Vince’s verdict on the Tories: “I’ve been pleasantly surprised that they’re not as I’d envisaged them”

There’s a fascinating interview of Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable by Decca Aitkenhead in today’s Guardian (much more revealing than yesterday’s in the Telegraph).

As ever with Vince, there are some great one-liners – and, more importantly, a very down-to-earth and honest assessment of his work and that of the Coalition.

Vince on continuing to travel by Tube:

I don’t feel comfortable with luxury, and I try to stay fairly normal. I mean, the first week I became a minister I discovered that there were ministerial cars and Jaguars and all this kind of thing, but I very quickly discovered that a) it’s very claustrophobic and you don’t get any exercise, and b) I could see it’s a rather quick way of getting out of touch. So I reverted to my normal ways of transport.”

On how he feels about the Coalition:

According to the papers, I’m miserable, alienated, and on the brink of resignation. But that’s simply not where I am. … we haven’t traded in principles for power. We’ve got principles we’ve tried to inject into the coalition’s thinking. The whole civil liberties agenda has changed out of all recognition. The idea that you’d have a Conservative party in government actually liberalising civil liberties is something that most liberal-minded people would have found very difficult to get their heads around. That partly reflects Cameron’s instincts, but a large part of it reflects our influence.”

On his support for the Coalition’s tax policy:

And on tax policy, the Tory government on its own would never have dreamed of doing some of the things that appeared in the budget. You know, not a great deal of credit’s been given but some very big changes have taken place. This idea of lifting the tax threshold is something I’ve fought for years in our party to get accepted, and it’s a very big thing if you’re a low-paid worker. Getting the bank levy through, getting the pension properly indexed. The capital gains tax we had a major battle over, and OK, we got a compromise.”

On working with the Conservatives:

But the big surprise, which in some ways is a pleasant surprise, is that the coalition does actually work. Personal relationships are very good, very businesslike. Having worked with [the Tories] at close quarters, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that they’re not as I’d envisaged them.”

On working with George Osborne:

Having dealt with him quite closely on the big issues, you know, the budget and so on – no, I’ve developed, you know, substantial respect. … previously we had virtually no relationship at all. You’re dealing with people solely in the context of parliamentary banter, you know, not working with people as colleagues, and you discover positive qualities you hadn’t seen before. … [He’s a] very good strategic thinking … Umm, he’s clearly able. An able guy. And we work together well. … That seems to me a pretty good endorsement.”

On his support for the Coalition’s cuts:

People forget that a year before the election, I published a pamphlet for Reform which got a flurry of publicity at the time, and was subsequently forgotten, which actually heralded a lot of the things this government has done. So we were aware that there would have to be serious cuts. … I was very careful in what I said [before the election]. I said we should approach [the deficit] on the basis of economics and not political dogma, that was the phrase I used. I set out five factors which should determine when you start cutting the deficit, and one of them related to the conditions in the markets. At that time, there was no enormous urgency. But by the time of the election the financial crisis had burst in Europe, and conditions had changed.”

On Labour attacks on the Lib Dems:

You can’t win with some people. If you’re not in government, you’re criticised for being not serious. If you are in government, you’re criticised for wanting power. That’s the Labour party’s line of attack, and it’s a bit ridiculous.”

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57 Comments

  • It’s what you’re doing to ordinary peoplenow you have that power, Cable. It’s the way you brazenly lied to the electorate in order to get it.

  • Paul Pettinger 9th Aug '10 - 5:55pm

    Vince Cable seemed to strike the right balance for a Lib Dem cabinet minister between eagerness and uneasiness about the coalition with the Conservatives. I wish his other colleagues would read and learn.

  • Define `ordinary people`

  • Andrea Gill 9th Aug '10 - 6:47pm

    The report Vince mentioned as containing many elements of the Emergency Budget it here: http://www.reform.co.uk/Research/ResearchArticles/tabid/82/smid/378/ArticleID/950/reftab/56/Default.aspx

  • @Greg Foster:

    1) Labour supports a referendum on AV. The bill has been packaged together with other measures that Labour does not support.

    2) The specific lying I have in mind you might not have heard- except from Labour trolls of course, even if it is important to the Lib Dems. No one has done a piece on it here, but this is the one I had in mind-

    Before the election the Liberal Democrats campaigned on a platform of no early cuts. Pre-election quote from Nick Clegg- “Self evidently I think, we think, that merrily slashing now is an act of economic masochism, so if anyone had to rely on our support, we were involved in government, of course we would say no, do it sensibly.”

