Opinion: we can not allow ourselves to be used as scapegoats by the Tories

It was an amazing coincidence that Lady Warsi’s interview on BBC2’s Newsnight spoke so lamentably about the state of the coalition the evening before YouGov put the Tories 11 points behind Labour. The Conservative Party chairman without hesitation accused us of being immature and failing to accept collective responsibility within the coalition.

Patrick Wintour’s article in yesterday’s Guardian  highlights the despicable manner in which Lady Warsi, as a cabinet member showed no loyalty to her coalition partners by putting the boot in as soon as the going got tough and the Tories started struggling in the opinion polls.

The whole episode could easily have been interpreted as the Tories looking for a scapegoat in advance of the poll results becoming public to calm the rabid right wing in their party. This is not good politics when in the cold light of day you realise that we still have 3 years remaining of a coalition government before the next General Elections in 2015.

Apart from attacking Tim Farron, Warsi even went on to criticise Vince Cable, for expressing unease about the reduction in tax relief for charitable donations. “I actually think if you agree something, you are collectively bound to that agreement and therefore you stand by it once that decision has been made,” she said.

So she blames Tim Farron and Vince Cable. Who else might actually be responsible for the Tories’ woes?

Well, Tory MP Douglas Carswell claimed on BBC radio on Monday 16 April  that it was all down to Treasury officials who had been waiting to put through their pet schemes for closing tax loopholes. Fraser Nelson, editor of  The Spectator, also claimed the civil servants were to blame.

It doesn’t stop there. Conservative right-wingers are accusing David Cameron of accepting the European Court of Human Rights judgements on Abu Qatada because he doesn’t want to upset Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems.

We are therefore being blamed for wanting to follow the rule of law and meet our international obligations in safeguarding human rights.

The Qatada case of course goes right to the heart of Tory dissatisfaction with the Liberal Democrats – the natural Tory instinct would be to give Strasbourg the two fingered salute. Strasbourg, of course, previously ruled that Qatada could not be forcibly sent to Jordan because of concerns that their courts will rely on evidence gathered from torture.

What has now made the matter worse is that MPs learned last week that the Sarkozy government had deported two terrorist suspects in defiance of the ECHR. ‘Why can’t we do the same’ they say? ‘It’s all the Liberal Democrats’ fault!’

The Home Secretary, Theresa May will therefore not receive general applause from the Tory right wing with the announcement of fresh attempts to send Abu Qatada back to Jordon. In fact, May can probably expect a bouquet of barbed wire from her  own side.

Warsi blames the Lib Dems of being immature in government. I place the boot squarely on the other foot and say that it is she who shows immaturity and insecurity when the going gets tough for the Tories. She has irresponsibly sown the seeds of distrust through attacking in a public forum her coalition partners and colleagues with whom she has been entrusted to co-operate with for the remainder of this coalition government.

* Issan Ghazni is Chair of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and former National Diversity Adviser for the Liberal Democrats. Issan blogs here

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  • I must say I cheered when I read this reported in the press this morning. The more the Tories say about us being thorns in their side, the easier it is for us to get across our message of differentiation and moderation.


    Criticising Warsi is missing the whole point of how to operate within the coalition, in my very humble opinion.

  • Didn’t you already learn this from the AV referendum debacle? They are not your friends. I despair when I see the likes of David Laws seeming to advocate hugging the Tories ever closer.

  • David Allen 18th Apr '12 - 7:19pm

    The stock response from the Tories when a Lib Dem steps slightly out of line, as Cable did over tax relief and charities, is to claim that it has all long ago been agreed by the Lib Dems in the Cabinet, and that the Lib Dems are being deceitful weasels who are disgracefully failing to maintain the proper standards of collective Cabinet responsibility. Unfortunately, the public probably mostly believe that it is true. Certainly there have been times when the independent commentators have also taken the view that the LDs are just posturing for the cameras, and have no real intention of getting policy changed.

    I suspect that wasn’t true of Cable, and it isn’t always true of Clegg either. However, until we find a clearer way to differentiate ourselves – a really serious row which leaves blood on the carpet, for example – we won’t convince the public that we really mean business.

  • Should the title of this piece have “again” or “any longer!” added to it? As a once loyal Liberal voter (yes all that time way, way back) I still cannot reconcile myself with seeing this party almost constantly being used as the publicity front for the coalition. I understand that it’s important to be seen as an active part of the coalition but does it have to be that Danny A and Nick C have to defend, at times, what seems like the indefensible? If the conservative portion of the government don’t have the conviction to stand in front of a camera or Paxman and sell a policy that is blatantly of their origin then why should one of the Lib Dem MPs?

    I have been asked to get out and knock on doors, for the first time since I was 18 I have refused. I have not refused because I feel that the party has been misguided in becoming a part of the coalition (although It does not sit easily with me), I have not refused because I don’t accept the current leadership (and I don’t but we got here through rules I supported so be it) I am refusing because the parliamentary representatives we have look like opportunists, everything the party said it wouldn’t do before the election, the old politics, the agreeing with conservative policy almost without question and then backtracking when the grass roots or populace get uneasy, policy that was categorically derided at every stage of the 2010 election run up. One thing that never ceases to make me proud is the way we work at a local level, and work we do, hard work, genuine graft and connection with people, supporters and possible converts alike and I’m sorry to say that we have let that side of the party down. Just how badly awaits to be seen, but I will tell you that the feeling and comments I get from my associates is that we are fiddling while Rome burns.

  • Stephen Donnelly 18th Apr '12 - 10:26pm

    Coalitions are always going to be difficult to maintain during elections, and given the chance, we can give as a good as we get. However I don’t understand why we do not have a right of reply on the BBC programmes such as Newsnight and the World at One. As things stand the Tories and Labour seem to be able to take free shots at us during debates where we are not represented. Perhaps this could form the basis of a complaint ?

  • Stephen DonnellyApr 18 – 10:26 pm…… However I don’t understand why we do not have a right of reply on the BBC programmes such as Newsnight and the World at One. Perhaps this could form the basis of a complaint ?…………..

    What ‘right of reply’? Most of the time, in the media, it’s our leadership supporting/justifying Tory policies.

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