Opinion:We’re in government – get used to it

Consulting my calendar recently, I was astonished to see that I visited the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election for the first time on 17th and 18th November. A long time ago. I don’t mention this to boast (oh, all right I do!) but to highlight that the Liberal Democrat campaign started in earnest very early. I remember wistfully that “GUILTY” tabloid – that word in red dominating the front page in size 94 font (I think). A classic of understatement.

My return for a couple of days at the beginning of last week confirmed that our campaign was as good as a LibDem by-election campaign gets. We did all the right things. Spare a thought for all those who worked extremely long hours, often in very cold conditions, and who really did put their heart and guts into the campaign. I for one want to thank them for their hard work and enormous passion, and thank Elwyn for putting his livelihood on the line to fight for a principle.

Tim Farron and Paul Walter in OldhamOne thing we can say is that the OES campaign this time was nothing like May 2010 and nothing like the Littleborough and Saddleworth 1995 by-election. There was no really dirty campaigning. Goodness me why could that be? It couldn’t, par chance, be due to the absence in the campaigning arena of one Philip James Woolas, could it? It would seem so. Ding dong the witch is dead.

So, if we fought such a fantastic campaign, why did Labour still hold the seat. Well, full marks to them, they played political card number 552: If you’re in the mire, get a female candidate on a white charger. But basically we, the Liberal Democrats are in government. That’s what all our work over decades has been for, funnily enough. You can’t be in government and get the protest vote!

Which brings me to comments about Nick Clegg nodding at David Cameron’s remarks on Prime Minister’s Question Time on a post on LDV earlier this week. Temperamentally my stomach also turns at the vision of Clegg acting as Flashman’s fag. But he’s Deputy Prime Minister! If he doesn’t wholeheartedly agree with most of what the Prime Minister says, he shouldn’t be in that job, and we shouldn’t be in the government.

Oh, and as to those comments (against Tim Farron’s earlier post) about our vote not collapsing in OES only because we got Tory tactical votes: for goodness sake, we spend our lives campaigning for a better voting system so we can get second preference votes. It’s a bit daft to reject such votes under the current system.

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59 Comments

  • I’d prefer political analysis to witless cheerleading to be honest.

    If you can’t see the mess we have got ourselves into, you simply aren’t looking. We have managed coalitions well in local government and in Scotland because we held onto our own identity and worked together with the Tories or Labour in the interest of our electors. This basic lesson has been lost, simply because we have a leader who is incapable of anything other than a cheesy smile and a cheesier soundbite: ie we don’t really have a leader at all.

    When we see our boys on the front bench braying in support of NHS cuts, slaughtering of schools and betraying of students it makes my stomach turn. They simply don’t know any better.

  • Dave Warren 17th Jan '11 - 8:32pm

    I was very uneasy about the coalition being formed i now take the view that it is a
    reality and supporting the party in the May elections is the priority.

    The OES result was much better than expected and proved that where we campaign
    hard the support is there.

    The party has to decide on some key messages focusing on why we are in the coalition,
    the Lib Dem achievements from being in it and why electing a Lib Dem representative
    makes a difference.

  • Was very interested in the comments below from today’s DT which I think illustrates the strains and differences within the coalition.

    ‘In an interview in 2006 Mr Cameron said: ‘The suggestion for the massive extension of paternity leave owes a bit more to political correctness than the realities of life. It could be very disruptive, particularly to small business.’

    ‘Mr Clegg said the Government would press ahead in April with Labour’s plans to allow new parents to share up to six months of maternity leave.

    ‘But Downing Street yesterday stressed that the new proposals would not be introduced until 2015 – and could even be delayed beyond the election planned for that year.’

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1348026/Coalition-rift-family-Clegg-infuriates-Tory-Right-saying-shouldnt-preach-marriage.html#ixzz1BKK44V1R

  • @ Dave Warren
    Is one of the ‘achievements’ taking away the mobility part of DLA for those in care homes? Just one example of our great and good coalition against the disabled. I have got your key messages and I see you now.

  • Daniel Russell 17th Jan '11 - 9:11pm

    I would like to say in response to all those comments about ‘borrowed’ Tory votes in OE&S, we have often won seats on ‘borrowed’ (or what have been called up to now – tactical) Labour votes. The whole point is to change the electoral system so that no-one has to borrow votes from anyone else. The final irony for Labour is that if the system doesn’t change and those ‘borrowed’ Labour votes return to Labour in the south at the next election, the most likely outcome is a Tory government.

  • The argument that LibDems are suffering unpopularity because they are in government and taking tough decisions seems to ignore the fact that the Conservatives still enjoy healthy poll ratings (little changed since the election although they’re starting to slip a bit now).

    Whatever the reasons, it seems quite apparent that the Conservatives are getting the credit for any good things the coalition have done whilst LibDems are being punished for things that aren’t popular (the cuts, EMA, NHS changes, etc). Maybe this is unfair, maybe it’s all the fault of the nasty press but, at present, that seems to be the trend. It’s not a case of “getting used to it”, it’s a case of changing the policy or improving the presentation of the LibDem role in the coalition – preferably both. I don’t see that happening under Clegg, however.