    That’s not ambiguous.

    Immediately after the election the Liberal Democrats, specfically Huhne and Laws, were arguing in talks with Labour that cuts should start immediately, against both manifestos. Mere hours after both parties had been campaigning on the opposite.

    Clegg originally said he changed his mind about early cuts after a discussion with Mervyn King on the 15th of May (which perplexed Mervyn King, who said the conversation contained nothing that Clegg couldn’t have already known). He later said on TV that he had changed his mind before the election, possibly as early as March.

    The Financial Times ran a story that, “according to senior Lib Dems”, Vince Cable had never actually believed his rhetoric about early cuts- http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4ba03ae6-7b19-11df-8935-00144feabdc0.html

    The evidence points to your leadership conspiring to lie to your party and to the electorate. Why would they do this? Simple- cuts were so important to the Tories that they could gain concessions by making the Tories bargain for something the Lib Dem head cabal secretly wanted anyway.

  • Some speculation: Is it possible that those “senior Lib Dems”- I’m guessing Clegg/Huhne/Laws who definately wanted early cuts might be behind the rumours that Vince Cable never really believed in waiting until the economy was in a shape to take them?

    Some more: What else was campaigned on that the Lib Dems never believed? The mansion tax seems like the perfect policy to pretend to want if you’re looking to squeeze more out of the Tories, for example.

  • So, should our eager tory-fans now rename the party the National Liberals?

  • Barry George 9th Aug '10 - 8:52pm

    @ Greg Foster

    Sorry, at what point was there “brazen lying” to the electorate?

    Oh I don’t know about brazen lying but the fact that we were Brazenly misleading is undeniable.

    When we said (for example) that the Tories would raise VAT, we forgot to mention that by voting for us, you would end up with the very same raise in VAT that we so publicly campaigned against.

    I don’t wish to be pedantic but claiming that we said “we’d give the party with the largest mandate the first shot at forming a coalition” is a completely different argument to the one regarding the entire honesty of our election campaign.

    Again you are not lying you are merely making a massive deflection from the truth by using our pre-election statements regarding our post-election position to dilute the reality of a very clear, massive ( and arguably intentional) misunderstanding of our position by the populous

    which turned out to be…

    ‘We will abandon our manifesto pledges and will in fact help to legislate some of the very policies we are campaigning against’.

    Lying ? maybe not, but please don’t try using the argument that we were ‘honest !

  • @Andrew Tennant: It’s possible, but who knows? Your lot certainly lied about early cuts, it’s a fair question to ask if they believed any of what they allowed themselves to be bargained out of.

  • David Allen 9th Aug '10 - 9:51pm

    Vince’s verdict on the Tories, from the actual Guardian article:

    “I think what I’m doing is worthwhile, I think I’m making a difference, and so I’m committed to it.” He pauses again, and smiles weakly. “But that doesn’t mean to say it’s, you know, wonderful.”

    Now, I wonder why you chose not to use that quote on LDV?

    Does it now stand for “Lying to Deceive the Voters”?

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Aug '10 - 10:49pm

    I have now asked many, many times in Lib Dem Voice of the various people who write things like some of the attacks here, accusation of sell-outs, lying, etc, “OK, what could the party have done that you would have found preferable?”. The word “could” means the answer must refer to the situation we were actually in following the 2010 election, which rules out “implement your entire manifesto” or the like. I have not yet received a single straight anwer to that question. This sort of attack is the thing that leads people to write off democratic politics as “not worth bothering with, they are all liars”. The triumph of the political right in politics in this country is due to a large extent to the successful anti-politics campaign run by its proxies, such as THE Sun newspaper, which has caused so many of those who most need politics to challenge the power of wealth to dismiss even casting a vote as “not worth bothering with”. How jolly good for the rich that they need not fear the poor outvoting them due to Mr Murdoch etc convincing the poor not to vote. All this “yah booh sucks” destructive opposition sort of politics, as in these “you’re unprincipled liars” attacks is just more back-up for Mr Murdoch and his campaign against politics.

    The 2010 election left Parliament with just two viable coaltions: Conservative-LibDem and Conservative-Labour. A Labour-LibDem coalition was not viable because it would not have a majority. In any case, Labour was not willing to form such a coalition or to enter a Conservative-Labour grand coalition. Labour knew full well 2010 was the election to lose.

