Osborne’s democracy cuts shows true Tory colours

 

This week the Chancellor unveiled a petty attack on our democracy.

There were just three good parts to the Spending Review.  First, there was the long-overdue boost to mental health funding as championed by Norman Lamb. Then there was the welcome U-turn over tax credits, and finally the absence of significant police cuts.

However, there were swathes of ideological, unnecessary cuts: cuts to the pupil premium in real terms, cuts to green energy which will harm our environment and our economy, cuts to universal credit orders for councils to sell off much-needed property to stay afloat financially and a whole lot more.

Hidden beneath this bad news though was something a lot more sinister. Osborne proposed a seventeen percent cut to opposition party funding because – wait for it – opposition parties have done nothing to cut the deficit so they should take the hit! Has the Chancellor forgotten the last five years? Even if the Chancellor somehow thinks opposition parties routinely voted against every bill proposing spending reductions, we Lib Dems spent five years sacrificing our party for the good of the country.

Even worse this policy is an attack on democracy. The opposition is the cornerstone of our democracy and the cornerstone of our society. If this was just about deficit reduction, the Chancellor would surely have reduced government party funding as well. This policy is not only petty revenge for us opposing tax credit cuts, it reveals something much deeper about the Chancellor.

Namely, when it comes to politics as far as he’s concerned it’s a case of ‘my way or the highway’. I seriously wonder whether he is able to grasp the position of most of the opposition that most of his cuts are unnecessary. We need to ‘live within our means’, as the Chancellor likes to bark incessantly at us, but we also need to invest in the future at a time of historic low interest rates. We need to safeguard the needs and rights of every member of our society, including the very poorest. Yes, we need to reduce the deficit gradually, but the Tories have been incredibly successful at scaremongering and putting it about that borrowing caused the recession – a downright lie.

The truth about this policy is that it strips bare Tory ideals and reveals scaremongering over debt to create a small state. But the state has a responsibility for its citizens. Under the Tories these responsibilities won’t be met. The responsibility for fair democracy may well be exploited with both this bill and the boundary changes. In fact the very refusal to consider proportional representation in 2010 is itself an attack on fair democracy. Worst of all, though, I fear we’re going to see increases in poverty and a failure to invest to educate kids from the poorest schools – as Tim always says ‘the very schools Tories don’t send their kids to’.

What does this mean for us though? Well it’s clear that we’ve got a long fight ahead in this parliament. We have to work together as MPs, councillors, peers and members to fight tooth and nail to oppose the Tory policies which damage our society. This is the only way forward. Luckily though, we can go back to doing what we do best – doing right by our country and doing right by the party.

* Thomas Shakespeare is a Lib Dem activist and a member of Liberal Youth

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21 Comments

  • …………………………. we Lib Dems spent five years sacrificing our party for the good of the country……………….

    Do you really believe that a Tory minority government in 2010 would have implemented today’s cuts in services?
    Even if, and it’s a big IF, they had ‘given some’ freebies’, gone for an election and won a majority the current policies would by 2015 made them unelectable…
    The most likely scenario in 2015 would have seen LibDems as a major party of government/opposition with perhaps 100 MPs….

    I agree we sacrificed our party but we also sacrificed our country.

  • Well this fits with their gerrymandering, alterations to the electoral register and consistently undemocratic instincts. Not to be trusted.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 30th Nov '15 - 12:17pm

    @expats I don’t agree. The real risk in forming a minority government was a new election being callled if we tried to block significant legislation. The Tories would paint us as pro-Labour economically and wed have disaster for the party and the country sooner.

    Few would disagree that too many compromises were made by party leaders, especially on policies Nick didn’t agree with like tuition fees. IMO thats what lost us 49 seats.

    However, that doesn’t take away from the excellent work he did with just 57 seats blocking the worst of the Tory legislation and passing key liberal policies like the tax-free allowance and the pupil premium. I don’t agree with every decision made by the party leadership by any means, but I think we punched well above our weight.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 30th Nov ’15 – 12:17pm………………[email protected] I don’t agree. The real risk in forming a minority government was a new election being callled if we tried to block significant legislation. The Tories would paint us as pro-Labour economically and wed have disaster for the party and the country sooner…….

    Disaster for the party sooner? Within months of the ‘Rose Garden love-in” we’d fallen to single figure support; throughout the life of the coalition we lost hundreds of hard working local councillors, our MEPs, we even trailed a penguin in a bye election, etc…

    How much more of a disaster for the party than 8 seats would you predict?….

  • @expats I didn’t say a worse disaster I said sooner – i.e. for the parliamentary party.

  • David Evans 30th Nov '15 - 6:24pm

    @ Thomas S – it might have come sooner for the parliamentary party, but it would have been a lesser disaster and by now we would have fully recovered as the Conservatives would have been rightly blamed for their policies instead of us taking one for the “team.”