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 17th Jan '11 - 9:35pm

    “Maybe this is unfair, maybe it’s all the fault of the nasty press but, at present, that seems to be the trend. It’s not a case of “getting used to it”, it’s a case of changing the policy or improving the presentation of the LibDem role in the coalition – preferably both.”

    I think it’s just a question of this being a Tory-dominated government, and as a result generally doing things that Tory voters tend to like and Lib Dem voters tend to loathe. So long as you remain in the coalition, you’re essentially stuck with that, so in a sense Paul Walter is right.

  • In governement to throw your handful of soil on the grave of the NHS. Good show !

  • “My return for a couple of days at the beginning of last week confirmed that our campaign was as good as a LibDem by-election campaign gets. We did all the right things.”

    I cannot agree with your analysis. The method was good, the effort was beyond the call of duty in some cases. The political content of the campaign, however, did not ‘cut it’. Elwyn deserved better. Once it was clear that the campaign was going to last beyond early December, the odds were always going to be against us. It demanded a major re-think. The squeeze was well-executed but it was never likely to be enough.

    Talking of re-think, where is the detailed INDEPENDENT analysis of the relative failure of the General Election campaign in half of the Lib Dem target seats? The total luck of the parliamentary arithmetic lottery which gave us a hung parliament , and the consequent Coalition, has apparently made the Lib Dems incredibly complacent.

  • Foregone Conclusion 17th Jan '11 - 10:08pm

    “get a female candidate on a white charger.”

    WAA-WAA-WAA-WAA-WAA! Unfounded sexism alert!

  • Daniel Russell 17th Jan '11 - 10:13pm

    I think that the media and the political class in general are not grown up enough to handle coalition government. Generally, compromise gets reported as betrayal. A party that won 57 out of 650 seats is crucified for not being able to implement all it’s policies in their totality. Nick Clegg gets called ‘A lying whore’ in a column in the Mirror. The Telegraph sends undercover ‘journalists’ to secretly record Lib Dem ministers to find out, ‘quelle surprise’, that they don’t always agree with their Conservative colleagues. The Guardian acts like a jilted lover running story after story of Lib Dem collapse, imminent destruction, betrayal. They are bemused and aghast that members (who may have given a lifetime of service to the party) are not immediately running to Labour’s bosom despite the fact that the Labour party trampled all over civil liberties for 13 years and took part in one of the greatest outrages of modern times, the invasion of Iraq. If you spent just one week exposed to the British media your view of the Lib Dems would be so far from reality that you wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole.

    Therefore against this backdrop, if we are in government we are going to have to toughen up. We have to accept that there will be some difficult times which the responsibility of government often throws up. We have to try and communicate our national successes (income tax threshold changes, pupil premium, no child detention, political reform) better. Through conference and other party structures we have to offer support to the parliamentary party but also not be afraid to check it when necessary. We shouldn’t be scared of disagreeing with our coalition colleagues when we have a different point of view. But as believers in pluralist politics we should also be comfortable in defending the principle of coalition and compromise.

    There will come a time when the easy ride that the Labour party have had in opposition comes to an end as people start to ask – where is the plan? Where is the alternative CSR? Where is the commitment to civil liberties? By that time the Lib Dems need to be in a position to show the electorate what has been achieved under their watch and take credit for it.

    As OE&S taught us we are a still a party of committed activists who are working towards a more liberal and fairer Britain. Now more than ever we need to do what we do best and get out there, knock on doors and serve the wards and constituencies that we represent demonstrating through our actions that we are a party who works hard, a party who can shape policy and is a party worth voting for.

  • Foregone Conclusion 17th Jan '11 - 10:17pm

    By the way, Tony Dawson is also right. I don’t know about the last three or four weeks of campaigning, but I thought that some of the literature we put out before then was pretty ineffective – lots of squeeze message (which obviously worked), a lot of Elwyn grinning and pointing at different bits of Oldham (probably did as well), but overwhelmingly loads of stuff about how Oldham Labour were the spawn of Satan (clearly didn’t). What was really lacking were many positive reasons to vote Lib Dem – instead, the ‘Labour are bastards’ bit would be repeated 3 or 4 times, and there’d be only one article on page 2 about pensions. We can’t shy away from the Coalition – that’s a surefire way of getting slaughtered. Whatever you think of the Coalition overall, there are undoubtedly a lot of Lib Dem policies we campaigned on being implemented, and we should run confidently on those as well as the other stuff.

  • Daniel Russell 17th Jan '11 - 10:23pm

    I also agree with @ Tony Dawson that we need to have a proper inquest into the relative failure of the General
    Election. I don’t think we have necessarily been complacent but I think with all the preoccupation with coalition building that has gone on this fundamental time for naval gazing has been neglected. I would like some independent analysis as to why didn’t more seats fall our way. It wasn’t only the discrepancies in our electoral system which are to blame. Also, could more preparation have been done to prepare us for a hung parliament which had seemed likely for some months before polling day.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 17th Jan '11 - 10:34pm

    So this is being in government … hmmm.

    I think it would be more accurate to say that some of our MPs have accepted the trappings of office without any real power, I wish them joy of it:, while it lasts, but I would advise them not to get too used to it.