    Had the Liberal Democrats not agreed to a coalition, it was clear here would have been financial panic with the feeling that the lack of a stable government meant actions that needed to be taken by governemnt would not be taken. So the option “let David Cameron be Prime Minister, don’t join the government, but vote issue by issue” was not viable. Cameron would have called another election in months saying “get us out of this unstable mess the LibDems have put us in by theri presence, vote their MPs out and give us a majority”.

    Unfortunately, therefore, the Liberal Democrats had no option but to agree to a coaltion with the Conservatives. Quiote obviously any such coalition is not going to implement the entire LibDem manifesto, is going to implement some policies which were in the Tory manifesto and which the Liberal Democrats opposed. To make things worse, as there was no alternative coalition option, the Liberal Democrats had a very weak negotiating position. To make things worse as well, the LibDems achieved a disappointing result in the general election, meaning they had the most to fear, even discounting the other problems, if there was another general election soon after.

    If one can accept all this, then one can legitimately make criticisms of the Liberal Democrat leadership for how they have handled the coalition situation. I myself am very unhappy about how they have handled it, to the point where my initial feeling “let them get on with it, see how they do after a couple of years” is becoming one where two years seems an awfully long time and should there be a dissent movement within the party earlier than that, I would join it. This is actually what could bring an early end to the coalition, but I am quite certain myself that the “you’re all unprincipled liars for selling out” people who are saying that merely because of the existence of the coalition are a hindrance to that and not a help. I have always believed in constructive opposition – which means if you say something is wrong, you are willing to give a viable alternative. I see no such constructive opposition from the people who send messages atacking the Liberal Democrats to this site who are not LibDem supporters. All I see is worthless “yah booh” stuff.

  • John Emerson 9th Aug '10 - 11:37pm

    “OK, what could the party have done that you would have found preferable?”

    To be fair there were two other options, a ‘rainbow’ coalition with labour and the nationalist, or a supply and confidence agreement with the conservatives. One of which would have been rather unpopular and relatively unstable, while the other would have given the lib-dems less influence, (although still a considerable amount, we should have been able to get through a number of lib-dem policy such as the increase in the tax threshold and civil liberties) but both were realistic possibilities.

  • Andrea Gill 9th Aug '10 - 11:41pm

    @Matthew – very very good points, thanks for that. 🙂

    @neil bradbury – LOL, yes ConHome in particular is a bit of a wake-up call!

  • David Allen 9th Aug '10 - 11:54pm

    Matthew,

    You say that you haven’t received a straight answer, but it seems to me that you then come close to saying that no answer other than your own could possibly count as a straight answer. The truth is surely that there are problems with all the options. Consequently, you can’t rule out any option just because there is a big problem with it. There is a massive problem with what we are doing now.

    My view at the time the coalition was negotiated was the same as yours – that it looked like the least bad option. But we now know that the real agreement was not what was written down and published. How else to explain the free schools policy, the NHS upheaval, and now the statement that the cuts are a deliberate and permanent policy to cut the state and let the private sector take over – with no objection whatsoever from our Dear Leader? Clearly Clegg knew and agreed all this in advance – even though the rest of us didn’t.

    The other viable alternative would have been to promise not to bring down a minority Conservative government for a limited period, say two years. During that time we would have promised to support key Tory economic policies to tackle the deficit, and not to bring the government down on a vote of confidence. Yes, Cameron might have agreed to that and then cynically cut and run with another quick election. But it would have been a big risk for him. We would rightly have blamed him for causing unnecessary instability, given our promise not to bring his government down. The likelihood is that Cameron would have had more to fear than we would have done, and that he would therefore have avoided an election and accepted our two year prop-up deal.

    Two months ago, I thought this was a poorer option than full-blown coalition, because it would have meant untrammeled Tory government. With a coalition, I thought, we would ameliorate the worst of the Tories’ policies. I was wrong, as Norman Tebbit has explained. In reality, we are providing “cover” for Cameron, who is able to mover further and faster to the Right because he has the Lib Dems to shore up his stance and make it seem more widely accepted. Our support is helping to encourage the sort of people who say that the private sector should now run everything.

    So we should accept that we did the wrong thing. We should bite the bullet and tell Cameron that his AV bribe is not worth it. We must not threaten an immediate collapse of the Tory government, because it is partly our mistake to have agreed to it (and it is partly that we were deceived). But we should not let it run five years, we should set a fixed timescale, and we should provide the limited support to allow the Tories to govern stably within that timescale.

    It won’t make us look marvellous. But it will be a lot better than carrying on the way we are, with our support falling away and our principles vanishing.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th Aug '10 - 12:09am

    Matthew

    You know as well as everyone else that there was a strong expectation before the election that the party would not enter a formal coalition with either Labour or the Conservatives, but reach a looser agreement (“supply and confidence”). You must also remember that it was strongly rumoured at one point that the party was about to make an official statement to that effect.

