Opinion: it’s time for us liberals to fight back

Labour’s timid leadership election highlighted one significant point. The opposition is getting hostile and vicious to the coalition, especially to the Liberal Democrats. Instead of compromising and trying to remain neutral it is time for us to show some teeth. We need to fight back.

Party activists and elected officials, in the Labour party, believe we despise the coalition and would rather be associated with them. The media are portraying this narrative too. But it is not true. Our special conference overwhelmingly voted in favour of being in government. Liberals have taken 800,000 people out of income tax, a pupil premium for the less fortunate and a grand constitutional reform package not seen since the Great Reform Acts.

We need to start defending the coalition, not side stepping the issue or suggesting we’d do it differently on our own. The Conservative Party have no problem defending their party’s association with the coalition, whether it is Member’s of Parliament or activists – they are not afraid to fight back against Labour’s tribal criticism. Us Liberals need to start deploying the same tactics.

As we campaign for a fairer voting system, the Labour party – financed by the trade unions – are gearing up to prevent the public from being consulted. Labour, who claimed to be the tutelage for the liberal society under Tony Blair – have returned to their tribal past. Harriet Harman has admitted the party is in a “militant mood.” It is clear, Labour would rather create problem instead of solving them. Her Majesty’s loyal opposition is now the party of “no” and are a roadblock for reform.

Society, and the British people, are demanding change but the hierarchy of Labour are deliberately denying it. For the first time in our modern history, we have a party that is unwilling to acknowledge a democratically elected government – Labour MP’s are even claiming the Prime Minister has no mandate (even though he commands a majority of the Commons.)

History shows socialist parties, in their decline, become vicious and extremists in nature. Their mentality shifts into a mindset of “to hell with it” and the country suffers. We saw it in the 1980s with militant tendency and the union manipulation of the Labour party – which is starting to resurface again.

We must start returning fire on our opponents. The coalition is already implementing productive programs to make Britain a stronger nation and society, nothing should prevent us from transforming this nation into a true liberal society. If Labour wishes to resist then it is time for us to stop acting like we are still in opposition and to fight as a governing party. We are proud of our achievements and we should be proud to defend them.

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  • Disappointingly tribal. Sounds like something from a rabid Conservative student group.Not quite sure what you are suggesting we do – start slating off Labour as a major activity? Actually some of our ministers – Clegg, Alexander and Laws spring to mind have already done abit too much of that.
    Let’s remember and remind some of MPs/Ministers about what used to be called the’ new politics’. We need to work with Labour on AV. That doesn’t mean being uncritical but it does mean creating a climate where it can happen.

  • ‘We must start returning fire on our opponents.’

    Very true, and I support much of this, Labour apparently insisted on doubling student fees and ID Cards as an opener to negotiations, but – and it is an important but – our opponents are to be found in the social Conservatives, the Conservatives who only see Government – and not business or the Big Society – as a threat to Liberty, the illiberal New Labourites, and the controlling Socialists. We must – as Bob Russell did yesterday – bare our teeth at the opponents of Lib Dem policy from all directions.

  • @AlexKN – yes, exactly, it is a little bit tribal.

  • John Fraser 14th Sep '10 - 4:58pm

    There seems to be a belief that the special conference somehow gave the Liberal democrats in the coalition a whopping great blank cheque . For most I expect it was an act of faith on our leadres judgement on a decision that had already been taken. Remeber the same conference also voted for student fees not to be increased (or has that been conveniently forgotten) .

    When we tak a stand aganst idiot neo con policies such a full post office privatisation and stop welfare policy that asumes that teh unemployed are making a lifestyle choice THEN liberal democrats may start to fight back . When Iain Duncan Smith is the only one in the Coalition who (seems) to be talking any sense what you are asking for is not party loyality but blind unthinking loyalty , and that daniel is not what this party is all about.

  • Daniel Furr 14th Sep '10 - 5:02pm

    Labour is not interested in AV – their opposition is designed to try and split the coalition. Even yesterday, during the Fixed Parliament Bill second reading, Labour admitted that support for the bill may alter during the passage in the House. How can we achieve reform if the opposition is simply playing politics?

    David Miliband and a few moderates have an honest desire (in relation to new politics) for change but the left are not interested. As one Labour activist put on twitter (which numerous then retweeted and agreed with), anyone who isn’t apart of the Labour party is “the enemy”.

    As the Prime Minister stated in Cabinet this morning: it is time to challenge Labour.

  • Paul McKeown 14th Sep '10 - 5:04pm

    There is no point turning the other cheek in the face of a cynical, sustained assault from Labour. The Lib Dems do need to take a much more robust tone when defending the clearly positive reforms it has managed to carry out (income tax, corporation tax, fixed term parliaments, focus on prisoner reform rather than punishment, release of children seeking asylum from imprisonment, etc., etc.) and in stating the case for the less palatable, but no less necessary rebalancing of government spending. Otherwise just give up.

  • Mike(The Labour one) 14th Sep '10 - 5:06pm

    “Instead of compromising and trying to remain neutral it is time for us to show some teeth.”

    …. Have you had your head in the sand for the last few months?

    The mandate they were talking of was about cutting too early. Which, as I and others have shown pretty irrefutably, was a position that the Lib Dems pretended to hold before the election. We had a majority voting for parties who didn’t want to cut early and a huge majority- 75% of people in today’s Times- saying that they hold this opinion today. 51% of *Conservative* voters in that poll, for instance, supported Labour’s position while only 31% of them supported the coalition position on the timing and extent of cuts. There is no desire up and down the country for a government war against public services, it wasn’t voted for and it isn’t necessary. The evidence is increasingly showing that your stance makes a double dip recession more likely, which will mean we’ll have to cut even more in the long run.

    And on AV- it wasn’t Labour that chose to compose the bill such that Labour has to vote for something it disagrees with either way.

    At least you seem to have twigged that there won’t be any hopping between parties as you please. You and the Tories will hang together.

  • Mike(The Labour one) 14th Sep '10 - 5:12pm

    “Clegg, Alexander and Laws spring to mind have already done abit too much of that.”

    Don’t forget Huhne’s cringeworthy double-act with Sayeeda Warsi.

  • Daniel Furr 14th Sep '10 - 5:15pm

    “The evidence is increasingly showing that your stance makes a double dip recession more likely, which will mean we’ll have to cut even more in the long run. ”

    Is that why the European Commission said, today, that the UK economy would grow much faster and stronger then first thought?

  • Daniel if you think a successful fightback starts by portraying Labour as falling into the bosom Militant, I pity your judgement. The use bye-election strategy is not what’s required. When in government you have to come up with an effective defence strategy. Something your parliamentarians, and some in the wider party it seems, fail to understand.

  • Daniel Furr 14th Sep '10 - 5:24pm

    jayu, in the first part of my piece, I was suggesting we need to be more vocal in defending what we’ve achieved so far. But, we cannot defend all the time – we do need to attack. Reminds me of that classic scene from The West Wing. During the re-election campaign. The strategists loses his patiences and explains what is wrong with liberals. As he eloquently put it;

    ‘we get pushed into the corner and we say “please, please don’t hurt us”‘

    Paul McKeown is right, we cannot just turn the other cheek.

  • Mike(The Labour one) 14th Sep '10 - 5:28pm

    @Daniel Furr: And? The reason it gives is not a particularly encouraging one- that people will scramble to temporarily buy before the VAT increase hits.

