Opinion: Cameron tries to woo Lib Dem supporters – should we be worried?

I write this after watching the 6 O’Clock news on Sunday. After the usual sick feeling that I invariably feel when I hear Cameron speak subsides, I am left in a state of mild shock at what he just tried to do: make the public believe that there aren’t many differences between the Lib Dems and the Tories and scaremongering our supporters into voting for them under the pretence that a hung parliament would be ‘bad for Britain’.

I start by addressing the latter point first. There is an argument that decisive action is needed in facing the economic crisis. As I am not an economist and have heard this from many noted sources I will take this as read. However, the idea that the Liberal Democrats would, through a hung parliament, have a say in how and what is done is fantastic news to Lib Dem supporters. I hear the Tories want to set up some sort of “getting out of the recession” committee to work out what to do. Well who would the nation rather have steering this committee than Vince Cable MP? I’m sorry we don’t say this enough: he was right! And he’s consistently right. Over and over again. It beggars belief that this could be twisted into something bad for Britain.

And as for any delay in the decision making process, my argument is this: better to do it slower and get it right. The Tories have completely different ideas on the kind of Britain that should grow out of this recession. They have stated very little about what they would cut but what we’ve seen so far points to a pretty grim picture. Don’t take my word for it, look at this headline from timesonline: “Teachers, doctors and civil servants savage George Osborne’s Tory cuts” (6 Oct 2009). Pay freezes to the frontline while tax reforms hit the low and middle income taxpayers to protect the richest.

Oh believe me, we would do things rather differently. But on the things we agree about we would be more than amenable, we saw on December 15th when we promised to help rush through a bill taxing non-doms in the new year. Any takers Cameron? When it makes sense for Britain, voters can be assured, we would not delay to act.

Which brings me to the former point. You’re right David, let’s not create differences where there are none. But let’s not pretend that there isn’t a veritable Oort cloud sized expanse of difference between your ideals and ours. I think this point is best summarised by a conversation I had with Tory teller during the Euro elections. He asked me why I was a Lib Dem. I replied that it’s a bit like this: “I choose to live a fairly conservative lifestyle but I think the difference between your party and mine is that I don’t necessarily believe that this is best way for everyone. There’s more than one way of doing things”. He replied, “Yes, I agree. Fair point.”

And therein lies the main difference between us: The Tory version of governance is to decide what’s best for everyone and impose it somehow. I do worry when they speak of decentralised government. Is their version similar to a parent saying, “I’ll trust you to do the right thing.” What happens if we don’t? Well they’ve alluded to this. Removal of benefits and support perhaps. Naughty naughty citizen.

Our version is far less pompous. We believe that if you give people the desire and means to do well they will. If they don’t, it means we’ve missed something.

All parties want a fairer, greener, safer society. We live in a liberal democracy; it goes with the territory. But the real battleground lies in how we will go about achieving it.

There’s plenty to differentiate us, believe me (and I won’t even start to talk about Europe). All the political parties talk about the same issues; indeed we have to, it’s our job. But talking about similar issues does not mean having a similar point of view.

To drive the point home, let’s look at an area close to my heart: education. The Lib Dems propose the pupil premium and the pruning of the national curriculum. You should see how excited teachers get when I tell them about our policies. As one myself our ethos in this area was a major contributor to why I joined the Party in the first place. So here is the Conservative Party answer (direct from their website): build more schools, have more varied schools, more power to parents. No word of students or teachers in the first two paragraphs at all. Rather worrying, you’d think they’d get a mention slightly sooner. Ah here it is, paragraph three and it’s talk of discipline and behaviour. Insolent ruffians, bring back the stick! If I sound facetious I apologise, I am aiming for disbelief. If this is what the potential future government had to offer then it puts fear in my heart. I relish the idea that we would have a powerful say in these matters.

So should we be worried? I don’t think so. The policies speak for themselves and our ideals speak even louder. But we should not be complacent either. We need more than ever to get out there on the doorstep and tell people how different it could be. Vote for change is a great slogan. Glad they’re saying it I couldn’t agree more.

So I for one, David, would welcome a hung parliament. It would be fantastic for Britain. Have experts like Vince pilot the recovery, temper the other parties’ one size fits all policies, lead by example and lead by cooperation. Is that really so bad?

Layla Moran is a member of Ealing Liberal Democrats.