    With the benefit of hindsight, obviously all that was duplicitous spin designed to hoodwink as many people as possible into voting Lib Dem. And with the benefit of further hindsight, it’s no surprise that we were told one self-serving lie before the election, and another self-serving lie now (“there is no alternative”). And that’s just as true of individual policies – the timing of the cuts, NHS reform, nuclear power, student loans and a hundred and one other issues – as it is of the whole shebang.

    The moral I draw from the whole thing is simply that all politicians are liars. To be fair, the Lib Dems are probably not that much worse than all the other liars. It’s just their misfortune that they’ve been forced into a situation in which they’ve had to retract one set of lies and substitute another within an indecently short period of time. But that’s coalitions for you.

  • Vince is living a nightmare that he desperately wants to wake up from but can’t. I think the breaking point will be when the Boundary Commission publishes its judge-proof, slimmed down constituency boundaries. Once Lib Dem MPs see that Cameron has stitched them up, rebellion will become unstoppable.

    The Labour trolls need to ask themselves how their party can hope to win a general election without the support of the Dirty Digger. Since Murdoch launched the “Sun” in 1969, Labour has only won twice without his newspapers’ support, and on both occasions (February and October 1974) it was by the narrowest of margins. When Kelvin McKenzie bragged that “it was the Sun that won it”, he was doing something very rare for a tabloid editor – he was speaking the truth. Unless Cameron does something utterly disastrous and his backers dump him (as they did John Major), Labour is stymied for at least a generation, and possibly forever.

  • David Allen wrote:

    “Clearly Clegg knew and agreed all this in advance – even though the rest of us didn’t.”

    Really? I don’t think so somehow. Are you seriously maintaining that Clegg went behind the back of not only his Parliamentary colleagues, but his negotiating team as well, and entered into a secret parallel pact with Cameron? Is it not more plausible that Cameron simply double-crossed Clegg?

    Now, do take this double-crossing by Cameron as a stark warning of things to come. The accelerated, judge-proof boundaries “review” presents Cameron with an unparallelled opportunity to wipe us off the electoral map. And that’s what he will do, if we let him.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th Aug '10 - 12:48am

    “Is it not more plausible that Cameron simply double-crossed Clegg?”

    Well, who can tell? But if Cameron did double-cross Clegg, I’ll bet Clegg thought at the time that he was double-crossing Cameron.

  • Barry George 10th Aug '10 - 1:20am

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    I rule out all these complainers as worthless people

    Wow, how thoroughly narcissistic of you… 😉

    The ‘complainers’ have answered your question regarding alternatives after the election , just as they have been answered when others have asked before you.

    However your comment, should there be a dissent movement within the party earlier than that, I would join it. ‘

    Is one that has my whole hearted support.

    @ John Emerson

    ‘or a supply and confidence agreement with the conservatives. ‘

    Yes that would also be my answer to Mathews question… certainly a better option than the one we picked .

  • Peter Venables 10th Aug '10 - 2:53am

    Why the hell you couldn’t have a coalition without all these contentious policies such as the NHS reforms.
    I would have thought the cuts and trying to stimulate growth would have been enough for now.
    This is why i cannot vote LibDem again, not because you are working with them, but because they are using my LibDem vote to do things i despise.

  • Peter
    The Lib-dem MPs are not obliged to vote for what is not in the Coalition agreement.
    History will show that the financial crisis this country is now facing is much deeper
    than what most people imagine.
    If I were young I would certainly go to South Australia.
    Felix 8:52pm
    The name has already been taken.
    The independent Liberals live on but we know and wait
    for the splits that are going to happen in the other parties.

  • @Manfarang – look up your party history! I wasn’t referring to the continuing Liberal Party: of course I know about that.
    I was casting back a bit further into last century, in particular the last usage of the name by the former Liberal Nationals who changed their name to National Liberals in 1948 and were eventually in continual pacts with the Tories until merging with them in 1968.
    Some of us see the Cleggites as the start of a new “National Liberal” party getting more and more indistinguishable from the Tories. Do we need a new Independent Liberal Party to save social liberalism from the conservatives? I doubt the rump Liberal Party can be of help here, but certainly I would hope to see the foundation of an anti-coalition grouping within the party in the country to try and avoid the National Liberal route.