    “The report said the announced increase in the UK VAT rate next January should encourage higher private consumption in the fourth quarter of 2010 too, sparking another acceleration in growth in the fourth quarter.

    On the other hand, the higher VAT rate will also dampen economic activity in the first quarter of 2011.”

  • Daniel Furr 14th Sep '10 - 5:29pm

    Mike(The Labour one), one quarter doesn’t mean a recession. The report does not suggest a negative quarter – so how can you suggest a second recession?

  • Mike(The Labour one) 14th Sep '10 - 5:30pm

    And every other post is about Labour. You don’t shut up about Labour as it is.

    All in all, this article has the whiff of desperation. Unsurprising when Lib Dem ministers are predicting you’ll slump to 5% support this time next year.

  • David Allen 14th Sep '10 - 5:35pm

    “We need to fight back.” “We need to be more vocal”.
    There’s been plenty of shouting. The volume has been just fine. It’s just that the content has failed to convince.

    “We are proud of our achievements”
    What, after four months? What achievements?

  • Mike(The Labour one) 14th Sep '10 - 5:36pm

    Others are predicting a double dip aren’t they? Or at least less growth than otherwise. I don’t know for sure, of course, I’m no economist and they don’t- but the truth is that neither does your government. Vince Cable said “less than 50%” for the chance of a double-dip, which is hardly encouraging. Going further and faster than anyone says is necessary with deficit reduction- when the OBR said Labour’s plan would meet George Osborne’s own election pledge and the IMF had nice words to say- is not out of a desire to safeguard public services as much as possible while protecting the economy- your government is attacking public services regardless of what happens to the economy.

    Will Hutton described Labour’s budget as the “march to sanity”. Your government is walking backwards, watching sanity disappear into the distance, with no idea what you’re walking into.

  • Good god, you’re quoting from The west Wing!
    And here was me thinking that the “student” remark, was just an aside.

  • Great post, absolutely spot on

  • Well said, Daniel. The Labour party is acting very much like the Republicans are in the US, who would scream no if Clegg or Cameron stood up in Parliament and insisted that the sky was blue. There are legitimate criticisms to be made of coalition policies, and legitimate criticisms yet to come, but Labour seem content to indulge the fantasy that the need to save money would have magically evaporated had they remained in power, which certainly helps to explain why the party is so deep in debt. However, one must bear in mind that they are indebted to their backers though, especially now during internal election season and a period of financial difficulty, as more than half of union members are employed in the public sector. And at some point, perhaps, one should come to expect playing politics of politicians.
    Perhaps it also bears pointing out that a government in the UK speaks with one voice, while dissent is made clear through back benchers, which is why you have the Lib Dems in government-shock horror- defending the government. You aren’t going to see any Lib Dem ministers criticizing it unless they resign.

  • @Thomas

    So, if LibDem ministers defend the government position and refuse to resign, we can infer that either they do so with the full backing of the LibDem party as a whole, or they do so out of personal interest?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 14th Sep '10 - 5:55pm

    “Liberals have taken 800,000 people out of income tax, a pupil premium for the less fortunate and a grand constitutional reform package not seen since the Great Reform Acts.”

    I can’t understand why people are talking as though the pupil premium is part of the coalition’s policy. Surely it’s not, in any meaningful sense. The Lib Dems proposed an injection of additional cash into the education budget, to be targeted towards schools with the most disadvantaged pupils. If I understand correctly, the coalition’s policy is to have some additional targeting of resources, but without any additional cash – and that was Tory policy anyway.

    What does that actually mean, when overall spending is going to be slashed? That the budgets of the neediest schools aren’t going to be cut quite so much, at the cost of even deeper cuts to the budgets of other schools? Good luck with selling that to the public as a wonderful Lib Dem achievement!

  • Chris Gilbert 14th Sep '10 - 6:00pm

    There’s no second recession yet. But of course there isn’t – the public sector job cuts won’t come about until early next year, which will be when spending starts to shrink. And of course, that won’t be clear until a year from now, when the reality of this years budget will be in the public eye. Economic measures take time to filter through to the real economy. Right now, we are seeing a growth as the result of policy decisions taken last year, before the coalition, before the general election.

    And seriously – this budget, is a work of lunacy. I don’t need to say I told you so next year, because by that time, unemployment will be dramatically higher, consumer spending will drop, crime will increase, and public services will begin to degrade. In two or three years, the long term damage will begin to seep through. You can’t get an economy to grow by cutting public spending during recession, as Keynes very well knew. As did Vince Cable (before the election, that was).

    There are efficiency savings to be made, but they never have, and never will, be made by top down economic decisions. Ironically, our local Tory councillor is called Kay Cutts. Cuts by name, cuts by nature eh?

    I agree that we need to defend ourselves – but pretending the Tory policies were just the same as the Liberal ones before the election is silly. Our memories aren’t that short. We do indeed need to show some backbone – to our Tory ‘partners’ that is.

  • The public sector pay freezes for 2 years effectively postpone the drop in public sector job losses by 2 years, unlike the Labour model – at least according to the OBR – which gives the economy MORE time to grow, and allows much more flexibility and time to adjust the strategy should growth fall under the projections of the OBR.

  • charliechops1 14th Sep '10 - 6:19pm

    If you can believe this post, you can believe in anything. A list of small progressive changes, which is welcome, is swamped by the dreadful disaster of supporting Tory economic policy. The Lib Dems will never be forgiven by many people whose support would otherwise be very welcome.

  • @jayu: Or out of some sense of personal principle, conscience, or belief in what they say is right, that they have taken the best actions they could in the situation as it presented itself, and so on. What particular insinuation are you making with the personal interest comment by the way? Are the front benches at Westminster upholstered in a notably softer leather than the back?

  • Yes, we should be showing our teeth, and yes, we should be fighting. But fighting whom? Labour isn’t in government, David Cameron’s Conservative Party is. It is the Conservative Party that is embarking on a programme of savage cuts to the public sector, that it says will be permanent. It is the Conservative Party that is launching a back-door privatisation of the Health Service, and is about to fix the electoral system to its own advantage. Labour is a side-show. If we don’t start fighting the Tories soon, they will destroy us.

  • David Allen 14th Sep '10 - 6:48pm

    “Perhaps it also bears pointing out that a government in the UK speaks with one voice, while dissent is made clear through back benchers, which is why you have the Lib Dems in government-shock horror- defending the government. You aren’t going to see any Lib Dem ministers criticizing it unless they resign.”

    Well if Cabinet responsibility was that constricting, why is it that Osborne and Duncan-Smith are publicly at loggerheads, and Cameron hasn’t sacked either of them? Because the Cleggites are hiding behind Cabinet responsibility as an excuse, that’s why. It enables them to endorse Tory policies while pretending that they might have preferred to do different.

  • paul barker 14th Sep '10 - 6:57pm

    Great article, its time we stopped apologising & start attacking. As far as a return to the 1980s can anyone tell me the difference between Harmans position & Bob Crows ? They are both arguing for strikes & civil disobedience, they arent even putting much stress on “non-violence”.
    We should hold our nerve, these tactics will blow up in Labours face.

  • David Allen wrote:

    “It enables them to endorse Tory policies while pretending that they might have preferred to do different.”

    Endorse Tory policy is about all Clegg does. Isn’t he supposed to be Leader of the Liberal Democrats?

  • Brilliant.