    Dave Warren, when you find out why electing a Liberal Democrat representative makes a difference, please let me know. At the moment, i cannot think of a reason for voting LibDem in the May elections: much less for campaigning to try to persuade others to do so.

    Paul, I think you hit the nail in your penultimate paragraph. This Libdem does not wholeheatedly agree with most of what the Prime Minister says; he does not even agree half-heartedly with more than a small fraction thereof. And that’s one reason why I have no wish to “get used” to the sight of the LibDem leader occupying the illustrious position formerly held by such political icons as Willie Whitelaw and John Prescott. It would be funny if it were not so tragic.

  • @John “Whatever the reasons, it seems quite apparent that the Conservatives are getting the credit for any good things the coalition have done whilst LibDems are being punished for things that aren’t popular (the cuts, EMA, NHS changes, etc). Maybe this is unfair, maybe it’s all the fault of the nasty press but, at present, that seems to be the trend. It’s not a case of “getting used to it”, it’s a case of changing the policy or improving the presentation of the LibDem role in the coalition – preferably both. I don’t see that happening under Clegg, however.”

    The Conservatives are getting credit from Conservative voters for implementing Conservative ideology and policy, hence why their vote is holding up.

    The Lib Dems don’t appear to be holding back Tory ideology on key issues, the economy, public services and the NHS, hence why their poll rating is slipping, like it or not, the Lib Dems attracted a lot of left of centre and student support and a lot of those voters don’t like what they’re seeing, the Lib Dems must grow some backbone and tackle this head on from within government.

    Had they gone into a coalition with Labour and acted the same way, not opposing what their centre right voters disliked passionately, the same thing would have happened, the big hope with the Lib Dems was that they would curtail the extremist ideology of whomever they partnered with, they don’t appear to be doing that.

  • “A party that won 57 out of 650 seats is crucified for not being able to implement all it’s policies in their totality.”

    Where is the evidence for this delusion? It seems like a great defence against an imaginary attack. The only four attacks which have really hit home have been about (a) tuition fees (b) rate of deficit reduction (and consequences of over-reduction) (c )VAT and (d) Trust/ difference from other parties as projected in our highly-effective PPB. The last of these is by far the worst for us – possibly only outweighed by the inability of some Lib Dem MPs to recognise the reality of what people think on the subject and why. The VAT attack is both a misrepresentation and a diversion from Labour’s plans but it has still been quite effective.

    In any negotiation, you do not have to sign up to stupid things unless you have gained more-than-balancing good things in exchange. Where are these ‘balancing’ things in the agreement which the Tories did not want? And why are we signing up to stupid wasteful expensive things like the Gove schools reorganisation and the ludicrous NHS proposals? Meanwhile, we allow Pickles to offer up local government as a sacrifice which places valuable services well below ‘pet projects’ of little worth in the pecking order?

  • @Daniel Russell who said: ‘The Telegraph sends undercover ‘journalists’ to secretly record Lib Dem ministers to find out, ‘quelle surprise’, that they don’t always agree with their Conservative colleagues.’

    I think there is a difference between colleagues saying in a civilised manner that there are times they don’t agree. I think anyone who used the nasty language used by some of the LibDem Ministers that is a whole new ball game. And as for Cable’s nuclea option and his very serious comments about the Murdoch deal, well it got him sacked and knows he’s impotent just waiting on the chop.

    @Daniel Russel also stated: ‘if we are in government we are going to have to toughen up’. All I can say is gawd help the poor and disadvantaged in our society – you really don’t get it do you – you don’t understand why the public hate you. I also question that pupil premium is a success in terms of the way the money is moved and child detention’s been stopped – Has it or is the name just going to be changed after May.

    @Daniel Russell who stated: ‘Also, could more preparation have been done to prepare us for a hung parliament which had seemed likely for some months before polling day.’ I think there was a lot of preparation going on but I don’t think anyone outwith a close Clegg clique were involved and most defintely not ordinary party members. As I have said before it will all come out in the wash when memoirs and diaries are published – probably after the next GE when a host of ex-LibDem MPs and Ministers need to raise a few shekhels.

  • Nick (not Clegg) says: “At the moment, i cannot think of a reason for voting LibDem in the May elections: much less for campaigning to try to persuade others to do so.”

    Funnily-enough, i find quite the opposite. We have excellent Liberal campaigners in thousands of seats all over the country (of course some are not up to the mark but I imagine they’re the minority). Why should errors made or dissatisfaction with things going on in a national parliament, hundreds of miles away distract you from working to help get decent people elected locally, despite the handicap of national events impinging on their chances?

  • An excellent piece, Paul.

  • Black Triangle 17th Jan '11 - 11:52pm

    @Daniel Russel:
    As OE&S taught us we are a still a party of committed activists who are working towards a more liberal and fairer Britain.

    ——

    There’s that phrase again, “liberal and fair”. Does this extend to the very illiberal and unfair changes to the benefits system for genuinely disabled people? Thousands of disabled people will soon be losing DLA which for many and, as a disabled person myself, is a lifeline. People such as myself will now have no other option than staying inside and losing what little social lives we have due to the removal of the mobility component. My life will become even more isolated, depressing and painful. A very regressive move indeed. Your plans to remove benefits from disabled people, who have a partner working, after one year are supposedly fair in your eyes as well. Applied to my condition, losing my benefit would mean my partner would have to leave her job to care for me. Which means we fall deeper into poverty and the deficit isn’t really helped, either. These plans are not only cruel, but haven’t been thought out properly. And, again, you support these anti-disabled policies of the Tories.