  • I am sorry, Matthew and others. Why, oh why will you not consider that there had been a possibility of a coalition / or minority situation Tory with Labour. After all, Clegg told everyone he (or by implication, we) were NOT kingmakers. We had the weakest position to impose our policies. Where we did have some strength (no more, I fear) is in leading the debate – we could have exerted enormous moral pressure on both parties to cooperate fully. This would have made sense in that Labour’s policies were closer to those of the Tories than were ours. We could have gone in as a Grand Coalition, although preferable to remain a principled opposition. Had those two parties resisted it would have been more obvious to the electorate that their tribal politics was letting the country down at a time of perceived crisis.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '10 - 9:44am

    In reply to those who have written since I posted yesterday, the argument I was making there was that I felt a Conservative-LibDem coalition was the only viable option following the 2010 election. This is a separate argument than one which supports what the coalition is doing now. I would have thought my last paragraph makes that very clear and spells out that I certainly don’t agree with how the coalition has been handled by our party leaders subsequent to it being established.

    That is really what I am saying – constructive criticism which will enable us to move forward needs to separate out these two things. What I am attacking as “worthless” is the destructive criticism which attacks the party and all its members just for the fact that the coalition was formed in the first place. Such a coalition would not have been forced on us had the people of this country voted differently. Neither would it have been forced on us had we a more proportional electoral system. It was forced on us because more people voted Conservative than for any other party, and we have an electoral system which is supported by the Conservative Party and the Labour Party on the grounds that it tends to distort representation in favour of the largest party. This means that both Labour and the Conservatives support a government by the other party over a coalition of any sort. As such, a vote for Labour in 2010 was a vote for a Conservative government in the event of the Conservatives emerging as the largest party – which they did. Constructive criticism needs also to take into account that we live in a democracy, and we get what we voted for. First Past The Post voting led to the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party being much less in share of Parliament than share of votes in the election, so reducing the party’s negotiating power, and to Labour not having enough MPs to combine with the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition with a majority. Anyone who says (as I have heard many times) “Now I have seen this coalition, I would not vote for electoral reform” should consider that this coalition is the result of FPTP, it is what FPTP is supported to give us – representation twisted in favour of the largest party.

    I have argued why neither a “rainbow coalition” nor supply and confidence to a minority Conservative government were viable options. The rainbow coalition would have to be led by Labour and required a willingness from Labour to lead it. There was no such willingness. Labour tends to have an anti-pluralist attitude anyway, but this was combined in 2010 by the obvious tactical advantage they could gain by a period in opposition. As it was said, 2010 was the general election to lose. In addition, the cobbling together of a government with a tiny majority only through including various smaller parties meant such a government would be inherently unstable. This is what we saw at the end of the Callaghan government in the 1970s – the Northern Irish MPs worked it to get money and concessions thrown at their province, and in the end it just required one maverick to sit out a vote of confidence to bring it down. In the suggested rainbow coalition there would be many mavericks, yet the coalition would, as the current coalition, have to make very difficult and contentious decisions. So it would forever be wavering requiring Northern Irish MPs and the like to make up their minds and the resulting uncertainty and inability to make crucial decisions would have been very damaging.

    Before the election I myself was arguing for supply and confidence to a minority Conservative government as what we should be doing in the event of the Conservatives being the largest party but without an overall majority. I continued arguing this in the immediate aftermath of the election results, but I came to see that it was not going to work. Had we not been in such a dire economic state I think this would have been a viable option. However, it seemed to me that the uncertainty of a minority government which could be brought down at any time would cause a loss of confidence in this country’s ability or willingness to deal with the economic crisis. We would see the various financial figures sliding, and the Liberal Democrats would get the blame. I don’t agree at all that Cameron would have had much to fear from calling another general election early. Rather I suspect he would have saved the big cuts until after that election in order to avoid losing popularity, and made a huge appeal on the lines “give me a majority and I can given properly”. If to avoid this the Liberal Democrats made an agreement to support his government in return for no early general election, we would have ended up abstaining or being forced to vote for worse than what we are having to do in the coalition. You can be quite sure that the abuse we are getting now over the coalition would be no less than what we would be getting had we been giving supply and confidence to a minority Conservative government.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '10 - 9:54am

    Tim13

    I am sorry, Matthew and others. Why, oh why will you not consider that there had been a possibility of a coalition / or minority situation Tory with Labour.