    “Labour is being really tribal” and the way to counter that is “we need to be more tribal”.

    Sesenco nails it. It’s not Labour we should be fighting. It’s the Tories. But the Orange Bookers have taken over the party, and the blogs and the communications.

    The party is going only one way and we are sitting back and letting it happen.

    The special conference supported it? Does that mean we’re going to have another one in 6 months when the public are literally chasing us down the street?

  • Paul Barker wrote:

    “can anyone tell me the difference between Harmans position & Bob Crows ?”

    I’ll try. Bob Crow is a revolutionary socialist who wishes to impose a Stalinist system on this country by force. Harriet Harman is a Blairite hack who will say or do anything that advances the objective of getting Labour back into government. On the tactic of using the trade unions to bash the Tory government they coincide.

  • @David Allen: As I recall, Osborne and IDS were claimed to be at each others throats by a back bencher, which was denied in the house by Osborne in a statement. Hardly publicly at loggerheads? If they are indeed having a vehement disagreement behind closed doors, details of which may be leaked by a back bencher, then that’s exactly as the Westminster system usually operates and supports rather than disproves my statement.

  • vince thurnell 14th Sep '10 - 7:07pm

    Instead of turning on the Labour party you should take a long hard look at yourselves and what this coalition is doing to your party. Was the full privatisation of Royal Mail part of your manifesto , were the cuts this year part of your manifesto ?. Your desperation (and thats what it seems to be ) to blame the Labour party for the problems you are currently encountering is misguided. Your argument has always been that being in partnership with the Tories meant you could keep them in check to a certain degree. Well now is the time to put that to the test and tell your leadership to grow a pair and tell the Tories enough is enough because if you don’t your party will be finished forever.

  • Should’ve gone with Confidence and supply, your party is in a real pickle as your leaders have to go along with the rules of cabinet responsibility, which means defending tory policies you dont believe in.Combine that with an assault on the Labour party, and you are backing yourself up the Conservative/right wing alley.

    I dont envy your party’s siuation, the more you defend this governments policies, the more the Tories benefit as it’s seen as essentially a Conservative government, either way you’re basically screwed.

  • Malcolm Todd 14th Sep '10 - 7:09pm

    a grand constitutional reform package not seen since the Great Reform Acts

    So, devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the removal of all but a rump of hereditaries from parliament after 800 years were mere fiddling in comparison with – er, a referendum on a minimal reform of the voting system and tweaking the rules for drawing up constituency boundaries? Delusion seems too kind a word.

  • @Anthony ‘If I understand correctly, the coalition’s policy is to have some additional targeting of resources, but without any additional cash – and that was Tory policy anyway.’

    You do not understand correctly in this instance. The Pupil Premium from the Tories came with no extra money and would draw funding away from some pupils. Purely re-distributive. The Lib Dem policy was for extra money.

    It is the Lib Dem policy which has been adopted, not the Tory policy, and whilst we do not yet know exactly how much it will be (awaiting spending review) it will be ‘from outside the schools budget by reductions in spending elsewhere’ [coalition agreement].

    So the pupil premium is a triumph for the Lib Dems – though I will save too much enthusiasm until we know exactly how much it is worth…

  • Anthony Aloysius St 14th Sep '10 - 7:23pm

    “It is the Lib Dem policy which has been adopted, not the Tory policy, and whilst we do not yet know exactly how much it will be (awaiting spending review) it will be ‘from outside the schools budget by reductions in spending elsewhere’ [coalition agreement].”

    My mistake. I had missed that.

    So apparently I shouldn’t have written “the budgets of the neediest schools aren’t going to be cut quite so much, at the cost of even deeper cuts to the budgets of other schools”, but “the budgets of the neediest schools aren’t going to be cut quite so much, at the cost of even deeper cuts to the budgets of other departments.” Is that right?

  • i would like to say i am not a labour voter but laughed at some of the comments made by the blogger

    ‘the socialist parties become nasty when in decline’ firstly, labour isnt in decline they are still around 37 percent in the polls and only lost the election by a small margin so if they were in decline they would of done alot worse, secondly they have increased their membership and have been winning the majority of by-elections since the election. So the comment made is abit over the top

    the other point is that the lib dem party voted for the coalition package, i agree with this ,i think the party should not be unhappy with policy if they supported the coalition, those who didnt (like myself) have more of a right to complain

  • Bob Russell MP did fight back. and

    He was the most inspiring Liberal Democrat MP I’ve heard since those at the top of the Party sold their souls for a ministerial salary.

    But sadly he won’t get covered here or anywhere else since criticising Osborne and his far right ‘attack the poor’ policies is now considered a thought crime by the supine Cabinet placemen and their eager web mouthpieces.

    When the hammer falls on the poor and vulnerable in society I will be looking to principled MPs to speak up for them.
    And those who don’t will not be forgiven by the grassroots or the public.

  • i think kennedy has been good too

  • TheContinentalOp 14th Sep '10 - 8:20pm

    Good God. Did I really vote for this rhetoric?! Using Labours snidey and cynical tribalism to defend Tory policies. The worst of both worlds.

  • Stop blaming Labour for all your troubles and take responsibility for your actions. We didn’t vote LibDem to support Tory policies. Nick didn’t tell us he changed his mind about when to cut the deficit before we voted for the Liberals. I am just an ordinary voter and you can go back and tell your party conference they have lost people like me. No amount of your rhetoric is going to make me vote for you again. I don’t trust the LibDems anymore. I feel that is really sad as before the elections you were a party I thought had principles.

  • @Paul Barker
    I assume your not Pieter paul barker who organised the ‘march for homes’ for the Young Lib Dems in the 1990s . ?

  • Excellent post. To be accused by New Labour supporters of having sold out our principles is really quite galling. At least we got some of our policies into government.

    Labour spent the profits of 15 years of growth on middle class jobs and foreign wars, rather than alleviating poverty. We should be clear in our disdain for their failed methods, and confident in our own. Their hideous paternalistic attitude to poverty can never be allowed to return to government.

  • Just read through this thread and it strikes me that it is a good indicator of the major conundrum we face. We need to maintain the Coalition but this is increasingly difficult to do with its strong small state ideology overruling more pragmatic decision making. We need to continue to promote our policies and values in our communities but much of what we have campaigned on has been shredded by the Parliamentary leadership. Labour’s attacks may infuriate but we need to counter with clarity and policy not by trading insults which is what some in this thread seem to want

  • @George Kendall
    Ofcourse you noticed my typo regarding the post office privatisation instead of the Royal mail .

    It still just as stupid economically illeretate neo com policy based on a unthinking hatred of anything being in public hands. (Which was the actual point I was making ) .

    IDs would have fought the treasury coalition or not 9and good luck to him nice to know theres still at least one guy in the cabinet with at least some instinct for social justice) the fact that you are quoting IDS as one of our coallition successes smacks of desperation.

    With most other things your ‘reasoned’ wait and see approach would be fine George , but when both our party and our country are being driven over a cliff its time to slam on the brakes !

  • YouHaveNoIdea. 14th Sep '10 - 10:36pm

    Back to the Blog!

    ‘Fairer voting system? Democratically elected government? Productive programs? True liberal society? Proud of our achievements’ I really fear you are just making it up Daniel? However you try to argue your case it remains weak. As is often the case with liberal democrat explanation or reasoning it is always a position of what you mean to say to mean?

