposed from the outside on us. They are not – we live in a democracy, we choose who we have as our politicians. The only thing that stops us doing that in the best way possible is the electoral system. That is why the reform to AV is important, even though small compared to introducing a proportional system with full transfers, because AV ends the argument “got to vote for alien A in order to avoid splitting the vote and letting in alien B”.

    It is complete rot to say “angry letters, angry emails, angry protests” are the only way to give feedback to politicians. We can join political parties and we can campaign within them to change who the politicians are. Political parties are the way ordinary people get together to challenge the power of wealth and influence – in the 19th century that was the established Church and the aristocracy, in the 21st century it’s the bankers and those who control the media, Murdoch et al. Together by running campaigns, by networking, by persuading people like us that we DO have the power of the ballot box, that in a democracy power ultimately DOES lie with ordinary people, we can give all the feedback politicians need. indeed we don’t need to give feedback because the politicians should be people like us chosen through these mechanisms, not aliens imposed from above. That was what the Liberal Party was about with its community politics when I joined it in the 1970s, and it is the vision I have had of politics ever since, though sadly in most of the battles I have fought for this, I have been on the losing side.

    A big block to this, however, is the current electoral system, which really does work to concentrate power in the two big parties and to stop new parties from forming and demonstrating their real level of support. That is why a comment from someone about electoral reform not being an important issue so wound me up that I posted my intemperate message.

    The other big block is the way the establishment powers have managed to persuade most people that politics is a bad thing, that getting involved in political parties is not something any normal person should do, that politics ought to be all about leaders in London sending messages downwards, that there is no way ordinary people can influence politics, that there is no feedback mechanism except angry letters etc. The more they can get people to switch off from active political involvement in that way, the more their power and stranglehold over us will grow.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Mar '11 - 9:52am

    Stuart Mitchell

    Hardly. Not one single person voted for a Tory/Lib Dem coalition.

    More people voted for the Tories than for any other party. The government we have now is essentially a Tory government. The influence of the Liberal Democrats is small – indeed that is what people are complaining about. So, Stuart Mitchell, from what you are saying it would seem your main complaint is about that small bit of Liberal Democrat influence. You are saying, in effect, that if the Liberal Democrats gave up any attempt at trying to influence government policy, and instead just voted for whatever the Tories wanted as pure Tory government policy, that would be better.

    That is also what is really meant by “supply and confidence”, because “supply” means voting for the Tory budget with all its cuts, and “confidence” means voting for any other purely Tory policy which the Tories (or Labour in order to embarrass the Liberal Democrats) choose to make an issue of confidence.

    Those in the Labour Party who are arguing against AV are in effect saying the same thing. The main anti-AV line is that the distortion of the current system, which usually gives complete government control to one party even if that party does not have majority support in the country, is a good thing. So all those Labour anti-AV people are saying Cameron should be Prime Minister now with complete control, because his party won the most votes. They are, in effect, saying the thing that is wrong with the Liberal Democrats is trying to tinker at the edges with pure Tory policy. They may not put it that way, but that is the logic of their view, it is the logic of their attack on even the minor electoral reform that is AV.

    Indeed, since AV is not a proportional system, it is the logic of anyone who opposes true proportional representation on the grounds that distorted representation is better because it usually gives complete control to one party. Since there are very few members of the Labour Party who support proportional representation, and it is not Labour policy to change the electoral system, support for Labour is support for distorted representation – with the way it usually delivers complete government control to one party seen not as an unfortunate side-effect but as the main thing in its favour.

    Therefore, a vote for Labour in 2010 was a vote in favour of the established position that government should be by whatever party gets the most votes, which it turned about was the Conservative Party. Therefore, the only logical criticism a Labour supporter could give of the Liberal Democrats is that they are stopping a purely Conservative government by getting a few small concessions. Anyone who supports Labour, unless they are vocal in opposing its opposition to proportional representation, is a hypocrite unless their only line of attack on Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are that they are not strong enough in their support of pure Tory policies.

  • daft ha'p'orth 16th Mar '11 - 1:49pm

    @Matthew Huntbach

    I’m not about to register my disapproval of the current situation in the Lib Dems by paying them a membership fee, now am I? What sort of message would that send? I’m seriously upset with you, here’s some money?!

    Also, most of us know nothing about political parties and wouldn’t know what to do if we did join them. Like I say – from most peoples’ perspective this is not seen as an option.

    Your ‘alien’ metaphor is a good one, and yes, that is exactly the way that politicians do appear. It’s as though they start off seemingly human, get into government, and suddenly turn into Pod People who share a bizarre drive for destructive legislation that is inexplicable to the rest of us. No wonder conspiracy theories are so popular.

  • Stuart Mitchell 16th Mar '11 - 7:39pm

    @Matthew: It was a flippant remark of mine, though it does sum up the case (the only intelligent case, as far as I’m aware) against PR.

    If you take an election such as 2005, many people have complained that we ended up with a government that only 35% of voters wanted. But if instead we had gotten some form of coalition, we would have ended up with a government that NOBODY wanted, but which may have been (what’s the word?) “tolerable” in the eyes of more than 35%.

