Tag Archives: coalition

The best way to answer Coalition guilt-shaming is to challenge austerity and poverty today, head-on

The election of a new Liberal Democrat leader has been followed by a predictable burst of accusations and guilt-shaming – mostly, but not only, from Labour sources – regarding the Lib Dems’ part in the Coalition, cuts and austerity. Responses on Liberal Democrat Voice and in other Lib Dem groups have often followed a familiar pattern too. A fair amount of irritated defensiveness. A lot of detailed discussion of the financial situation in 2010, deficit levels, etc. Sometimes a feel of this being a rather theoretical economic argument a bit far away, only raised to torment us.

I think this is to miss the point. The best way to get over endless guilt-shaming and raking-over of the Coalition is not to get sucked into circular arguments over just what part any Lib Dem minister played in this or that decision in 2014 but to say very clearly we’ve moved on, there are urgent matters to be dealt with, and that today, in the here and now, 2019, the Liberal Democrats see poverty as a real crisis, care about it and are prepared to tackle it.

What doesn’t leap out from current Lib Dem responses is any sense of urgency. An urgent awareness that there is an atrocious crisis of poverty in this country, and it’s getting worse. Galloping homelessness, thousands dependent on food banks, more and more people in work but so poorly paid and so insecure they barely keep going. Public health indicators that had been improving for decades now stalled or going backwards, as the United Nations’ Alston Report on Poverty in the UK highlighted.

And behind this worsening poverty are some very old ideas, like the assumption that anyone in need of support is potentially a ‘scrounger’ culpable for their own poverty who needs to be kept in check through such things as the benefit sanctions regime.

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Coalition? Who cares?

coalSo the Lib Dem leader election is over and predictably Labour have gone full on coalition grievance mongering in response. They’d have done this whoever won, no doubt somewhere in Labour HQ there is an unused “This is what Ed doesn’t want you to know” video.

It seems to have fallen a bit flat, which is a good sign that people are reacting less viscerally but that doesn’t mean all is fine, it just means people are prepared to think about it.

People are listening to us again. 

The coalition and austerity will come up and we need to be able to address it. To be fair, we owe it to the public and ourselves to address it.

It’s unarguable that austerity happened whilst we were in coalition. Cuts were made and these cuts made people’s lives harder. It’s legitimate to care about that, irrespective of the reasons behind our decisions.

Every time I’ve heard Lib Dems address this I feel we still haven’t found a way of talking about it that recognises this legitimacy and can start rebuilding bridges.

When someone raises austerity we react as if they are asking us why we supported the policies of austerity. We talk about the economic climate, we talk about the lack of options, we talk about the fact we were in coalition and had to compromise, or maybe about how every party intended to make cuts.

Sometimes we make these points well, sometimes not so well but the real problem is we are addressing it from the wrong perspective. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 96 Comments

What I’d change about the coalition

Since 2010, I’ve been very loyal to the Liberal Democrats.

There were many things I disliked during the Coalition, but I kept silent for fear of feeding the ridiculous exaggerated attacks on our party. Deficit reduction was hard, but in the lifetime of the Coalition, the amount cut was similar to Labour’s 2010 plans.

After the Coalition, my party was in a dire state, so for the same reason, I kept quiet about my concerns.

Only now the party is surging in the opinion polls do I feel free to say what I wish we’d done in Coalition. This article is to encourage those who are thinking about joining the party but are worried about what happened between 2010 and 2015, that they will have friends in the party. I also want to reassure new members that it’s okay to disagree with party policy, as long as you agree with the broad principles laid out in the preamble of the party’s constitution.

Below are three of my concerns about the Coalition.

(1) The decision to raise the income tax threshold. It was expensive; for the low paid, much of the benefit was clawed back with reduced benefits; and without it, we could have cut a little less severely. The suggestion of the IFS, to increase the amount the low paid could earn without losing their means-tested benefits, would have been far better targeted at helping low-income families.