    I would also like to point your attention to the disgusting way in which the media – and mainstream politicians such as your very own Mr. Clegg – have vilified the sick and disabled since coming to power. Cameron and Osborne have both stopped making distinctions between genuinely ill people and “scroungers” on many occasions. The LibDems, who used to defend us, have now fallen into line and treat us as poorly as Labour and the Tories. I see it as no coincidence that the media has been scapegoating us even worse than normally (since we are easy targets for cuts). Most of us cannot fight back and of course every “hard-working family” and members of “alarm clock Britain resents people like me, while Clegg seems to say he does as well. Disabled hate crime is up, too, so you’ve got that going for you. Many disabled people are living in fear right now and the government are making them feel worthless and as if they are nothing more than a burden on society.

    And your party, who promised to defend people like us, support all this. Either that our you’re just keeping quiet which is even worse. We expect this crap from the Tories, but not from you. Now who do we vote for? Oh that won’t matter to you when we’re losing our homes and our families are torn apart so you can appear tough to the tabloids and please the all-mighty markets.

    Thanks for nothing.

  • @ Black Triangle

    No one can understand what we go through each time government starts disable bashing, it is bad enough trying to live day by day with illness but to then be vilified by government and society just adds more and more stress.
    You are correct I have seen more and more hostility towards disabled, it is quite a frightening experience, it is sad when it is because of government propaganda.
    And yes many of us are in that position if we lost our DLA would be stuck indoors.

    http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com/2010/06/dla-clearing-up-confusion.html

  • You wereonce in government in Scotland, now you are less popular than the Tories there
    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/2987

    Come May, if you end up with little representation in the Scottish Parliament then you will lose any claim to being a national party (just as the Tories have become an English party). This would be bad for everybody, not just yourselves.

  • Great article.

    Biazarre comments from various (allegedly) disabled people. How does having to go through a medical examination to show to actualy are entitled to money count as ‘disabled bashing’?
    Or should we just take people’s workd for it and hand out the money anyway?

  • Dave Warren 18th Jan '11 - 9:47am

    @Anne i might take on board your comments if they didn’t misrepresent what i said.

    I support the Lib Dems and i would like them to have won a majority but they didn’t so
    we have a coalition.

    That said i don’t support every single policy and where i disagree with a policy i have
    made that known.

    You will never find a party who you agree with 100% but where i live the Lib Dems are
    the best campaigners and hardest working councillors.

    For that reason i will campaign for them.

    I wonder which party you will support?

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Jan '11 - 10:09am

    matt

    The Problem is, Liberal Democrats should have gained more out of the coalition agreement, They should have told the Tories F**K you, we got 23% of the vote, Sure we only get 57 seats. But 23% of this country elected us to participate in government, and that 23% is going to cost XX-YY

    This would have been somewhat easier to do had

    1) The Labour Party won enough seats to make a Labour/LibDem coalition viable.

    2) The Labour Party shown any willingness to form such a coaltion.

    3) Nick Clegg and those around him not made the hash they did of our election campaign.

    On point 1) here, the message we could be putting across is that this is exactly what all those in Labour who oppose proportional representation (please note, those who sign up to NO2AV are just an extreme version – anyone in Labour who would only go as far as AV is not much better, so that includes MOST of the Labour Party) in effect want. They claim it is better to have an electoral system which distorts representation to make it more likely that one party gets an overall majority in Parliament than it is to have one where Parliament reflects the proportion of votes cast which means a coalition situation is more likely. “Very well”, we SHOULD be saying to Labour “you support distortional representation, so why do you complain about us supporting a Tory government? You say it is better to have one party in absolute control even if it did not get a majority of the votes, so why moan about the situation when that is nearly the case? By the logic of what you say, which is that you support the electoral system on the grounds it usually gives an absolute majority to whatever is the largest party, which was the Conservatives in 2010, surely your main objection should be that we LibDems have some influence”. If there had been proportional representation in 2010, there would have been many more LibDem MPs and many fewer Conservative MPs, giving us hugely more influence in the coalition. There would also have been enough Labour MPs to make give a clear majority to a Labour/LibDem coalition. So let’s push it again and again and again and again – it’s LABOUR’S electoral system which has given us this “Conservative with only a faint tinge of LibDem” government. Labour are BLOODY HYPOCRITES for accusing us of “propping up the Tories” when they support an electoral system which has denied us the power we would have had if there had been fair votes, and they are BLOODY HYPOCRITES even more to accuse us of not doing more to ameliorate what this Conservative government is doing when they explicitly say they support the current electoral system on the grounds they regard any such amelioration as a bad thing.