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  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 28th Dec '09 - 4:14pm

    Great article!………

  • Grammar Police 28th Dec '09 - 5:47pm

    For all his faults, Cameron is an otherwise intelligent man. This message (which I’m annoyed that the news broadcasts gave any time to – “man makes party political point” is not news) was a calculated one. It’s also not necessarily one that ‘does what it says on the tin’.

    I think that the more likely everyone thinks that there will be a hung parliament, the less likely that there will be – as ‘soft’ voters are scared into voting for one of the two ‘major’ parties. In such a situation, we’ll be squeezed.

    Purportedly telling Lib Dem voters that the Conservative party is very similar to the Liberal Democrats, and that our voters should back them to avoid a hung parliament is, on the face of it, odd. It’s odd because a number of our ‘core’ voters actually see the benefits of a hung parliament, and don’t consider themselves natural Tory supporters (although I guess they may vote Tory to get rid of Labour).

    However, this message will ring alarm bells for many erstwhile ‘new’ Labour voters – socially progressive-types who have fallen out with the Government, or even just simple tactical voters, who vote Lib Dem to keep the Tories out. They won’t vote Lib Dem if they believe they’re voting for pseudo-Conservatives and they won’t vote Lib Dem because they’re probably not so keen on hung parliaments.

    And if they don’t vote Lib Dem in Lib Dem/Conservative marginals, like Sutton and Cheam, Cheadle, Solihull etc, but instead go back to backing Labour – they’ll wake up with Tory MPs and a Tory majority Government.

    Cameron’s message is sneaky because, in my opinion, he’s effectively telling Labour voters that they should back Brown, knowing that this will assist him. He’s playing the system.

  • Grammar Police 28th Dec '09 - 5:49pm

    (also, if the Lib Dem response is to argue that “we’re not like the Conservatives”, then we’re reinforcing his message).

  • simon mcgrath 28th Dec '09 - 6:40pm

    The real issue is post eelction if there is a hung parliament. Nick Clegg is handling this very well at the moment but what will happen if cameron has the most seats ( or votes) but not a majority. if we do a deal with anyone ( a big if) would people really rather deal with Labour with it’s track record which we know is profoundly illiberal or with Cameron?

  • Tony Greaves 28th Dec '09 - 8:14pm

    I hope we will keep well away from any “committee to get Britain out of the recession” which sounds like an attempt by the Tories (who seem to me to be nastier and more right-wing now than for while a while however much they try to hide it) to get other people to share the blame for their poised massive onslaught on all the public services that make life in this country worth living (particularly at local level).

    The Tories are our real long-term enemies and let’s not forget that.

    Tony Greaves

  • Simon, we know what LDV readers think about a hung parliament – https://www.libdemvoice.org/ldv-readers-say-we-least-want-david-cameron-to-be-the-next-prime-minister-17361.html

    However, who says we need to “do a deal” with anybody? I think Nick’s made it pretty clear that we won’t be going into coalition with either the Lib Dems or the Tories.

    If the Tories are serious about climate change, about making society fairer, then they will find that the Lib Dems support them. If they propose tax cuts for millionaires, they will find that the Lib Dems do not support them. It’s up to Cameron how serious he is about liberal democracy…

  • simon mcgrath 28th Dec '09 - 10:38pm

    yes liberal voive readers say they prefer brown to cameron. pretty terrifying really given what brown and labour have done with power.

    are the tories propsong tax cuts for millonaires – sound slike you have been lostening to labour’s class war stuff to me.

    and Tony – both parties are going to have a ‘massive onslaught on public services’. that’s becuase we are borrowing £500m a day and can’t carry on like that. if we get power we will be faced with exactly the same issues.
    Both Tory and Labour are our enemies and the ones which have brought the country to near ruin are Labour

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Dec '09 - 11:35pm

    Yes, we should be worried because this wouldn’t have worked had our party’s leadership not given an image to our party which makes it sound superficially plausible.

    The press have decided the story is Cameron liberalising the Conservative Partty, so here they are doing that party’s will and loyally reporting its propaganda as if news.

    I see no evidence that Cameron is anything but a right-wing Conservative – someone whose whole focus is on doing good for the wealthiest 1% of our society. Any superficial liberalism in him comes about because actually old-style Conservatism is no longer of such use as it was to the super-rich. So he can afford to drop reactionary views on homosexuality and the like and say “hey – this makes me a liberal” because that doesn’t affect the main aim at all.

    Even when he’s maybe trying to do well, to me he comes across so much as someone who is just so rich and well-connected that he is clueless about how the 90% of people in this country who aren’t anywhere near his social standing live, and so clueless about how useless much of what he proposes really is.

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