    Which government would have had the stronger mandate – one liked by 35% and hated by 65%, or one that 50% felt they could live with? Though I would probably give the same answer as you to that question, I can nevertheless appreciate (and this is something that tends to go overlooked in these endless debates about electoral systems) that the judgement is an entirely SUBJECTIVE one, and I can respect the views of those who think FPTP is the best of all systems, even if I don’t agree with them.

    By the way, I don’t agree with your conclusion about what a vote for Labour implies. I vote Labour but I disagree with a lot of their policies, always have done. The fact that Labour are split pretty much down the middle on this seems to me to be perfectly laudable as it implies that at least some Labour people are looking beyond narrow party self-interest when weighing up the merits of FPTP and AV. Have you noticed that >90% of Tories and virtually 100% of Lib Dems are supporting the system which will give their own party ther maximum number of seats? What does that say about them?

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Mar '11 - 8:36pm

    daft ha’p’orth

    I’m not about to register my disapproval of the current situation in the Lib Dems by paying them a membership fee, now am I? What sort of message would that send? I’m seriously upset with you, here’s some money?!

    Well, you could join one of the other parties, but the Liberal Democrats are the most democratic. It seems to me to be quite sensible – you are seriously upset, so join the party and change it. The minimum membership fee doesn’t even cover the cost of mailings etc for internal elections, so you aren’t even actually giving them money on a net basis by being a member.

    To me your line of thinking is weird. You say politicians are horrible people who are only in it for themselves, but you think by having protests and sending emails you can somehow get them to change their minds. Isn’t it easier to do it more directly – join a political party and use the power of being a member to change the politicians.

    Also, most of us know nothing about political parties and wouldn’t know what to do if we did join them. Like I say – from most peoples’ perspective this is not seen as an option.

    Yes, and don’t the fat cats and bankers want to keep it that way, because the only way to challenge the power of money and wealth is by ordinary people getting together and working together, which is what political parties are for. That is why the Murdoch press churns out the anti-politics message, to make life safe for the fat cats and the bankers and those who rule us with money and can that more so when democracy so so weak.

    The reality is that most Liberal Democrat local branches consist of a fairly small number of people who are desperate for new blood. If you have time and energy, you can very easily join and become influential. As a member you can choose who the candidates are for the elections, you can become a candidate yourself. You can get trained in fighting elections. You can become a delegate to the party conference and vote against Clegg there – as they did in the Spring conference just last week. A few more committed anti-Cleggists joining, and we could get him out and bring down the government. It would be easy-peasy if it were not for the defeatist “no point in getting involved in politics” attitude you have shown here – in common with most of the population. Who thereby let the fat cats and bankers run the show.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Mar '11 - 8:39pm

    Stuart Mitchell

    By the way, I don’t agree with your conclusion about what a vote for Labour implies. I vote Labour but I disagree with a lot of their policies, always have done.

    Well that makes compete nonsense of your earlier argument then.

  • Stuart Mitchell 16th Mar '11 - 9:01pm

    @Matthew – in what way?

  • daft ha'p'orth 16th Mar '11 - 9:58pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    To me your line of thinking is weird. You say politicians are horrible people who are only in it for themselves, but you think by having protests and sending emails you can somehow get them to change their minds.

    If that were my line of thinking, you’re right, it would be weird. Politicians aren’t (necessarily) innately horrible people and aren’t necessarily in it for themselves, although I’ve met several evil politicians and heard many more, and therefore prefer to qualify that statement. I don’t believe that protest achieves anything, except possibly on a social level (which is important in itself). Individual MPs, other than the opposition, are not in a position to react according to their consciences. They generally aren’t allowed to change their minds. But it’s easy to see why people protest – it’s part of the grief cycle: anger, denial, depression, acceptance and all that. Like Fox Mulder, we want to believe.

    I used to write to my MP on occasion (prior to the election), and get thoughtful, considered replies – but something he wrote on his blog/news page last year about the letters he’d received about tuition fees made it seem totally futile to do so any more. If I were dealing with a politically neutral social injustice or similar, it’s possible I would write to him again, as Heath is a decent chap and would probably do what he could. However, now that his position in government has transmogrified him into one of the Pod People, discussing politically current issues would likely be unproductive for both of us – so what’s the point? The die is cast, it’s all over, he’s trapped in the political goldfish bowl just as we get to live with the results. It’s all rather sad and all rather inevitable.

    You have made several good points. I do think about joining, although it seems rather dishonest of me to finally join a party as a consequence of having become disillusioned with the process it is designed to support. Maybe something positive will eventually happen and tip the balance.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Mar '11 - 1:36pm

    Stuart Mitchell

    @Matthew – in what way?

    Your earlier argument was that a government of one party was better because that was what people had voted for. That argument only makes sense if it assumes when people vote for a political party they vote in favour of all its policies.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Mar '11 - 1:55pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    Yes, I apologised for losing my temper and posting some intemperate words. I accept that one it is not good to insult people like this, even people who take hours and hours of my time to manage finally see what any intelligent person could have seen in seconds.