    On 2), I think Labour’s strategy is very clear – step back, enjoy a period of opposition, run the usual knocking material that Labour runs when they are in opposition, and destroy the third party movement so we can get back to two-party politics. They are looking forward to the time when they have unrestricted majority government with all those pesky LibDems wiped out. They have no interest in exploring cooperation or an alternative coalition, because they aren’t interested in democracy, they are interested in power for themselves and themselves alone. They want the power they had when Blair could take us into war in Iraq and impose his mad obsessive targeting which so demoralised the public sector, and run daft economic policies based on the idea that house prices would be like a perpetual motion machine deriving the economy with no-one much doing any real work, and all his other fads and stupidities, without that getting any serious discussion or thought, because they like the idea of Parliament being as it was under Blair, a rubber stamp for the Leader acting as dictator.

    On 3), this is a crucial one, but of course no-one who has any position in our party dare admit it. If we had seen a steady upwards rise in our poll support during the election, we would have been in a hugely stronger position in coalition negotiations. We would have been the ones saying “If you don’t give us what we want, we’ll pull the plug, have another general election, then we’ll have more MPs and will ask even more”. As it was the other way round, it was clear right at the start that we would be the main losers in any plug-pulling.

    None of this excuses the disastrous handling of the coalition by our leadership since it was formed. We need someone with toughness and a real sense of insight, and a long record of campaigning skills at the grassroots so s/he knows what works and what doesn’t, someone who doesn’t just fall the latest fad because it makes you look clever, and someone who really has their roots in Liberalism and the third party movement so s/he is not easily led to betray it by smooth talkers and the trappings of office. Instead we have Nick Clegg.

  • @SMcG

    When the so called “medical examination” is a complete and utter joke. You only have to look at the rate of successful appeals to see the system is not fit for purpose. Something your own Danny Alexander recognized and campaigned against before his conversion. He was featured in a documentary which I’ve included below, it is well worth a watch.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yop7L95NyIU
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0GiLGDgk0M
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQ8zgGN-zU8

    From my own experience, an assessor described me as as having an “occasional lack of energy and a low mood” when at the time I had been bedbound for a month with crippling pain and fatigue and continued to be so for several months. My specialist’s and my gp’s opinions were disregarded, in favour of this half an hour appointment with someone tapping away at a computer. I had to appeal just to get their opinions taking into consideration. It is all to common to hear of other such horror stories on various disability forums.
    When you are unable to work part-time or at all and are thus highly dependant on the money, the injustice of it all is a great source of stress. Which with me causes my symptoms to worsen.

    The overall fraud rate for Disability Living Allowance is less than 0.5%, compared to the 0.8% of offical error the DWP themselves admit to making. The only benefit with less fraud is the state retirement pension. So it is not widely abused.

    I stupidly thought that the Lib Dems would be fairer on the most vulnerable. That people on these forums would care; would be horrified by what is going on. I have noticed a lot of silence. This is something that all Lib Dems should be truly ashamed of.

    Joe,

  • @ Dave Warren
    The Lib dems are being silent on the issue and even when given a opportunity to discuss it on this forum decline to do so. What conclusion should be drawn from that? Are you and other Lib Dems campaigning to defend us on this? ‘Alarm Clock Britain’ is just another attack on us and those unemployed through no fault of their own, There are not enough jobs for the young and able bodied yet those too sick to work are being found fit in less than an hour ‘assessments’ just so their benefits can be slashed/removed. May I suggest a new slogan? ‘WAKE UP BRITAIN’. before it is too late.
    @SMcg
    “Biazarre comments from various (allegedly) disabled people. How does having to go through a medical examination to show to actualy are entitled to money count as ‘disabled bashing’?
    Or should we just take people’s workd for it and hand out the money anywaye

    You obviously have no idea what is going on and as you appear to believe that we are not disabled what are you inferring? No wonder we are so terrified. Remember that many of us worked for years before we were struck down and it could happen to you and yours. I never dreamed it could happen to me.

    @ Matt
    I despair.

  • There’s a synopsis of the documentary that I linked to on this site http://www.whywaitforever.com/dwpatoscases.html

    I desperately want to hear your opinions on what’s going on. I haven’t heard nearly enough about how this is justifiable, instead there has been a rather embarrassed silence.

    Joe,

  • Daniel Russell 18th Jan '11 - 1:03pm

    I think @ Matthew Huntbach is pretty much on the money especially regarding point 2. This idea that we jilted the Labour party in favour of the Tories is complete nonsense and in fact there are many members of the Labour party that would like nothing more than to see the demise of the Lib Dems. They erroneously believe that they would then sweep up all the votes and march back into Downing street when in fact the most likely outcome would be a Tory majority goverment.
    @EcoJon – You sound just a little bit cynical about anything the Lib Dems will be able to achieve. Why shouldn’t the pupil premium be a success? Why shouldn’t child detention end? Why is raising a substantial group of the population out of income tax something to scoff at? If you are so negative about being able to change anything why be involved in politics? When I refer to the Lib Dems toughening up I do not mean stop listening to people and ignoring criticism just learn to deflect the negative criticism which we have been getting more than our fair share of. In the meantime I am waiting for a plausible alternative solution to the economic mess the country is in. So far all the naysayers seem to be sure that something needs to be done but don’t seem to be able to suggest from which budgets the savings should be made. Bankers bonuses and tax loopholes will only do so much.
    With regard to comments made by Lib Dem ministers to constituents, when you are subjected to a barrage of criticism everyday just for creating a coalition with the Tories, it is somewhat understandable that you will make a robust defence of your differences when you speak to critical constituents. In the case of Cable he obviously went too far and has paid the price for his folly.
    @BlackTriangle I want to live in a society where disabled people are protected and are able to have a good quality of life not just an existence. However, I see nothing wrong in people being assessed for their ability to work. I am open to the accusation that the methods being employed to make this assessment are not satisfactory and I hope that something can be done to reach a satisfactory situation.