    Because there was no such possibility. I would much have preferred this outcome, and it would have made sense seeing as the 1997-2010 Labour governments were essentially carrying on the work of the 1979-1997 Conservative governments. However, it would have required a willingness from Labour to enter such a coalition, and there was no such willingness. What you are saying is essentially “if things were different from what they were, things would have been different”, which is true but meaningless. We can all dream of solution to problems which involve other people doing things that they won’t, but having such dreams is not the same as actually solving the problem in the real world. It is rather like Northern Ireland or Palestine-Israel – yes, “everyone getting together and stopping hating each other and being violent” would be a really good solution to the problem, but it isn’t going to happen. It would be silly to accuse someone who advocated something different but which was actually possible of being a bad person, accusing them of such because they did not go for the “just stop being violent” solution.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '10 - 10:17am

    Anthony Aloysius St

    You know as well as everyone else that there was a strong expectation before the election that the party would not enter a formal coalition with either Labour or the Conservatives, but reach a looser agreement (“supply and confidence”).

    No. I myself was arguing for this as the preferred option, but I was certainly not aware of the party leadership supporting this option or giving any signals that it was their preferred one. On the contrary, it seemed to be an option which had vocal support in the party only from those like myself who are opponents of the right-wing faction which currently leads it.

    With the benefit of hindsight, obviously all that was duplicitous spin designed to hoodwink as many people as possible into voting Lib Dem. And with the benefit of further hindsight, it’s no surprise that we were told one self-serving lie before the election, and another self-serving lie now (“there is no alternative”).

    So you are accusing me of issuing a self-serving lie? How does it serve me to argue the point that there was viable option following from the election results apart from a Conservative-LibDem coalition? I hate what the coalition is doing, and I would desperately wish there was something else that could have been done apart from this. I gain no financial or any other benefits from making the point I make, so how is it “self-serving”? I have made no secret of the fact that I despise Nick Clegg, I begged and pleaded with members of the party not to vote for him as leader perhaps more so than anyone else at least publicly as in this and other public LibDem websites. So I have no reason at all to “lie” as you accuse me of doing in his favour.

    You write as if the Liberal Democrats are some sort of Stalinist party, in which all members are slavish supporters of the leader and will do whatever that leader says. That is just not so. It is a democratic party, so ultimately its leader is answerable to its members. Most people who join the party do so because they see it as a vehicle for moving this country in the way they feel is best, not for any personal advantage. Most of us who are members of the party are not MPs and have no desire to be MPs, we work for it voluntarily and get no financial reward for it. Why should we lie and hoodwink as you accuse us of doing?


    The moral I draw from the whole thing is simply that all politicians are liars. To be fair, the Lib Dems are probably not that much worse than all the other liars. It’s just their misfortune that they’ve been forced into a situation in which they’ve had to retract one set of lies and substitute another within an indecently short period of time. But that’s coalitions for you.

    This is an anti-democratic line. If politicians are inevitably liars, it means democracy can’t work. And I have already said, this line has been pushed very strongly by the financially wealthy because it is in their interest. If they can push the line “politics is bad”, it will support the idea that governments should be weak and should give over as much as possible to the private sector. So, in making this point, Mr St, you are arguing for right-wing Conservatism and for the sort of policies this government is giving us.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '10 - 10:25am

    Sesenco

    “Clearly Clegg knew and agreed all this in advance – even though the rest of us didn’t.”

    Really? I don’t think so somehow. Are you seriously maintaining that Clegg went behind the back of not only his Parliamentary colleagues, but his negotiating team as well, and entered into a secret parallel pact with Cameron?

    Possibly, yes. I think it quite plausible. As I have already said, I despise the man and thought the party was hugely mistaken in voting him in as leader. See how he emerged from nowhere and was suddenly pushed on us by the Murdoch press etc as “naturally the next leader of the party”? I have always found him deeply unimpressive, a shallow thinker who jumps on any bandwagon going, a vindictive personality who shamelessly pushes his supporters in the party and does down anyone else. If he had not gone to a top private school, if he was not so easily bent to support what the financial establishment is telling us we should support, if he had more left-wing views, he would have remained an obscure back-bencher. He is their man, and if there is more trickery from him in what we see now than we realise, I would not at all be surprised.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '10 - 10:36am

    Peter Venables

    Why the hell you couldn’t have a coalition without all these contentious policies such as the NHS reforms.
    I would have thought the cuts and trying to stimulate growth would have been enough for now.