(2) The bedroom tax. On paper, it sounded sensible. The idea of reallocating large family houses from those who didn’t need them to those who did wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. But local councils weren’t required to provide suitable alternative accommodation. I’m glad that, in 2014, we changed our position.

(3) Local government cuts. These were far too deep. It’s a natural instinct for a central government that wants to cut expenditure to foist a disproportionate burden onto local government. I wish we had vetoed this.

However, I don’t want to give the impression that I have any sympathy for Jeremy Corbyn when he rails against the Coalition. We held the Tories back on some truly savage cuts. Cuts which were quickly introduced when the Tories won a majority in 2015.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 129 Comments

Why we should be proud of what Lib Dems did in Government

When I was elected a Lib Dem Councillor  in Oxford last year a regular feature of Council meetings (where there have not been any Conservatives for 20 years) was the Labour diatribe against the Coalition Government. Even the most talentless Labour hack knew that a safe answer to any Lib Dem criticism of the Labour Council was to attack the Coalition and the Lib Dems’ part in it.

As this got increasingly annoying, I decided it was time to do some detailed research on the subject. I found  that we have a great deal to be proud of in our record in government, and I am now sure that  we should be publicizing this good record as much as possible. I have already made a start in Oxford and have noticed the anti-Coalition rants from Labour diminishing.

Our biggest achievement was raising the minimum income tax threshold from £8000 first to £9000 and then to £10,000. It is not uncommon these days to hear Conservatives claiming the credit for this very progressive reform which took millions of poorer workers out of paying tax, disproportionately women and part time workers.  In fact, as described in David Laws’s fascinating book “Coalition “, it only happened  because of continuous Lib Dem pressure inside the Cabinet, spearheaded by Nick Clegg, and bitterly opposed by George Osborne.

Second biggest was the pupil premium, which reduced poverty and improved educational opportunity by providing massive extra funds to the schools with most pupils in receipt of free school meals.

Posted in Op-eds | 82 Comments

Tainted love?

I’ve seen people talking about the need for a leader who will be “untainted” by Coalition.

I couldn’t disagree more.

We have a strong story to tell, and the Coalition is a crucial part of it. We will never thrive by being the party of protest and pure tactical voting. As Mark Pack and others have said, we need to create a core vote of our own. The Coalition makes this more plausible.

Despite being naturally liberal, I didn’t support the Lib Dems before the Coalition because I perceived them as a protest party.  I thought they were opportunists, tactical vote recipients, defined by who they were not rather than who they were.  Then the 2010 General Election happened, and the Lib Dems went into Coalition and started making hard choices. They started governing. Either I had been completely wrong about the Lib Dems, or they had risen to the situation amazingly. Or quite possibly, it was a bit of both.  They proved  beyond a shadow of a doubt  that they were a true and plausible political party of Government with their own agenda and ethos, which I very much liked.

The Lib Dems achieved so much in Coalition, outpunching their weight by a huge amount. The rise in the income tax threshold made a massive difference for the just-about-managing (note how the Tories have tried to take the credit for this). The Quad – with Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander – adjusted the austerity regime to boost growth and protect the poorest and most vulnerable. Take a look at the distributional analyses of tax and benefit changes under the Coalition and compare them to those under the Tory majority rule since – it’s a horrifying change.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 92 Comments

Achievements of the LibDems in coalition 2010-2015

The Lib Dem Manifesto of 2017 gives canvassers plenty to promise on the doorstep, but past achievements can be more convincing. Yet who among canvassers can instantly name three achievements attributable to the Liberal Democrats, against Conservative inclinations, in the Coalition Government of 2010-2015?

Here is a short list, which will no doubt benefit from correction or expansion. A full list can be found in an Appendix to David Law’s book Coalition.