    Quite simply, Nick sacrificed 50 years of hard work by previous generations in return for delaying the full impact of the Tories’ policies for just five years, giving them time to detoxify their reputation and prepare their assault on the heartlands of their fellow “team” members. We are now on the edge of a precipice and we may not even survive the next 10 years as a party with elected parliamentary representatives. That wasn’t excellent work, but a total disaster by a man who repeatedly refused to change. “Grown up government?” He was pulling our legs.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 30th Nov '15 - 8:57pm

    Hi David
    Well regardless of views on the extent of the damage I don’t think Nick can take all the blame. He was well supported by MPs. His member support was hardly disatorously low yoo. It was a difficult decision to make and I think no-one fully understood the impact on the party. I think leaders thought people would see that coalition had to mean compromise and he expected people to vote Lib Dem on liberal values -many enacted in gov – not single policies.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 30th Nov '15 - 8:57pm

    Oops *too

  • Richard Underhill 30th Nov '15 - 11:11pm

    G.O. has not cur the Lords’ equivalent of Short money, as Labour MP Chris Bryant said on the Daily Politics at lunchtime.
    But, has he actually cut the Short money? or are his proposals subject to amendment and voting in parliament?

  • Thomas Shakespeare 1st Dec '15 - 10:21am

    @Richard I did use words like “proposed” and “unveiled”. What I am saying is that it is an irresponsible policy for a government to have and his reasoning is ridiculous.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 1st Dec '15 - 10:31am

    Hi David (again!)

    I would also add that members voted for coalition so if you think it was such a disaster (I don’t) then surely members bear some responsibility for that? For me gay marriage, the green bank, the pupil premium and free school meals, to name a few, will leave a lasting liberal legacy.

    It’s all very well us hypothesising about what may or may not have happened in another scenario, but I feel a minority government would be a leap into the unknown. I don’t think anyone understood the full impact of coalition in 2010 (nor many before May!)

  • ThomasS 30th Nov ’15 – 4:37pm………………@expats I didn’t say a worse disaster I said sooner – i.e. for the parliamentary party…………………
    ThomasS….I wrote, “Within months of the ‘Rose Garden love-in” we’d fallen to single figure support; throughout the life of the coalition we lost hundreds of hard working local councillors, our MEPs, we even trailed a penguin in a bye election, etc…”
    Is “months” not soon enough?

    As for the Parliamentary party..How could it have been ‘sooner’? After, 2010 the next GE was 2015..

  • Hi Expats

    As I outlined above a minoirity government would be less stable. There would have been a real risk of the Tories calling a new election (we introduced Fixed Term Parliaments, remember?) if we tried to block a lot of legislation. This would probably have resulted in the Tories painting us as unable to make difficult decisions to address austerity. They did that in 2015 and look what happened to Labour.

    For me in the coalition there were two major failings: tuition fees and image. We obviously lost trust over tuition fees and sadly ministers rubbed salt into the wound for the public by being so focused on showing coalition can work that they were reluctant to vocalise disagreements with the Tories.

    I don’t think you can say categorically what would or would not have happened, but for me we were in a lose-lose situation.

  • ThomasS 1st Dec ’15 – 2:34pm…

    Thanks for your reply…For me the ‘killer’ was the NHS ‘reorganisation’ ……As you say we can’t say for certain what the outcome would have been but, for us as a party, things could not have been much worse…

  • @expats
    I agree with that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '15 - 11:32am

    I have given up posting to LDV, because I am fed up with “nah nah nah nah nah”s like “expats”.

    Instead of coming together to help rebuild the party, it seems all they want to do is come here and jeer at us and continue stomping us down so can never recover.

    I was in strong disagreement with the way the Coalition was presented and played out, and spent the entire time of it being very critical here of the Liberal Democrat leadership. However, the balance of the 2010 general election put us in a really difficult situation. The illogicality of the “nah nah nah nah nah”s is shown by the way they jeered at us for “just giving in and agreeing to whatever the Tories wanted” but now we find out just how much extreme right-wing nastiness the LibDems stopped in the coalition (due to us not being in a position to stop it any more) they jeer at us and say we are bad people because we did stop it and so hid what the Tories were about.

    If there had been more recognition of what the LibDems had achieved in the coalition and less “nah nah nah nah nah” jeering, we wouldn’t have a majority Tory government now. Smashing the Liberal Democrats only helped the Tories as most LibDem held seats were in places which were Tory before and bound to reverted to Tory when the only party there capable of defeating the Tories was jeered down.