  • @ SMcG

    “Biazarre comments from various (allegedly) disabled people. How does having to go through a medical examination to show to actually are entitled to money count as ‘disabled bashing’?
    Or should we just take people’s word for it and hand out the money anyway?”

    I will not repeat what has been already said, but what do you think happens?
    That people say they are sick and are just given the benefit?
    That’s just what the government implies is it not, that’s the impression the public have of us is it not? We are scroungers and fraudsters
    We have medical after medical and then if you are assessed to need it (pre ATOS) you then receive the benefit, but only for a period dependant on your medical assessment, and then you are recalled for a medical to reassess your needs every few years or the time period ends and you have to reapply…

    So no! You do not, just take our word for it; it has never been like that, since it came into being.
    But the ATOS assessments are a different thing altogether, the criteria is not to look after the well being of the person, but to look after the company (UK plc, or ATOS take your pick)

  • @Daniel Russell
    “I want to live in a society where disabled people are protected and are able to have a good quality of life not just an existence. However, I see nothing wrong in people being assessed for their ability to work. I am open to the accusation that the methods being employed to make this assessment are not satisfactory and I hope that something can be done to reach a satisfactory situation.”

    Given that, do you support the cutting of the mobility part of DLA for those who are so disabled that they have to live in a home. This is a loss of £50 a week. DLA has nothing at all to do with ones ability to work.It is not based on whether one is working or not. It is a benefit designed to help with the extra costs of being disabled. That £50 helps to pay for a taxi or a mobility vehicle. It means those in a home can go out once or twice a week or the money is often pooled to fund a day trip.

    This benefit cut does reduce the lot of the most vulnerable, the most disabled to a poor quality of life, existing not only within the confines of their disability but also now their homes.

    Joe,

  • Black Triangle 18th Jan '11 - 4:54pm

    “Biazarre comments from various (allegedly) disabled people. How does having to go through a medical examination to show to actualy are entitled to money count as ‘disabled bashing’?”

    As pointed out above, better than I could have done, you have no idea how humiliating and unfit for purpose the current work capability assessment is. As people have said, the words of your GP and specialists (who know your condition) are no longer really taken into consideration. It is done by someone who does not know you, often knows little about the nuances of disability and does nothing more than tick boxes on a computer programme.

    And to have someone on a LibDem forum accuse me of not being disabled is beyond the pale. How dare you accuse me of faking a disability or posting “bizarre” comments? Your party promised to treat us with the compassion and respect that both Labour and the Tories lack. You now treat us just like them, even worse now with Clegg smearing us all in his “Alarm Clock Britain” article, making the assumption that anyone on benefits is a scrounger and wastrel.

    I say it again: your party has traded compassion for power (like Alexander suddenly changing his mind on ATOS’ assessments) and disabled people like me who looked to you to defend us (like you said you would) will never vote for you again.

    If these changes go through you will see disabled and sick people losing their homes and their only lifelines. People will commit suicide. Have a look on forums for disabled people and see how frightened are dehumanised we are. The New Politics indeed. Heartless, the lot of you.

  • Daniel Russell 18th Jan '11 - 8:47pm

    @Joe I would have to look at what’s being prepared in its entirety to see if the loss of the DLA is being ameliorated in other ways. I certainly would not support its abolition without an adequate substitute to help disabled people with the quality of life issues that you outline. I did not get involved in politics to punish the vulnerable in our society and I hope that even in the times of economic hardship and cuts, there are some areas that are protected as ‘essential’ for the people who rely on them so fundamentally.

  • @Daniel Russell

    Nothing is being done to ameliorate the loss of DLA, the shortfall is expected to be made up by local authorities. I know that you and other Lib Dems did not get involved with politics to punish the most vulnerable that is what this coalition is doing. These cuts are callous and cruel. I cannot comprehend that any liberal would support them.

    Bit more information for you:

    Here’s a report that published around a week ago by a whole host of concerned charities http://www.mencap.org.uk/document.asp?id=20622

    and a fairly good summary from the Grauniad
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jan/12/disability-living-allowance-cuts-charities

    joe,

  • I can only echo all those previous posts regarding the ‘reforms’ of disability benefits, especially those that express dismay at the current attitudes towards the disabled.
    But now I would like to hear SMcG reply to these posts after all he is (allegedly) a compassionate Lib Dem

  • Daniel Russell 19th Jan '11 - 12:08pm

    @ Joe I will happily read the mencap document and even though I am at the moment sceptical about the way stories are being spun by the Guardian, nonetheless will read this link too.

  • @Daniel Russell

    Thankyou, for that I’m grateful.

    Though I am left wondering, where is the outrage? It seems to me that the comments section goes quiet whenever this issue is brought up. The disabled and the most vulnerable are not going to be able to protest this injustice in the streets. I cannot make it to the shops yet alone to London.
    We need people to stand up for us, to stand with us. A year ago that would of been your party, a party of which you had much to be proud. It would of been your mps, your activists, your members up in arms about this cruel and callous cut. I never would of believed that your party would help implement such a policy.