    You all appear to be ‘twisting, turning and squirming’ every day. Sadly, many people will struggle and hurt as a direct result of your policy posturings and tory support and no ‘mealy mouthed’ defence of these will help.

  • TheContinentalOp 14th Sep '10 - 11:08pm

    BTW Daniel. Do you still believe opponents of the Iraq War to be ‘Neanderthal Socialists,?

  • Mike(The Labour one) 14th Sep '10 - 11:09pm

    @George Kendall: “£6bn cuts this years is a side-issue, and a small concession for the Lib Dems to make in forming the coalition.”

    No it wasn’t. Nick Clegg revealed he had changed his mind before the election in an interview on TV in August and the Lib Dems were arguing for early cuts with Labour immediately after the election. This wasn’t a compromise. The Lib Dems may have lied to the Tories and pretended to want to defer cuts in order to get more out of them, but it wasn’t honest.

    And you may think it’s a sideshow. Vince Cable didn’t before the election. Nick Clegg didn’t before the election. Will Hutton doesn’t. Joseph Stiglitz doesn’t. David Blanchflower doesn’t. Etc, etc. Respected economists think it’s important that the cuts only start when the economy can take them, and regardless- an extra year or so would have been useful for planning the cuts with greater care and giving greater warning to the people and services affected.

    “A few economic experts agree with you, many do not. The OBR and NIESR have modelled the effects of the proposed cuts, and while they see reduced growth in the short term, both regard cuts as necessary. Just because massive extra borrowing will reduce the short-term pain, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.”

    I think you misunderstand Labour’s position. They may regard cuts as necessary- not to the extent and speed that the coalition proposes. The OBR, for instance, said that Labour’s plan would meet the target George Osborne set for himself at the election- http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/6080418/osbornes-headache.thtml

    “That is to say, Osborne’s manifesto pledge – to eliminate “the bulk” of the structural deficit – would have happened under Darling. So no extra cut, or tax hike, is needed to meet this pledge. ” (Fraser Nelson’s words).

    This isn’t between the coalition wanting to reduce the deficit and Labour not wanting to do so- this is between Labour wanting to do it and the coalition wanting to use it as an excuse to cut the heart out of the welfare state. Nick Clegg was asked about cutting early before the election, remember, and he said ” of course we would say no, do it sensibly.”

    The difference is between doing it sensibly and doing it viciously.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Sep '10 - 11:10pm

    We need to start defending the coalition, not side stepping the issue or suggesting we’d do it differently on our own.

    But that is just NOT TRUE. At least, I hope it is not true, and if it is true are leaders are despicable liars.

    It ought to be bleeding well obvious that as we are the junior party in the coalition, and very much so as we were granted government posts in proportion to our seats rather than out votes, we cannot get our own way in government all the time. In fact what we are getting is very much a Conservative Party government with a little Liberal Democrat influence in those places where it doesn’t really detract from the main thrust of what the Conservatove Party wants to do. QUITE BLOODY OBVIOUSLY as this is not a Liberal Democrat majority government, it is not doing what a Liberal Democrat majority government would do. If what this government is doing IS what we would be doing if we had a Liberal Democrat majority government, then it is so far from what we said we would do in the general election, that no-one could ever possibly trust us again.

    So why this UTTER MADNESS from Daniel Furr saying this is just what we should say – that we should be making out all that this government is dfoing is what we would be doing had we ourselves won the election outright? We might as well print millions of leaflets reading “Hah ha, we fooled you, serve you right for believing what we said before the election” and go round putting them through every letterbox.

    Instead, we have to make it clear that we went into this for these things:

    1) Democracy – the Conservatives won the election in terms of getting the most seats in Parliament, so they had a right to truy and form a governmemnt.
    2) Stability – it was clear that had any sort of minority government been formed (and a Labour-LibDem coalition would have been a minority government) confidecne in that government’s ability to deal with the economic mess would have been low, and that would have damaged our country immensely.
    3) Influence – the situation enabled us to get a little, but not very much. We have to be clear and say this, because it is the case. We can explain why it is the case – we have few MPs because the electoral system acts against us and in favour of the largest party, we didn’t have much to bargain with because there wasn’t an alternative viable coalition.

    If we wish to emerge from the next election with any MPs left, we really do have to make it clear things would be very different if we were the biggest party in government. We do have to explain what we have done in terms of necessity, democracy and national interest. If we can do that, we can show the Labour attacks on us for entering the coalition are ridiculous, because Labour has no answer to the question “OK, what else should we have done?”. If they had an answer they could offer it right now because the balance in Parliament now is the same as it was when the coalition was formed.

  • But Coalition Ministers dont have a mandate for cuts
    do they ???

    Look at the Lib Dem leaflets (attacking tories) at the General election – I have copies
    of Lib Dem MPs who are now Ministers

    They state dont vote for Tory Cuts ????????

  • Thomas,

    “As I recall, Osborne and IDS were claimed to be at each others throats by a back bencher, which was denied in the house by Osborne in a statement. Hardly publicly at loggerheads? If they are indeed having a vehement disagreement behind closed doors, details of which may be leaked by a back bencher, then that’s exactly as the Westminster system usually operates and supports rather than disproves my statement.”

    Yes, you have a point. Cabinet Ministers who wish to offer public dissent use backbench leaks for cover. So if that’s the system, why isn’t Clegg using it? Because he doesn’t dissent, of course!

  • George Kendall,

    “The real issue is not what happens in 2010, but from 2011. Whether to cut the structural deficit in four years, or in six or eight years.”

    The insistence that politicians know what they expect to be doing with economic policy eight years hence is madness! “Events, dear boy” as Macmillan put it. Rather a lot of events will happen in the next eight years.

    Labour make the same mistake. The first thing that’s wrong with “halve the deficit in four years” is their supposition that they know what their economic stance will be in 2014. It’s far too far away.

    It is a triumph of ideological rigidity over economic practicality. Chancellors used to understand that you have to fly by the seat of your pants. Now, Tory, Labour and Lib Dems alike have adopted Maoism – a rigid Five Year Plan approach. A Great Leap Backward, methinks!

  • Matthew Huntbach,

    “If we wish to emerge from the next election with any MPs left, we really do have to make it clear things would be very different if we were the biggest party in government.”

    I don’t think a mere shift in the narrative will now suffice. We have already gone from Cable-ism before the election to undiluted Osborne-ism straight after it. A third narrative shift, to “Osborne-ism-under-protest”, would just throw away even more credibility.

    I understand the argument that the coalition was our least worst option. It also convinced me, temporarily, when Dave and Nick did their love-in, and they waved that dodgy dossier detailing what appeared to be significant concessions from the Tories to ourselves. Then out of the woodwork came Gove’s schools, Lansley’s private health service, Cameron’s quiet comment that massive cuts will be permanent.

    We’ve been conned – and we now have to act, fast. Nothing other than quick recognition of and repudiation of the Con job will now enable us “to emerge from the next election with any MPs left”.

  • @David Allen: Incredible! Your ability to discern the source of anonymous leaks is so prodigious, I must ask: have you considered applying for the position of chief whip? Any of the three major parties would beat a path to a safe seat to parachute you into for the purpose. If not, a career in the security services surely beckons.
    Taking your “Event’s dear boy”, quote, while they cannot peer into a crystal ball and predict the future, they can make a number of reasoned assumptions and calculate the possible effects their actions will have. And you yourself are committing the sin of ideological rigidity you warn against, by assuming that should the situation change then the actions of the government won’t change with it. If the economy stops growing then there is a good argument to increase borrowing and stop cuts. But now that it is growing, Keynesian economic theory indicates that we must pay down our debt to prepare ourselves for the next cycle. Boom and Bust haven’t ended yet.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 15th Sep '10 - 12:42am

    “The insistence that politicians know what they expect to be doing with economic policy eight years hence is madness!”