  • The allocation of 0.7% of GDP to International Development, both in practice and as law
  • The raising of the Income Tax personal allowance from £6475 to £10,600
  • Steve Webb delivered the “triple lock” on the State Pension
  • Nick Clegg saw through the pupil premium of (eventually) £1320 per primary school child and £935 for secondary children to reduce the attainment gap in England and Wales
  • A £2.5 billion banking levy
  • Free school meals for infant-school children and in the first three years in primary school in England
  • Vince Cable vetoed a proposed “fire-at-will” employment law
  • Stopping welfare cuts and ensuring benefits kept up with inflation
  • Same sex marriage legislation
  • 15 hours free child care for disadvantaged children
  • Prohibition of the export of chemicals to where it is known they may be used to carry out the death penalty
  • Strong and stable government (true!)
  • 5p charge on plastic bags.
Posted in Op-eds | 58 Comments

+++Tim Farron’s pledge to voters: Lib Dems won’t make coalition deals

The Observer reports:

The Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has ruled out any form of coalition with the Tories or Labour after the general election as he sets out a bold ambition to attract enough Remain voters to form the main opposition party in parliament.

In a dramatic shift of strategy for a party that entered coalition with the Conservatives in 2010 in the “national interest”, Farron said in an interview with the Observer that there will be “no deal, no deal with anybody” under any circumstances.

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Coalition: Yes or no?

Liberal Democrats quite like to be in government. We like to think that we can make a difference. So when the larger parties find themselves without an overall majority, we – as individuals – are courted.

This article deals with two aspects of the decision to go into coalition – political legitimacy and our party’s mandate to govern.

Liberal Democrats do not support the current unequal voting system. Put simply, we want every vote to be valued equally. We want the number of elected representatives to correspond to the number of people who voted for each party. So, if a party overall gets 10% of the vote, we believe that they should have 10% of the representatives.

When this doesn’t happen – which is nearly all of the time – the main question to ask is whether we make our decisions based on the numbers of representatives, or based on our vote share. For example, if we have 10% of the vote but only 2% of the representatives, do we say our mandate reflects our 10% or our 2%?

Posted in Op-eds | 21 Comments

Don’t let the Tories airbrush us out of history

The Conservatives’ Twitter feed has annoyed me even more than usual today.

It’s no different. They are always taking credit for things that Lib Dem ministers drove forward in Government, but we shouldn’t let them away with it.

Remember when David Cameron told Nick Clegg in the 2010 leaders’ debate that the rise in the tax threshold was unaffordable? Now they are proudly claiming credit for it as if it was there idea when everyone knows it wasn’t.

They also highlight the rise in the State Pension. Ah yes, but who was responsible for the triple lock, ensuring that the pension rose by earnings, 2.5% or inflation whichever was the biggest? Step forward Steve Webb, former Lib Dem Pensions Minister.

And they are also boasting about the Pupil Premium, an idea implemented and boosted by education ministers Sarah Teather and David Laws.

It’s funny that they’re not boasting about that other Lib Dem achievement, the massive investment in renewables. Ah, that will be because they’ve dismantled that one.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 18 Comments

In conversation with David Laws

The former Liberal Democrat MP and government minister discusses his new book about the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government, says what he would do differently in hindsight, and looks into his crystal ball to see what the future holds for the party…

Your new book about the Coalition has certainly made a few waves following its Sunday newspaper serialisation – the right kind of waves?

I think inevitably there is a temptation in the press to shed light on things which are currently topical, such as Tory divisions on the referendum. But the primary reason I wrote the book was to give an accurate, historic account of the Coalition and a proper explanation of our part in it – and if the serialisation results in more people reading the book, so much the better.

It sounds like you’re, by and large, proud of what the Lib Dems achieved in government?

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A surprising gap in David Laws’ knowledge

Last night, Biteback Publishing held a party to celebrate the launch of David Laws’ book, Coalition.