    Many mistakes were made by the LibDems in 2010-2015, and it is rather obvious from what I was posting all that time that I agreed with that. However, the “nah nah nah nah nah” jeering at all of us, as if all of us in the LibDems were mad keen fans of the most right-wing elements of the party and how they played the coalition, completely unrealistic assumptions about what could be obtained from the 2010 situation, and personal attacks on any of us who try to suggest a more realistic reading of where we were, seem to me to be aimed at nothing but permanent destruction of our party.

    If we are to rebuild, we must be positive, and show how wrong were the “nah nah nah nah nah” assumptions – provably wrong by what we see the Tories doing now – that led people to discount us in the 2015 general elections.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec ’15 – 11:32am…..I have given up posting to LDV, because I am fed up with “nah nah nah nah nah”s like “expats”…….

    ….But after ‘flouncing off’ you came back to re-open old wounds…It seems you still want to be the ‘centre of attention’…

  • Thomas Shakespeare 2nd Dec '15 - 7:01pm

    It is a public forum Matthew. While I understand your frustration I don’t think you should let the views of others let you influence what you post on ldv. Just my opinion 🙂

  • David Evans 2nd Dec '15 - 8:18pm

    @ Thomas S, Nick was leader and so had enormous power over the MPs, many of whom believed, and so wanted to prove, they and the Lib Dems could make a difference in government. They wouldn’t get that chance if they rebelled. Pure power of patronage. Secondly, he was the figurehead, the direction setter and the man with the support of the party bureaucracy. By far the most powerful person in the entire party. The critical emergency motion on the NHS fell by six votes to the one deliberately called the “Shirley Williams’ Motion” to undermine it. We lost thousands of members after that. We had two votes in conference against secret courts and Nick deliberately whipped the MPs to vote for it.

    As for you statement that no-one understood, David Rendel did. He spoke very clearly at the Special Conference. So did many of the old stagers who were aware of the duplicitous nature of Conservatives, as did I, but sadly I couldn’t attend. And I am sure many others also understood, but they gave Nick the benefit of the doubt because they actually believed we had a leader who would stand by “An end to broken promises.” Sadly since then, many if not most of them have left in disgust at what Nick did. From the Rose Garden onwards he looked like, spoke like, behaved like and voted like a Tory.

    Sadly trying to dilute the blame by blaming others is a typical tactic of those who don’t want to face up to the consequences of what has happened. Often this tactic is based on an unwillingness to accept that their support for Nick was totally misplaced over the entire period and that they personally were culpable for refusing to face up to the facts, preferring to say it was inevitable once conference voted. However, how much choice did conference have? Nick’s negotiators had come back with a deal that they said was the best. The deal had been announced in the press days earlier, Cameron had been to the queen to become PM. Nick had been made DPM. In the real world, did ordinary Lib Dems have any real choice?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Dec '15 - 9:05pm

    Thomas Shakespeare

    It is a public forum Matthew. While I understand your frustration I don’t think you should let the views of others let you influence what you post on ldv. Just my opinion 🙂

    The deeply offensive and completely untrue personal attacks made on me by “expats” and a few others affected me badly. One thing I have always disliked about being involved in politics is the idea that one is doing it to be the “centre of attention” and so on. One of the things that caused me to drop out of being a councillor was doors being slammed in my face by the very people I was trying to help, yelling at me “You are only in it for yourself” when the reality is that being a councillor meant I lost hugely more money in lost promotion opportunities in my day job than I ever made in councillor allowances.

    It embarrasses me that I have an unusual surname, so it is easily recognisable. But I use it because I have nothing to hide, I am not ashamed of my views, I think it wrong to post things here and not use your real name.

    Now this is the honest truth – the attacks made on me by various people, “expats” being one of them, were beginning to affect my health. I was spending so much of my time worrying about them, trying to think what I could say to get across my point that, no they have me completely wrong, that what I am saying is my honest point of view, not something I am saying because “all you want is power, and you gave up your principles for that” and all that sort of stuff. When I was trying to work hard to stop the LibDems being pulled to the right during the coalition, I felt undermined by the attacks of “expats” et al, their offensive belittling of me and what I was trying to say.

    So, “expats”, you have won. You have driven me out. I can see from your reaction that it’s not worth bothering getting involved again. Since people like you still seem to dominate how everyone else paints the Liberal Democrats, I don’t think it’s worth bothering trying to revive the party, and now I’m doing nothing at all for it.

    The real winners from this are, of course, the Tories.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 6th Dec '15 - 1:31pm

    Hi David,
    I accept that Nick made mistakes in coalition. However I don’t think coalition itself was a mistake. I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was tuition fees because that was the policy we campaigned on which we didn’t follow through with. I just think that since members voted for coalition, however much their admiration of Nick influenced them, coalition was a collective decision.

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