    Yes, I agree. The NHS reforms are explicitly against what was written in the coalition agreement. The point I am making about the coalition being necessary because if the economic situation means – as you say – that it ought to be focusing solely on the reducing the deficit. That most certainly means NOT engaging in any sort of structural reforms unless a very clear case can be made that they will assist in the relatively short term in reducing the deficit. No such clear case has been made for the NHS reforms. The “free schools” thing too is costly pursuit of ideology from a point of view of ignorance, since actually what it claims to give is to a large extent already available. Public schoolboy politicians and media commentators may believe the problem with schools is that they are all run by the council, but they are not, councils have almost no say on what goes on in them. We have a system of governors which means people who want to assist in running schools can already volunteer and do so, no need to write a blank cheque for these “free schools”. If we had a government which wasn’t so stuffed with clueless millionaires and their hangers-on, all this rubbish would not be going through.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '10 - 10:46am

    Felix Holt

    Some of us see the Cleggites as the start of a new “National Liberal” party getting more and more indistinguishable from the Tories. Do we need a new Independent Liberal Party to save social liberalism from the conservatives?

    I hope not, rather I hope the Liberal Democrats will be saved by its membership. The party is not its leader, nor is it controlled by its leader. I have argued about the difficult circumstances which meant a coalition with the Conservatives had to be agreed, but that does not mean party members are obliged to support everything that coalition is doing. Rather, the party’s Parliamentary leadership must argue its case in the party’s democratic forums, and if the party membership thinks it is doing wrong and there is a better option, the party membership must vote that leadership out.

    Whether it would come to a formal split or not depends on how such a thing would be treated. If Clegg is an honest man and not as I have doubted him, he would welcome such movements within the party as they would strengthen his hands in any negotiations with Cameron.

    It is for this reason that I urge anyone who is unhappy with the coalition not to desert the Liberal Democrats but to make more clear that it is quite possible to be a Liberal Democrat and yet not be an uncritical supporter of Nick Clegg. The stronger the opposition to what the coalition is doing within the party, the more likely it is we can get it changed, or even thrown out. If the non-Cleggites walk out of the party, we are stuck with Conservative government now, and back to right-wing Labour government after that as there is no sign of any real change from Blairism in the Labour Party.

  • @Mathew Huntbach:

    You’re missing the point. I don’t care what you do here on out. You should not have conspired against the electorate, lied brazenly about what your party intended in order to place yourself in a better position with which to make a deal with the Tories.

    It isn’t so much where you are that is disgraceful to me- I disagree with what you’re doing and think it will all end in tears. It is the fact that your party’s pre-election strategy was to tell people they would do something they had no intention of doing in order to play mind games with the Conservatives and gain from them.

    The government could turn out to have wanted everything I wanted, I would still criticize it for being so contemptuous of democracy that it lied to the electorate about what exactly they were voting for.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th Aug '10 - 3:09pm

    Matthew

    You say on the one hand that a coalition with the Tories was the only viable option, but then you say that you yourself argued for a “supply and confidence” agreement rather than a coalition.

    Difficult to make sense of.

  • David Allen 10th Aug '10 - 3:45pm

    Following Anthony Aloysius’ post: Perhaps we should spend less time thinking about what might have been the best thing to go for three months ago, and more time thinking about what to do now.

    We were all trying to find a path through fog. I fear that it was all far clearer for Cameron and Clegg. They knew what they wanted and they drove it through. With charm covering up duplicity. I predict that when Clegg finally voices his first critical remark about the progress of the coalition, it will be to urge some backsliding Tory minister to make greater cuts in State activity. Just like his counterpart, Westerwelle of the German Free Democrats. Under Clegg, the Lib Dems will reposition to the right of the Tories.

    If we let him get away with it.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 11th Aug '10 - 12:46am

    “Under Clegg, the Lib Dems will reposition to the right of the Tories.
    If we let him get away with it.”

    I wish someone could do something about it, but sadly I can’t imagine the Deputy Prime Minister/Lord President/Defender of the Earth is going to take a blind bit of notice of a bunch of activists quoting the party constitution at him.

  • I went to the job centre today – they confirmed what we should all know, after a fall at the end of the Labour Government – unemployment (in my area at least) is on the way up.

    The danger is clear the very measure being introduced to cut the structural deficit are going to crash the economey – leading to a rise in the actual deficit. The coalition government seems determined to suck demand out of the economy with exactly the same results achieved before in both the 1930s and 1980s.

    @Jedibeeftrix – the point is that we abandoned “classical liberalism” because our understanding of freedom evolved as the social and economic conditions evolved. Classical Liberals today reside mostly in Conservative Parties – and that is where Clegg & Co & the so called “Liberal Future” (Or is it Liberal Back to the Future) coterie belong – not in our Welfarist Social Liberal Party.