The Times (£) has an amusing anecdote from the event:

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David Laws on Marr: I want to expose how NHS chief was leant on to encourage debate on NHS funding

It’s the second week of David Laws’ coalition revelations serialised in the Mail on Sunday. This week we have him telling us that:

To take them in turn:

You have to wonder why we bought and publicised the £8bn figure, too. It’s all very well for David Laws to tell Andrew Marr today that Norman Lamb was always sceptical about it, but I seem to recalls making a massive thing about how we were the only party who was going to meet the £8bn request in full. If we knew that the figure was nonsense then, why on earth did we not say loudly and lay out the choices that the nation faced in a much more realistic way?

On Marr, David Laws emphasised how the Lib Dems helped IDS veto Treasury requests for further welfare cuts, confirming that Osborne saw it as a cash cow.There are problems with this analysis, though.  Danny Alexander seemed to be hand in glove with Osborne on a lot of this stuff, at one point calling people affected by the Bedroom Tax “bedroom blockers.” Also, a lot of the really awful ideas, from the rape clause to the capping at two children were IDS’s idea.

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Clegg says Tories are squandering our legacy. But it wasn’t tuition fees that lost it for us

clegg cameron rose garden

Nick Clegg has used his first major interview since stepping down as Leader of the Liberal Democrats to take a swipe at his former Coalition colleagues for ‘squandering’ their legacy. In today’s Independent he states:

The rhetoric at the beginning from David Cameron was good. I held my tongue. But I am afraid the very thin gruel the Prime Minister has announced, and the deeply regressive steps taken by his Chancellor, means it is insecure, hollow double-speak.

He has drawn up a long ‘charge sheet’ about the current Government: …

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Is aiming at Coalition shooting at the wrong goal?

 

I couldn’t go to Conference so listened to Tim Farron’s speech on i-player afterwards. What a great speech: full of idealism, commitment and determination. We’re so lucky to have Tim as leader.

But there was one thing that really worried me.  I had already seen reports in the news that morning that Tim was going to talk about getting back into Government again in 2020 – about how going into Coalition had been the right thing to do. Looking at the decimation of the Party and the loss of so many first-class MPs I am still not so sure about that, but leaving the past aside, is Coalition what the Lib Dems should be aiming for now, and more importantly saying what we are aiming for? I would generally say not.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 57 Comments

Which former Lib Dem Cabinet Minister disagreed more often with Danny Alexander than George Osborne?

The Journal of Liberal History is a serious academic publication. When it arrives on my doorstep, I know I have an enjoyable couple of hours with a cup of tea learning about interesting events and people in the history of the Liberal Party, SDP or Liberal Democrats.

The issue of the publication which will be on sale at Conference is no less worthy and serious, but my reaction to it was unusual. Within a few minutes, I was hyperventilating and my eyes were out on stalks at what I was reading. Seriously, they should have sold serialisation rights to the press.

You see, this issue covers the Coalition and its aftermath. Adrian Slade spent May and June persuading many  former ministers, including all of the Cabinet ministers bar Carmichael – and by all, that includes Chris Huhne – to give their take on how the Coalition had worked, or not, as the case may be. Some of their interviews are more predictable than others, but all are candid. Some are almost painfully defensive, others offer a wince-inducing verbal hiding. Who was the former Minister who said:

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LibLink: Tim Farron – After 100 days, the penny is well and truly dropping on how hard Lib Dems fought in government

On Huffington Post, Tim Farron writes:

We’re 100 days into a Tory government and, let’s be honest, they have been fairly clear on what they’re about. Unfortunately, for the majority of us across the UK – those of us who didn’t vote Tory – it doesn’t look pretty.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged | 26 Comments

Opinion: Why I would be wary of another coalition with the Conservatives

As the speculation continues on the make-up of the next government, I have been thinking a lot about the prospect of another Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

We went into coalition in 2010 for three main reasons 1) because the country needed a strong, stable government to sort out the economy which was in crisis 2) to stop the Tories from doing nasty, right-wing things, and 3) to get our own great policies, such as pupil premium implemented.