    Indeed. Just think about Clegg’s “big permanent tax cuts” and Cable’s massive expansion in public spending, both less than two years ago.

  • The fact that so many labour trolls have reacted so strongly to tins piece shows how spot on it was.

  • matthew fox 15th Sep '10 - 7:12am

    This sounds like the ground work for operation marketgarden.

    If the Libdems want to go to the country and justify the scrapping of free school meals for some children, go for it chaps.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    As a Labour supporter I believe every liberal supporter and member should read Mathews post above – if the Liberals in government were acting in the way he suggests (Democracy, Stability, Influence) I am sure you could hold your heads high, gain sympathy from voters and even (gasp!) some empathy from Labour supporters such as myself. The problem you have is that the behaviour Matthew would like and what nearly everyone is seeing bears no resemblance to each other. Most people I talk to who voted for the LIbs did so so in a very genuine belief that it was time for a change (I can understand that), a new style of politcs and in some cases a genuine desire to punish Labour (I will say it again, I can understand that, at the same time as disagreeing with a lot of it) thinking that at the very least they would see the Liberals tempering the Conservative government (and as someone else said her if you read the LIberal’s campaign literature at face value you could hardly blame people for thinking that). Instead of some principled positioning we see some twisty face defence of Liberal positions in government (the latest Cable announcement on Royal Mail being the best example yet) where instead of arguing the case for change to happen in a certain way (with Liberal principles perhaps?) the lot is is simply thrown in with the Conservatives.

  • @Thomas
    ‘Perhaps it also bears pointing out that a government in the UK speaks with one voice, while dissent is made clear through back benchers’ –
    I haven’t heard much dissent about the budget cuts through backbenchers either. It seems everyone in the party has been silenced incase they upset the Coalition.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 15th Sep '10 - 9:32am

    “QUITE BLOODY OBVIOUSLY as this is not a Liberal Democrat majority government, it is not doing what a Liberal Democrat majority government would do.
    … Influence – the situation enabled us to get a little, but not very much. We have to be clear and say this, because it is the case. We can explain why it is the case – we have few MPs because the electoral system acts against us and in favour of the largest party, we didn’t have much to bargain with because there wasn’t an alternative viable coalition.”

    The trouble is that traditional collective responsibility severely curtails the party’s ability to do this. Voting for measures but continually indicating that you wouldn’t be supporting them if you had a choice wouldn’t normally be viewed as acceptable behaviour for government ministers. And really one can see why it would not be attractive to a coalition partner, or even perhaps to the electorate in the long run.

    I think you are really wishing you could have the advantages of a coalition without its disadvantages, but I don’t think you can.

  • @ George Kendall
    ‘We’re taking a hit now, and will for the next couple of years. But if we remain true to our values, we’ll still be getting the tactical support of a lot of Labour voters at the next election.’

    Dream on – no you wont. The votes will go to the Greens. I live in an area where the fight is usually between Tories and LibDems. I will be voting the Labour or Greens depending who will do most damage to the LibDems. We don’t need another right wing party as far as I am concerned.

  • @ Daniel Furr.

    “For the first time in our modern history, we have a party that is unwilling to acknowledge a democratically elected government – Labour MP’s are even claiming the Prime Minister has no mandate (even though he commands a majority of the Commons.)”

    Have the guts to put your Coalition Agreement (already heavily revised, altered and, in some cases, completely abandoned) as a manifesto to the electorate at an immediate General Election. When the Orange Tories and the Blue Tories are elected on it with a majority of seats then we in Labour will accept that you have been democratically elected and have a mandate from British voters.. Until then you will always be seen as an undemocratic bunch of power grabbers, opportunists and enemies of the people.

  • @BB: Pretty much every article the Guardian prints about the coalition seems to be about dissent on the liberal side. The MP who leaked the details of IDS and Osborne disagreement was a Lib Dem back bencher.
    @MarK: Thats an argument thats as absurd as the idea that Brown wasn’t democratically elected.

  • Grammar Police 15th Sep '10 - 11:03am

    @ MacK – no Government does everything it says in its manifesto. We didn’t hear Labour activists calling for an election every time Blair/Brown departed from the precise wording of their manifesto (and I am making no comment on whether the Coalition are departing from “the agreement” or whether that’s a good thing – I’m certainly not defending it. I’m just pointing out that your argument is flawed).

  • Fightback?

    This shows what the fightback will consist of…


  • 69 comments so far, this article has really hit a nerve. The Labour trolls are out in force, appalled that we might get off our knees. Can I remind them of a few things; they think Libdems should take responsibility for everything the Coalition does while they can pick which bits of Labours legacy they are responsible for. Iraq, 10p tax, control orders, torture, 90 days detention, expenses fiddles, racist leaflets- nothing to do with them.
    On the Coalition mandate, all 3 major parties argued for savage cuts-worse than Thatcher, thats a 90% mandate. Its Labour who have changed course.
    On Labours decline, if you take out 1983 when Labour split & fought itself then 2010 was their worst result ever. Labour keep boasting about their new members, taking them up to 170K?. They had 400K in 1997 & over a Million in 1951. Then theres the little problem of £20Millon in debts, it wont go away just because you dont talk about it,
    The Labour reaction to this article makes its point.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 15th Sep '10 - 12:05pm

    “The Labour trolls are out in force …”

    It strikes me that what you really need is a term of abuse for people from your own party who don’t agree with the Clegg/Cameron right-wing agenda.

    Would “Wets” fit the bill?

  • Grammar Police 15th Sep '10 - 1:03pm

    @ Anthony – :o)
    That made me smile.

    I do think part of the problem is that it is often incredibly difficult on sites like this to see who is a Lib Dem and who is not (that’s also one of the strengths of the site). There’s no excuse for failing to be polite to people, but obviously a Labour activist sounding off is going to get a different response to a party member with a genuine concern – if nothing else, that is human nature – whether it’s appropriate is another thing. There are also those who claim to be Lib Dem memebrs or supporters, but who could quite easily not be from what they say.

  • It doesn’t matter who the messenger is, it’s the message that is the point for debate. For those who feel the need to dismiss any negative comment as that of a troll, if you derive comfort from that, who am I to deny you that? But a word of warning, not all dissenting voices are from Labour supporters or members.

  • Grammar Police 15th Sep '10 - 1:21pm

    @ Jayu, but the messenger does make a difference. If it’s an opponent, who isn’t interested in debate and is just trying to cause trouble, then there’s little point engaging with them. If it’s an opponent who genuinely wants to debate, then fair enough. If it’s a supporter who dissents, well, again fair enough.
    To be honest, I think a Government would be doing something wrong if it wasn’t upsetting somebody! That’s a trite point, but debate in itself is actually a healthy sign, and I think there is huge strength to be drawn from internal dissenters.
    The key point is that this only works if the posters in question want to debate, and listen – there are far too many, of all shades of opinion who don’t, who just want to sound off, and who dismiss any argument they disagree with, and can’t conceive of debate ever changing their mind (we can all be guilty of this – face it, who wants to be proved wrong!).