    My response to P Bird would, of course, have been entirely different if he had shown the grace to apologise for his misinterpetations of what I was saying. I find it absolutely baffling that he should have supposed me to be writing out of “blind loyalty” to the Liberal Democrats, when I have been more open in my attacks on the way the party is being led at present than almost any other member of the party who contributes to these columns.

    What I am most keen on doing is getting people to think and look at politics in a different way, and throw away the silly assumptions that are so stopping people from taking back power in this country through its democratic mechanisms. But how can one deal with people like P Bird who can’t see to think, no matter what is written, beyond this narrow way of thinking that just because one is a member of a political party one must be a “blind loyalist” to it, with everything one says done only out of concern for party power and with no concern for deeper personal principles? I am sorry to have got so angry about this, but it really was the thing which depressed me more than anything else when I was a “politician” in the sense of holding elected office or campaigning for it, that so many people viewed me and everything I said in those terms, supposing I was just “it it for himself” whereas in fact I was involved in politics out of deep concern for the people I was representing, and my involvement was actually damaging my financial and career situation in terms of my day job, rather than benefiting me. It was the very people for whom I got involved in politics in the first place – people right at the bottom, in the sort of poverty I grew up in – who were most likely to slam the door in my face as soon as they saw who it was knocking in their door, shouting at me “Not interested, we never vote, all you politicians are just the same”. In the end, I just couldn’t take it any more – how can you go on when you do something for people and the main thing you get back for it is abuse?

  • Stuart Mitchell 17th Mar '11 - 10:18pm

    Stuart: “Your earlier argument was that a government of one party was better because that was what people had voted for. That argument only makes sense if it assumes when people vote for a political party they vote in favour of all its policies.”

    I don’t see how. I voted enthusiastically for Labour even though there were plenty of policies I disliked. If people only voted for parties they agreed with 100% then it would take about 30 seconds to count the votes.

  • Stuart Mitchell 17th Mar '11 - 10:20pm

    Sorry Matthew, I just attributed your comment to myself…

  • an angry voter 18th Mar '11 - 11:04am

    But Mr Huntbatch, where we see you referrng to the Lib Dems looking for what they could get out for themselves – then P Bird is spot on – you are being blindly loyal to the Lib Dems, regardless of how you try to dress it up

  • Matthew Huntbach:

    “If Clegg or whoever can say “look the people are behind us, they are supporting us in asking you to change”, he may be able to achieve something. But if all he can point to are people saying “Yah boo sucks, Liberal Democrats are nasty unprincipled people, I’ll never vote for them again under any circumstances”, Clegg has no negotiating power. Cameron can just say “Go ahead, make my day, I’ll call an election and you will be wiped out”.”

    Clegg’s negotiating power has very little to do with your two preceding “if” statements. Because all Cameron can just say is “Go ahead, make my day, I’ll call an election and you may well be wiped out, oh and by the way so shall I, not that that matters to me all that much…”. In any case, the people will not get behind Clegg and support him in asking Cameron to change, because they can see precious little evidence that Clegg genuinely wants cameron to change anything very much!

  • Matthew Huntbach,

    “it is right that Clegg gets warnings and plenty of chances to act on them before there are serious moves to replace him as party leader. I think a minimum of two years is necessary before there are serious moves to bring down the coalition, probably with Clegg brought down with it, and even then it should be done only if there is clear popular support for doing it.”

    When I said we should call for a renegotiation, I didn’t mean a disguised scuttling of the ship. I meant a negotiation. Scuttling the ship would be an option only if Cameron refused to talk turkey. In practice, we would not be able to scuttle the ship unless there was a clear feeling nationally that we were behaving reasonably and Cameron was not. That would limit our negotiating strength, but it would also make it quite likely that we could achieve a moderate improvement in the deal. It wouldn’t look perfect but it would look better, it would be better for the country, and it would regain us some of our self-respect.

    Your proposal is to do nothing for two years and then hit the nuclear button. By the time two years has gone by, all your supporters will have deserted you in disgust and your nuclear button will have disintegrated. We have to act now, not postpone action indefinitely. Thanks to Shirley Williams and Evan Harris for beginning the process of taking effective action now. It will need to be followed up relentlessly but we have now started.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Mar '11 - 3:38pm

    David Allen

    Your proposal is to do nothing for two years and then hit the nuclear button. By the time two years has gone by, all your supporters will have deserted you in disgust and your nuclear button will have disintegrated. We have to act now, not postpone action indefinitely. Thanks to Shirley Williams and Evan Harris for beginning the process of taking effective action now. It will need to be followed up relentlessly but we have now started.

    Er, just WHERE did I say “do nothing” before going for the “nuclear” option? That most certainly is NOT my position. I think it very clear from what I have been posting that being public about the possibility of the “nuclear button” is one of the threats we use while also pushing harder against Tory right-wing politics. What I am saying is that we can push more strongly for renegotiation if we can show public support behind us. I have said this time and time and time again in various places, where you have contributed, so how you could suppose it was my position that we on the left of the party should remain silent and give full support to whatever Cameron/Clegg tells us we should support baffles me.

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