So where are we in 2015? We do not have the same level of economic difficulty as we did in 2010. The deficit is halved, our GDP growth is the highest amongst developed countries and we have record employment. Whilst it’s true that we cannot take the economic recovery for granted, we are not in crisis.

As to being able to stop the Tories’ right wing agenda in 2015, I doubt that we will be able to do that as effectively. It is likely that any Conservative/Lib Dem/DUP coalition will have the smallest of majorities. This will give those ‘swivel-eyed’ right wing conservatives a lot of power. In this parliament, the Coalition had a decent majority and the more extreme Tories could be safely ignored – that won’t be the case this time. And just to get a flavour of some of the policies on offer in the Tory 2015 manifesto – 500 more free schools, removing JSA for 18-21 year olds, requiring 40% turnout for strike action, ending any subsidy for onshore wind,  lowering the benefit cap, capping skilled migration, scrapping the Human Rights Act and introducing the snoopers charter – nice!

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Nick Harvey: ‘If you think we are going to spend another five years being shafted (this time) by Labour, you’ve got another think coming’

The Liberal Democrat coalition negotiation team leave Cowley Street HQ for the fourth day of discussions with the Conservatives May 10th 2010.

Earlier this week we highlighted Nick Harvey MP’s report “Beyond the Rose Garden”. In it, he recommends a range of changes in arrangements for any future coalition governments.

In the wake of his report’s publication, Nick has now given an extensive interview with Huffington Post

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The Independent View: Analysing the common ground between Lib Dem and Labour policy positions

Today sees the release of a combined piece of work between the Fabian Society and CentreForum that details what the policy overlaps between the Lib Dems and the Labour Party are, according to the most up to date data. The report is entitled “Common Ground? An analysis of the Liberal Democrat and Labour programmes”, and can be read here. By extension, the paper sets out what the discussion might look like should the two parties find themselves negotiating a government after the general election in May. The report does not recommend such an arrangement; it only seeks to outline …

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Miss Trunchbull to play Nick Clegg

Well, I thought that was a good headline. So much better than “The actor who played Miss Trunchbull is to play Nick Clegg” or “Actor Bertie Carvel to play Nick Clegg”, both of which would have been less misleading.

Posted in Humour and News | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Offering “heart and spine” – should we be mentioning the “c” word in the election campaign?

 

As an experiment, comments for this post will be moderated and confined to new and infrequent commenters on this site. “Infrequent” is defined as having posted less than five comments in the last month. We have 40 posts a week where our frequent commenters have more than enough space to express their views. This post is reserved for new and not-so-frequent commenters.

We carried Nick Clegg’s Monday press conference speech in full. It was a very well-written and compelling narrative.

He said that the 2015 election will be about:

Who is best placed to finish the (recovery) job and do so fairly?

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Opinion: Is the centre ground disappearing from British politics?

Ballot boxIs it just me, or has something recently changed in British politics? In fact, this apparent move towards what some might see as extremism may also be a characteristic of the political scene in Europe and further afield, too. It is almost akin to the frenzy that seems to hit societies at the end of each century, but manifesting itself a decade and a half late.

What the opinion polls appear to show is that the centre ground, represented primarily by the Liberal Democrats, has lost ground in favour of a …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 96 Comments

David Cameron should make Nick Clegg end the Coalition, say Tory MPs

Nick Clegg and David CameronThat is the headline over at Huffington Post, and it certainly makes for fascinating reading. How about this:

Tory MP John Redwood said Cameron should deliberately antagonise his Liberal Democrat partners into leaving, and warned the prime minister that terminating the coalition early may not be ‘”wise” as he had “given his word” and “it’ll not look good if the leader of the main party was to end the coalition”.

“What should happen now is the Conservative majority in the government should start to press very strongly for two or three distinctively conservative policies, and if the Liberals really don’t like it, they could push to leave on the grounds that they wish to impede from the benches of opposition,” he said.