    Yet I hear nothing. The comments are ignored or the board goes silent in favour of wonkish delights. I can only conclude that it is out of shame. Students have been sacrificed, will the severely disabled? For what?

    I was willing to give the coalition the benefit of doubt, but it is truly looking like Faust made the better deal.

    Joe,

  • @Andrew Tennant

    I’ll repeat myself but fraud is not an issue. People confuse IB, ESA and DLA.

    The overall fraud rate for Disability Living Allowance is less than 0.5%, compared to the 0.8% of offical error the DWP themselves admit to making. The only benefit with less fraud is the state retirement pension. So it is not widely abused.

    The points you raise do need to be addressed, but what is your opinion of the cut to the mobility component in DLA for those in homes. Read the report http://www.mencap.org.uk/document.asp?id=20622 as it puts more calmly than I can

    Joe,

  • dave thawley 19th Jan '11 - 1:32pm

    The reason we didn’t collapse in Oldham was that the tories tactically voted for us In reality our core support was 50% lower (number of votes) than in may – and that was after the labour party was ejected from power for cheating and we sent every man and his dog to Oldham to campaign for us. Both of these effects are one-offs. clegg has stuffed our party up good and proper. We are (or were) left of centre – Clegg has now decided to make us right of centre. We are loosing thousands of members. Clegg needs to go before it is too late.

    I am sure some will consider what I am saying about voter rejection over pessimistic. I am pretty convinced that we are going to loose a load of councillors in may as well as loads of councils. The reason is obvious. It is nothing to do with mid term blues. It is just that people voted Lib-dem because they didn’t want labour or Tory and liked us because we made sense and they thought they could trust us. We have now delivered them to the tories. We have lost a million votes at least with the tuition fees and they are not coming back. There are many people who voted to keep the tories out – they are not going to trust us again. Clegg is now seen not just as Cameron’s favourite joke ut is patsy. Our one hope is that those fighting for electoral reform manage to get AV. The best way the lib-dems can help them is to really not say anything about it at all. If we don’t get AV then our party is really finished and I’ll join the fight in another party to oppose us. If I wanted to be in a tory party I would have joined the Tories. Nick making us a little tory party means there is no home for me here so I’ll be off. I am a liberal thinking person. Just because we have ‘liberal’ in our name doesn’t mean that is what our actions are. At the moment we are a sham which has backed up the tories wrecking our education system, (I’m fed up with the ‘what about PP – it will reduce the quality of education for 75% of the normal kids because their funding is being cut to convince those gullible members that we have a policy being implemented.. We are now supporting the thin point of the wedge in the privatisation of the NHS. I didn’t sign up for this and as I’ve said I feel no allegiance to a tory party so if Nick doesn’t either reform his ways and start acting like the person we elected or else just get sacked then I’ll be off and I can watch with a great deal of sadness from the outside as Nick finishes off British liberalism while he laughs all the way to his peerage and a few million in consultancy fees from the rich tory population after he retires as a thank you for services rendered while he sold us all out..

    The evaporation has already started. If things don’t change then within a couple of years Nick will again have majority support – although the party will ne less than half its current size and will pick up no more than 10 seats in the next election – then all those remaining can go and merge with the tory party – lovely, I hope if this scenario is reached, those left enjoy their new home to the right.

    The obvious way out NOW is to have a vote of confidence in Nick. If most people support him then that’s good, if most want him to go then his should – dead simple and democratic.

  • @Andrew Tennant

    You solution sounds reasonable, but as far as I am aware, that is not being proposed at all.
    We can have sympathies either way until the cows come home. Do you support the cut in its present form? Trapping many disabled people in care homes all week, every day; with the consequent effect on their health and quality of life. If not what are you going to do about it?
    I may well be wrong but this is an issue, that I consider to be something the Lib Dems would fight against. Are the severely disabled going to be sacrificed for the “greater good” of the coalition?

    At present the cut will be enacted and the most vulnerable will suffer. It is just wrong.

    Joe,

  • What I see happening is very sad, sick and disabled are the unseen, we all know they exist but we don’t see them, and when it is impossible not to see them they are ignored, if you do not believe that, just go and observe in any busy supermarket.

    The worst thing is when the government decide to stop fraud, or make savings which really means the same thing, yes there are those committing fraud but the government should be catching them and not penalising everyone by suggesting that everyone is scrounging and committing fraud. What the governments are not telling you is we already have to take medical examinations to get benefits; those benefits are not just given on our word that we are sick or disabled.

    But those who are caught defrauding the benefit system are highlighted by the media and then it is assumed to be all sick and disabled are the same.

    I must admit I do think there is abuse of the systems in place for sick and disabled, which may actually makes it look as though more sick and disabled are swinging the lead, I am of course referring to the Blue Badge scheme, many times I have seen people park on the disabled bays, blue badge in windscreen and the hop out and off down the street or into the supermarket at a pace that, well to be honest, beggars belief, I have spoken to one or two who have admitted they are not disabled, but it is convenient to use mum or dads or friends Blue Badge, it is quite a common occurrence, it is of course against the law and conditions of the Blue Badge Scheme, but to the public it is another scrounger because it is obvious they are not entitled to use the Blue Badge as we all know it is given to people who have real difficulties to walk or wheelchair users.