  • I think the point is we don’t have to sink to open abuse , which is something labour supporters resort to on other sites.
    What we need to get better at is counteracting the attacks, if a proposal is to be made it needs to be fire tested . We should have a defensive line set up and ready to go and if Cowley Street doesn’t have the resources they need to start looking at the groups.
    Prime example when the 6 billion cuts were announced one of the casualties was a hospital up near Newcastle. Labour kept on at us ..look how uncaring the Libdems are to support this.
    Within a couple of hours of it been announced one member of the face book group had discovered that the hospital was to replace 3 existing sites . The local people had 30,000 signatures on petition to stop the closures. An independent report stated that the money would be better used in the existing sites….and to top it all the Labour MP had resigned from the department of Health over the closures. Yet non of this came out because no one was looking.

  • @Paul Wild

    So how would you defend the coalition’s Tory ideological stance, of not signing the EU directive against human trafficking? LibDems should be up in arms about not just sitting there acquiescently.

  • @Paul Barker

    At the end of the day, we are going to have to take ownership of everything this coalition does. Whether we voted for it or abstained. Reason being is that, as Liberal Democrats, we made a cost-benefit analysis of being in government ‘supporting’ a compromised agenda due to its gains rather than staying outside and getting nothing. In effect we are saying it is better to get the bad things from the coalition in order to get the good things from the coalition. As such, we will have to justify that decision at every national election hereafter. Are we getting a net gain in compromising our position (though to listen to some speak it sounds as though we have barely compromised at all) in exchange for influencing some or all government policies? I leave that to my friends in the party to ponder.

  • Given that there’s already the members’ forum,….

    And this is not it. This is an open platform, as such not all views are LibDem friendly. If people are so delicate that reading critical comments upset them so much, I would recommend that they give open platform posts a wide berth.

  • @Grammar Police
    “….. no Government does everything it says in its manifesto. We didn’t hear Labour activists calling for an election every time Blair/Brown departed from the precise wording of their manifesto

    That’s true. But you have missed the point. The electorate voted overwhelmingly for Labour’s manifesto in 1997, 2001 and 2005. In 2010 they did not vote overwhelmingly either for the Tories or the Lib Dems. That’s why they should be given the opportunity to vote for the Coalition Agreement. If the coalition puts its agreement to the electorate in the form of a manifesto and receives overwhelming backing I will accept that the Orange and Blue Coalition Government is truly legitimate. Of course, you’re not going to do that, so, Labour is right and you have no mandate to govern. And certainly no mandate to make the ordinary people of this country pay for the banking crisis of a ruling class elite.

  • Yes George the deficit is a problem, but not as big as the coalition would suggest. As for Clegg claiming that he feared a Greek style crisis, this just shows how economically illiterate he is. You forget that Labour did cut the deficit in the early noughties, they weren’t immediately labelled as rightwing ideologues.

    If you ask me, 2010, just as in ’92, was the election that was best lost. IMO, Brown and the Labour party played a blinder, wrt going into coalition. If, as is to be expected, the Tories make the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons, this could lead to another long interrupted spell of Labour government. And the LibDems will be forever tainted by association.

  • Malcolm Todd 15th Sep '10 - 4:27pm

    Mark Pack:

    Macolm: you’ve left out elections for the Lords, further devolution in Scotland, a referendum on more devolution in Wales and recall for MPs. Not sure why you haven’t included them in consideration?

    Yes, I left out elections for the Lords – I also left out Labour’s introduction of PR systems for the European elections and devolved administrations. It’s a bit of a push to suggest that “further” devolution (with or without referendum) is comparable with creating a devolved parliament where none had existed for 300 years; and yes, I omitted to mention recall of MPs – largely because I think it’s pretty irrelevant and small beer.

    The point stands: so far, this government’s constitutional plans are less radical than the last government’s achievements. I haven’t even mentioned the constitutionally vital Human Rights Act and the Freedom of Information Act – such a good bit of legislation that Blair now wishes he hadn’t done it! Could there be a better recommendation?

  • @Andrew Tennant

    Beneficial to who, and for what purpose? And I am not arguing for anything, it is you who are arguing for a change to the status quo. If you are so insistent why not start with yourself and add “LibDem Member” to your moniker?

  • David Allen 15th Sep '10 - 6:07pm

    On the deficit, there are several choices we could make. it isn’t just a question of the pace of deficit reduction.

    Instead of sacking people and then cutting their benefits, we could put more emphasis on raising taxes.

    Instead of declaring big bold round-numbered reduction targets, we could start by finding out what it is realistic to hit, and what it isn’t. If you want to know how cretinous we are being right now, read Rawnsley: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/12/spending-cuts-minsters-coalition

    We could look at the Tory experience back in the late nineties, when the UK earned the payback for years of public underinvestment in terms of failing services and massive demands for reconstruction (sadly, met by Labour through PFI schemes, which in turn are now biting back at our finances). We could look at what will be lost if we make cuts, at whether lost jobs and reduced tax revenues will mean that some cuts may even act to increase the deficit.

    Instead of declaring a Maoist five-year plan to end all deficits for ever and ever, we could just try making a budget and monitoring what happens in order to decide what best to do next year, as Chancellors have always done in the past.

    In short, we could drop the idea that deficit reduction is a quasi-religious belief, a kind of quest for the Holy Grail. We could condemn Labour for their record of intolerance, authoritarianism, illegal war, inadequate financial control, etcetera, and then leave it at that. We could decide that just because Labour put up alternative (though admittedly, not properly spelt out) proposals on reducing the deficit, that doesn’t mean we have to make the knee-jerk reaction that whatever our opponents suggest must automatically be wrong.

    We could grow up a bit. And we could get our own voice back.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 15th Sep '10 - 6:17pm

    “As I recall, Osborne and IDS were claimed to be at each others throats by a back bencher, which was denied in the house by Osborne in a statement. Hardly publicly at loggerheads?”

    It seems pretty public to me:
    “Iain Duncan Smith has said he “simply doesn’t recognise” the figure of £4bn the Chancellor indicated will be cut from Britain’s benefits bill.”

  • @George Kendall

    Just a quick response. We don’t need a further world crisis, the coalition policies are all that is needed.

  • @Anthony Aloysius St: And I quote from the article:
    “He played down press reports of stand-up rows with Mr Osborne over the DWP’s budget, telling MPs they should not believe everything they read in newspapers.”
    “Mr Duncan Smith said that Mr Osborne had never stated this figure in public and it was not one that he, Duncan Smith, “recognised”. “He himself did not quote that figure,” Mr Duncan Smith told the committee. Downing Street said Mr Osborne had not said £4bn but had, rather, said “several billion”.
    He told the Work and Pensions Committee: “Any other figure that references the Spending Review I obviously clearly can’t confirm because I’ll be quite honest with the committee, we haven’t reached any conclusions about this at all. Not at all.”
    Perhaps you should read the article you reference, as opposed to the headline and first paragraph?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 15th Sep '10 - 7:40pm


    Yes, I did read the article, and it says quite clearly that Osborne did give the figure of £4 billion to Nick Robinson.

    I’d say that as battles between cabinet colleagues go, this one is being played out pretty publicly.