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Opinion: Lib-Lab Pact

infographic2014The Lib Dem campaigning message is encapsulated in Stronger Economy, Fairer Society, with Conservative messaging focusing on ‘the long term plan for economic recovery’, and Labour’s focusing on the decline in living standards of the poor and the squeezed middle.

Nick Clegg’s response that, were Labour in the future to ask Libdems to form a coalition with them the first demand would be ‘Don’t break the bank’,  seeks to emphasise Lib Dem economic competence.

It should come as no surprise then that the voting public should surmise that coalition economic policy is just what we say it is – a joint Conservative and Liberal Democrat long-term plan for economic recovery with “not a cigarette paper between us”

Posted in Op-eds | 50 Comments

Opinion: Lessons from the Netherlands on Lib Dem strategy

Netherlands-4778 - Wooden GrondzeilerA few months after the UK Coalition Government formed in 2010, the Dutch Christian Democrats (CDA) formed a minority government with our sister party, the liberal VVD. To get a majority agreement, the VVD-CDA coalition made a confidence and supply agreement with right-wing Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV), which set out a number of policy concession to Wilders, e.g. on immigration. That was a decision with huge impact: the PVV was about as toxic as it could get for many CDA and VVD supporters. The fall-out …

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Opinion: What does the evidence tell us about our strategy should be?

evidence of organized lightAs a party committed to evidence-based policy, we should be asking what the evidence tells us about the questions of strategy and leadership we now face. The discussion is currently impressionistic and getting fixated on the past. We need instead to stick to the evidence and to what it suggests we should do in the future. There are many examples one could give about the leadership issue, but here is one about strategy.

Nick Clegg has explained the party’s strategy like this: ”

We said in 2010 we were going

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 56 Comments

Opinion: A change of leader will make no difference. A change of heart and pride just might.

RomseyAs a young, recently-selected Lib Dem candidate for next year’s general election and in a winnable marginal seat, I’m rather more interested in what my fellow voters think – over 70,000 of them in my area – than a small number of disaffected Party members looking for a scapegoat after recent election results.

Standing in an area which includes smart middle-class patches as well as tougher urban ones, I’ve spent the past few weeks meeting hundreds of constituents. The words ‘Nick Clegg’ have been mentioned about three times. Nobody I’ve met really seems to mind who the leader is. They DO mind that the Lib Dems are no longer clear enough about what we stand for and that we once appeared human but increasingly sound like political robots.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 36 Comments

Opinion: The messenger or the message?

nick_clegg_vince_cable_budget_2009_bCoalition government is very tough on the junior party.  No surprise there. The prize, in our case, was lots of our favourite policies implemented – something we haven’t achieved for 100 years. The downside is a massive amount of negative media coverage.

Your coalition allies hate you because they see you as imposing policies on them. The opposition see it as an open goal, a chance to squeeze you out of the next election.  It is a two party nut-cracker with the potential to crush us.  The voracious appetite of the press pack has a constant supply of stories.

Posted in Op-eds | 37 Comments

Now is not the time for a bitter and bloody leadership battle

Nick Clegg addresses Birmingham Liberal Democrats conference. Photo courtesy of the Liberal DemocratsOne of the most interesting (and logistically challenging – though that’s another story) conference fringe events I have had a hand in organising through my involvement with Liberal Reform was a panel of fellow liberals from across Europe talking about their experiences of being members of a coalition.

I wanted to hold such an event to counter the all too prevalent assumption that the problems facing the Liberal Democrats are somehow unique to us. Because they are most certainly not.

Where parties enter …

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Opinion: In coalition, more than ever, our leadership must listen to party members

lib dem conf votingThe Maria Miller furore has recently highlighted how voters between elections are powerless to change their MP, once they’re ‘in’ that’s it – you have to wait another five years to give your judgement on how they’ve performed.

In our ‘always on’ modern culture this is unusual. People can cancel utility contracts or switch broadband suppliers within days if they’re unhappy with the level of service, or give instant feedback online or over the phone which is listened to and actioned.  Shouldn’t we be able to …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 18 Comments
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