    All this gives the perception of scroungers and fraud and yet the simple Blue Badge Scheme has very few enforcement officers, would it make a difference to perception, I don’t know but it is a start and if the public could see a visible response to the fraud, just maybe the persecution of sick and disabled would reduce a little and the fines, car park fees raised should pay for any enforcement officers, the Max fine is £1000, and the high is 70% could be abusing the scheme, which is a lot of money in parking fees a local council does not get over a year per Badge… but that is a visible 7 out of 10 who do not appear to be disabled and make the rest of us look like… well you know what I mean

    Councils across the country should enforce the Blue Badge Scheme if that means special laws or rules then get on with it, instead of treating the genuine sick and disabled as scum.

    I am posting here on this thread as I don’t think an article on disability, for debate will posted, but this is the sort of thing that needs to be done…

    Unseen disabled guy…

  • Has anyone noticed that there is a change happening to the WCA test in March, there used to be complaints regarding how strict the WCA was when it was introduced by Labour, most noticeably by Danny Alexander before the election, but these changes in March will actually made it harder for ANYONE to receive disability benefits (all of them ESA DLA etc), the changes have been designed (it seems) to specifically remove as many people as possible from these benefits with absolutely no regard to the persons situation, so if you think the backlog of appeals is bad at the moment, just wait.

  • @Andrew Tennant

    I’m sorry I was a little short, but for me this is the final straw. I can’t personally understand how any liberal can allow such a policy to be implemented. I’m surprised by the lack of outrage, it seems that the contributors on this site are more interested in speculating and trashing Labour than the horrific effects of these cuts. A line has to be drawn somewhere. Though I will get busy writing, if you could write a letter or two that would great.

    Out of interest, have you considered what would cause you to withdraw your support from the party?

    Joe,

  • @Andrew Tennant

    I’m very much aware of that. I have no sympathy for Labour, but I don’t think one can term this coalition liberal, compassionate or responsible and I do not see enough response here on these pages to make me believe the party is any different.

    Joe,

  • dave thawley 19th Jan '11 - 5:43pm

    @Andrew – After what Clegg has done I think we can look forward to having far less MPs next time around

  • “but we’re only around 1/7th of those comprising the coalition. Want more Lib Dem focus, elect more Lib Dem members…”

    Didn’t David Cameron state on the Andrew Marr show that the Tories wouldn’t be able to implement 9 tenths of their policies without Lib Dem support? If you consider that to be essentially correct I don’t believe the Lib Dems can hide behind the excuse of “well we only have a small number of MPs so it’s not our fault gov, honest” as that handful of MPs hold all the cards, after all what would of happened if ALL Lib Dem MPs had voted against the rise in tuition fees?

  • Andrew
    Yes you are very probably correct in what you say but then the question falls back to basics, individual MPs irrespective of party allegiance are given the responsibility to represent the people who vote for them based on what they promise before an election and it’s that ‘agreement’ or contract that should take precedent over all others in my opinion, so for me it’s not a matter of blackmailing, it’s a matter of standing up for your electorate, in fact I would expect that MP to resort to blackmail if needs be to carry through the views of the people who elected him/her, and definitely not the exact opposite (tuition fees)

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Jan '11 - 9:36am

    Joe

    I’m sorry I was a little short, but for me this is the final straw. I can’t personally understand how any liberal can allow such a policy to be implemented. I’m surprised by the lack of outrage, it seems that the contributors on this site are more interested in speculating and trashing Labour than the horrific effects of these cuts

    Because the Tories won the election and Labour did not. No-one who is a Labour supporter should follow this up with “but the Tories did not win a majority of the votes”, because Labour supports the current electoral system (or its close variant, AV, which is no more proportional than the current system) ON THE GROUNDS that it gives this sort of result – it distorts representation in favour of the largest party, and Labour and Conservative say that’s a good thing because it gives clearer government. We have an extreme Tory government because Labour agrees it is better to have that than a coalition, that is why they did not introduce proportional representation when they were in government, and do not propose to do so now.

    While actually we DO have a coalition, the distortional effect of the electoral system which the Labour supports meant that a Labour-LibDem coalition was ruled out, even though the two parties together won a clear majority of the votes, because it would not have a majority in Parliament. It also meant that the proportion of Liberal Democrats to Conservative MPs was tiny compared to the proportion of share of votes for the two parties. These two factors wiped out much chance of the LibDems having a serious negotiating influence in the coalition. It meant we had what is basically a Tory government, certainly in its main economic thrust, with just a little LibDem input at the margins.

    Anyone who supports Labour, unless they make it clear that support is conditional on Labour switching to support proportional representation, supports that. It’s a combination of Labour’s electoral system and the way the people that voted which gave us this Tory government. That’s democracy, you may not like it, but what do they say, “The people spoke, the bastards”? A vote for Labour or a vote for Tory in 2010 was a vote for what we have now because it was a vote for the electoral system which gave us it and which both those parties support because they say it’s a good thing to have extremist government which does not have majority support in the electorate.

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