  • @ Daniel Furr- I’m sorry but this article is really quite poor. It reads a little like a classroom “spot the logical fallacies” exercise; I see unsubstantiated claims dressed up in emotive terms, an army of straw men, sweeping generalisations.

    Moreover, the overall argument is a foolish one. If the media are indeed exaggerating the unease Lib Dems feel at being in a coalition with the Tories (let’s not mince our words though, though it may not exist on the scale some would like, there IS unease), let them. So long as the coalition’s “enemies” (as you so charmingly put it), feel this is the coalition’s Achilles’ heel, the coalition has nothing to fear. One cannot exploit a weakness that doesn’t exist.

    Not only this, but it is in the Lib Dems’ long-term strategic interest not to hug the coalition too tightly. If the Liberal Democrats become immersed too fully in the Conservative Party, it won’t be long until the Lib Dems are forced to give up their independence to form an electoral pact (if not a merger) with the Tories. Besides this, any fool can see that the major reason the Lib Dem negotiating team managed to get the concessions they did is because they were in a strong negotiating position; they had the option to walk away from the Tories if the terms of the coalition agreement didn’t suit them. If your overly tribal strategy (already being pursued by the likes of Clegg) catches on, the Liberal Democrats will be in a much much weaker position come the next election.

  • Mike(the Labour one) 15th Sep '10 - 8:05pm

    @George Kendall: “Are you sure? Weren’t their warnings about a double-dip recession in response to the budget, and specifically the VAT rise? For a good overview of the comparative insignificance of those £5.7bn cuts, have a look at the graphs on 4, 5 and 6 of the IFS budget briefing. http://www.ifs.org.uk/budgets/budgetjune2010/tetlow.pdf

    They’ve all said that to withdraw government stimulus and cut too early would be harmful. They all agreed with Labour- even in Will Hutton’s pre-election piece where he argued for having Nick Clegg leading a Lib-Lab government he said it should be a measured rather than an immediate process of cuts.

    “Re Cable’s and Clegg’s shift in position on timing, I have little more to say, other than suggest folk read Vince Cable’s detailed response on this.”

    It shouldn’t be a response. He should have told the voters- he and Nick Clegg should have allowed their views to be challenged rather than pretending to agree with Labour until hours after the vote. They’ve belatedly said they changed their minds before the election because of events starting as early as March. This cannot be forgiven, especially if it sends us into another period of low or negative growth.

    “It depends which position you are referring to.”

    The position Labour fought the election on- the position that they hold until further notice. So what if Darling wanted to raise VAT but was over-ruled? The OBR report I quoted took into account what Labour intended to do, not what individuals wanted but couldn’t get past the party. And it showed that Labour’s plan was hawkish enough to meet George Osborne’s own election pledge. I sympathise with the idea that it was itself unnecessarily hawkish- but it blows out of the water the idea that Labour wasn’t serious about the deficit.

    “Clearly, we’ll have to agree to disagree. While I might prefer to slow the pace down a little, I see the choice as between the pain of a quick pace, and the risks of still having a structural deficit going into the next downturn, along with an enormous debt.”

    And I see it as a pace so quick that it will bring the next downturn forward, necessitating even deeper cuts in the future. In common with most of the country including most Tory voters.

    Your party thought early cuts were necessary- but they said the opposite to voters. They chose not to air their arguments, instead of trying to persuade people they chose to mislead. And then for months you were all pretending it was a compromise with the Tories. Well that turned out to be a lie, but you’re all so cowed you’re willing to pretend you always held that position. You won’t be forgiven when this goes tits up.

  • @Anthony Aloysius St: Because it was leaked by a back bencher, not because they’re having a shouting match. That is the only reason at all that this issue is in the public eye. They’re both publicly denying they are having some sort of disagreement. This exactly confirms my statement of how cabinet responsibility and leaking to back benchers works. What on earth is the point you are trying to prove here?
    For the record, here’s a direct repeat of what I said before:
    “Perhaps it also bears pointing out that a government in the UK speaks with one voice, while dissent is made clear through back benchers”

  • Anthony Aloysius St 15th Sep '10 - 9:28pm


    The article I quoted has nothing to do with leaks by a backbencher. Osborne gave a figure to a senior BBC journalist, who then reported it, and Duncan Smith is publicly denying that it’s correct.

    If you want to believe it’s all a mistake (or a deliberate lie) on Nick Robinson’s part, that’s up to you, but I think you’re being breathtakingly naive. Or perhaps just “trying to prove a point”?

  • David Allen 15th Sep '10 - 9:44pm
  • Grammar Police 15th Sep '10 - 10:02pm

    @ MacK

    “The electorate voted overwhelmingly for Labour’s manifesto in 1997, 2001 and 2005. In 2010 they did not vote overwhelmingly either for the Tories or the Lib Dems. ”

    Er, no, they didn’t – in 1997 43% backed Labour; 30ish% backed the Tories; 16.8 for the Lib Dems
    In 2001, it was 40.7% to 31.7% to 18.3%
    In 2005, it was 35.2 to 32.4% to 22%

    In none of those elections could it really be said that people voted “overwhelmingly” for Labour.

    In 2010, 36.1% voted for the Tories; 29% for Labour and 23% for Lib Dems.

    If I accepted your argument, people voted “overwhelmingly” for the Conservative manifesto in 2010.

  • @Anthony Aloysius St: Again I ask, what is the point you are trying to prove here? You quoted me responding to David Allen’s remark on my remark on Cabinet responsibility. He asserted that IDS and Osborne were not keeping to the rules. I provided evidence to the contrary, that the issue was in the public eye because of leaks and not because the two were making public arguments against one another, and he conceded the point with good grace.
    As you now seem to be refocusing whatever argument you are trying to make around the £4bn figure, IDS in that article is pointing out that the governments position is that Osborne used the phrase several billions, and didn’t give it a specific number, and that nothing is set in stone until the results of the spending review are released. Downing street also claims the same thing, so again they seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. The video embedded on the BBC’s article here:
    on the subject also has him saying “several”, but I assume that its been edited for whatever reason.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 16th Sep '10 - 12:29am


    Sorry – don’t really have time to go round the mulberry bush much more. Unless you think the BBC made up the figure of £4 billion, it’s really pretty simple – Osborne said something to the BBC, the BBC reported it, and Duncan Smith is now saying it’s not correct. That’s a public disagreement about policy.

    If you think the BBC is making the figure up for some reason, fair enough, but otherwise I don’t understand your difficulty in getting the point.

  • @Anthony Aloysius St: Again, the position of IDS as laid out in the article you linked to and of Downing street generally is that he said no such thing. Osborne’s spokesperson also claims that he didn’t put a number on it and the video the BBC put out has him saying “several” and not £4bn. The government’s position has been consistent on this and IDS went out of his way today to quash rumours of a cabinet rift, although clearly his language was insufficient to the task.
    I’m more than willing to believe that Osborne mentioned £4bn outside of the interview, but that isn’t what’s on the record as it stands, and nor does it undermine my point that members of the cabinet have not publicly declared opposition for each others policies. Please, direct me to public statements from either of them that state otherwise, as the only source you’ve provided so far has IDS saying there is no rift.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 16th Sep '10 - 8:54am


    You seem to be suggesting that even if a minister tells a journalist something, and the journalist reports it, it doesn’t “count” unless there’s a camera rolling so that you can watch his lips on YouTube. I’m afraid that’s just plain silly.

  • @ Andrew Tennant. @ Grammar Police.

    I accept your observations on share of the vote but all previous General Elections were held under the First Past the Post System so share of the vote is irrelevant in terms of mandate. The Blue and Orange Tories did not pass the finishing post. The paltry number of parliamentary seats seats you Lib Dems won does not give you the right to force any of your policies down our throats. But even that is not the basis for the claim that you have grabbed power illegitimately. You campaigned on a false prospectus. You did not campaign to increase VAT; in fact, you warned us of a Tory VAT bombshell! You did not campaign to escalate and deepen the reduction of the structural deficit: Vince Cable actually warned about the dangers of stopping the treatment when the patient was in intensive care! You did not campaign to slash billions and billions off the welfare benefit budget and make the poorest and the most vulnerable pay for the gross negligence of the bankers. You did not campaign to put a cap on immigration; in fact, you promised to grant citizenship rights to nearly half a million asylum seekers. You did not campaign to abolish NHS Direct, Primary Care Trusts and to privatise the NHS. You did not campaign to abolish Building Schools for the Future. You did not campaign to build nuclear power stations. You did not campaign to remove 600,000 children from free school meal eligibility. You did not campaign to abolish the UK Film Council or the Audit Commission. I could go on and on.
    Of course governments modify their manifesto commitments over the course of a parliament but the Orange Tories reneged on and abandoned their manifesto commitments within weeks of grabbing power and astonishingly agreed to implement their antitheses!
    Because of your false prospectus many Labour voters who normally would not have touched you with a barge pole were inveigled into voting for you. You massively deceived them. That is why the referendum on AV will now give disillusioned voters the opportunity to vote on the coalition’s appalling policies, and, in particular, your opportunism, your power grabbing, and your betrayal.

  • John Bagnall 16th Sep '10 - 12:30pm

    It is perfectly true that Lib Dems need to fight back. Unfortunately, the people in the firing line should be the leaders of the party who have betrayed supporters like me who have voted Lib Dem at all levels for 40 years in order to defeat the illiberal elements in British politics, represented mostly by the Conservative party. Now that the aforesaid leaders have gone into a coalition with the forces of big business and unearned wealth, the party will hardly survive the next election and is no longer worth voting for. Indeed, it does not deserve to survive. After this I need to shift my votes to a really progressive party – any suggestions?

  • Will you be as excited about kicking 800,000 people off incapacity benefits as you are about taking 800,000 people out of income tax?

  • I have to say I have a lot of sympathy with the sentiments expressed by @MacK. As a LibDem supporter the party manifesto set out many policies that I wholeheartedly supported. These policies embodied a philosphy that I am sympathetic to. I didn’t suddenly stop supporting that position after the election. Coalition was a pragmatic decision. I am pleased that some Lib Dem policies are being enacted. But most of the agenda I didn’t vote for and don’t agree with, otherwise I’d have voted Tory. The lack of Lib Dems publically seeking to put critical distance between the party and the parts of the agenda they had previously disagreed with is both somewhat surprising and deeply disappointing. To be complicit in osborne’s sadistic class war is deeply distasteful.

  • David Allen 16th Sep '10 - 1:29pm

    George Kendall,

    “I agree that cuts in science, higher education and transport infrastructure will harm growth. But in most departments, I think the effects on growth will be limited.”

    You’ve picked out the government spending areas which business lobbies in favour of. For example, transport costs affect competitiveness. So if United Widgets can get the government to build a motorway betwen Widget City and the nearest port, UW get free help in reducing their costs and incraesing their profits. Well, bully for them, but that doesn’t prove they have really picked the spending areas that matter most to the national economy. How about preventative health spending which reduces national sickness rates? Well, business people won’t see that as something which helps their own companies, it’s too widespread and too nebulous. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

    Again, you say “higher education”. Yes, that’s down to business using discounted cash flow, isn’t it. Spend money to produce a smarter graduate, and he/she’s working for you in a couple of years. Spend that money on five-year olds, and your firm is out of business before the little blighters grow up into workers. This could be why primary education is under-funded and universities over-funded, to the long term detriment of the nation. The business lobby does more harm that is generally appreciated!

  • David Allen 16th Sep '10 - 1:59pm

    George Kendall,

    Now a more general answer to your post. If we were operating in the Coalition in the way that you want us to operate, or that Matthew Huntbach and many others advocate, then things would be a great deal better. But we aren’t.

    It would be nice to be able to argue that we are making Tory-led government a little better than it would be without us, because if that were so, it could be a valid justification for what we are doing. But all the evidence is that the opposite is the case. As Tebbit puts it, the Lib Dems provide “cover” which enables Cameron to move further and faster to the Right than he would have been able to do with a one-party majority government.

    Too many Lib Dems are clinging to false hopes. Maybe the bloodcurdling language of cuts is just a sham to con the markets, and cuddly George Osborne is only kidding how bad it will be. Maybe tomorrow Cable will get his graduate tax. Maybe tomorrow Trident will get postponed and people will give us the credit, even though Osborne has explained that it is his search for expenditure cuts that is driving this issue. Maybe when Clegg gets more administrative help he will get the time to argue for moderation.

    Maybe. Do you believe it? The public don’t.

  • Go out today buy a copy of the Times, read Clegg’s language about people on benefits and weep for the Liberal party.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 16th Sep '10 - 3:30pm

    Interesting to see Labour level with the Conservatives for the first time for several years, according to a new Ipsos-MORI poll (37, 37, 15). Another interesting finding is that the percentage of Tory supporters who are satisfied with Clegg’s performance is significantly larger than the percentage of Lib Dem supporters who are satisfied. Of course, that statistic excludes those who voted Lib Dem in May but don’t now support the party (about a third of Lib Dem voters, according to this survey):

  • ACunningPlan 17th Sep '10 - 10:43am

    Good piece, Daniel.

    There seems to be a sad bunch of Labour trolls more interested in trying to talk down the Coalition than offering this country an Opposition. Pathetic. Nit-picking about what was democratically mandated is very rich indeed from that totalitarian bunch of pseudo socialists. The fact is that the Coalition is the result of a democratic process and the Coalition Agreement was the best of both Parties manifestos. The Coalition has survived much longer than detractors had hoped and will last the term regardless of what a few deflated Labour supporters think.

    You are right Daniel to remind us that we do have to be more robust in our dealings with Labour. Labour are bitter that we pulled off a deal with the Tories and jealous of the power we now have to deliver Liberal Democrat policy. In 1997 I actually believed Labour pledges during the election to reform Parliament. What a lie and disapointment that was. No House of Lords reform bar the loss of a few hereditary peers. No electoral reform. No member accountability. A gerrymandering of electoral boundaries to favour them. The cash for peerage scandal. The expenses scandal. The attempt to cover up these two scandals. Etc…

    Don’t let Labour lecture us on democracy!

  • Listing scandals of the last government does not make the current government any better. What about aligning ourselves with a US government with a poor record on human rights? Show me the money.

    And, for the record, I have never voted Labour

  • Sorry to be pernickety, but it is we Liberals not us Liberals

  • Chris Gilbert 19th Sep '10 - 11:18am

    I thought this humorous video put it best:


    So yes, it might be a coalition – but one partner is rather a lot more ‘junior’ than the other. It’s nice feeling important for awhile, but we need to realise we make a magnificent scapegoat. What is the tory’s end game? They don’t need us to enact their own policies. They need us to provide cover whilst they trash the public sector.

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