    Things are of course worse for conservatives – proper conservatives really only have UKIP as an option.

  • The supply and confidence option would have had the benefit of clearly defining where the parties in coalition stood as the debate on each issue would be held in public. It had the potential to show what the Lib Dems stood for, whereas the current set up blurrs our identity.

  • Felix
    Let me restate that-
    The spirit of the Independent Liberals lives on.
    I wasn’t refering to the very small Liberal Party (1989)
    which in fact is closer to the old National Liberal Party
    than the Liberal Democrats.
    I knew and remember the many Methodists that were
    party members in the 1950s and 1960s and it is their
    outlook that I will help to revive within the Liberal Democrats.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '10 - 10:44am

    Tom Papworth

    I can’t be bothered to respond to any of it, exept to note that “If he had not gone to a top private school… he would have remained an obscure back-bencher” and we would have got Chris Huhne instead. Now where did he go to school?

    Indeed, this shows the enormous advantage of having that sort of background, it does tend to give one a confidence and manner and contacts which tends to mean one is rated higher and able to go further than someone equally able but whose accent and manner is more like those of ordinary people. Sorry, but I’ve just never seen what others see in Clegg – he’s always struck me as a man of average ability, no more than that, and one with little in the way of original insight, and with rather poor leadership skills. I really could not comprehend why he was so heavily being pushed as “the obvious next leader of the party” if it was not that his background led media commentators to favour him as did his tendency to favour the predominant political ideology of our day rather than to be more thoughtful and sceptical about it.

    I was after all right that Clegg did not give us the huge electoral advantage that his supporters claimed he would during the leadership election. His pedestrian and faltering performance in the leaders’ debates in the general election cost us huge numbers of votes. It has now been shown that the rise in our support which was attributed to the first leaders’ debate was in fact due more to Liberal Democrat activists increasing their work in the run-up to the general election – the rise was seen in the last polls BEFORE the first leaders’ debate. The belief that it was Clegg rather than local activity which win us that rise meant all the attention was then placed on Clegg as if he was all our party was about, and our support dropped as his performance was observed closely, dramatically at the end as Clegg stumbled on looking weaker and weaker rather than delivering the knock-out speech I kept assuming would come but did not.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '10 - 10:49am

    Anthony Aloysius St

    You say on the one hand that a coalition with the Tories was the only viable option, but then you say that you yourself argued for a “supply and confidence” agreement rather than a coalition.

    Yes.

    Having considered the circumstances after the election, I changed my mind. In other circumstances, “supply and confidence” would have been a viable option and the better one to chose, but in the situation which the voters and economy put us into after the 2010 general election, it wasn’t. It took me a few days after the election to come to that opinion. I don’t often admit to having been wrong (which of us do?), but in that case I was.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '10 - 10:58am

    MIke

    You’re missing the point. I don’t care what you do here on out. You should not have conspired against the electorate, lied brazenly about what your party intended in order to place yourself in a better position with which to make a deal with the Tories.

    I did not. I campaigned honestly for the Liberal Democrats, and I worked hard for the election of Pete Pattisson in Lewisham East. I have no reason to believe that anything Pete put in his election material was not Pete’s honest beliefs which he holds now as he did then.

    The possibility that no party would hold a majority in Parliament was always there. Quite obviously, had our party emerged as holding an absolute majority it would have done differently than it has had to do as a consequence of what the general election results gave us. I wish the general election had left us in a position where we could have stopped some of the damaging things the current Tory government is doing, but it did not. It left us in the position where the best we could do was to exert a minor influence as a junior coalition partner. I am sorry about that, but that’s democracy for you – what the people vote for is not always what you want.

  • @Mathew Huntbach: You campaigned on a stance that your representatives in the party would argue secretly against.

    Read what I’ve actually said. It doesn’t matter what the people voted for because by your leaders’ own admission your party intended the opposite of what they told the electorate as they went to vote, and then they made sure that what they really wanted was put into policy. Your leadership having lied to you as well as to the electorate doesn’t make a difference to me, since your representatives duly grovelled and voted the way the leadership wanted.

  • david thorpe 11th Aug '10 - 2:34pm

    @ David Allen

    I dont know a single LIb dem who thinks whats happening now is wonderful, our vision of wonderful is a standalone lib dem government. What we have now is a pragmatic solution for britain.

    I thought it irnic the gaurdian saying vince is regarded as the most left of the lib dems…hes an ornage booker abd people like bob russell would surely be more to the left of him on many issues

  • David Allen 11th Aug '10 - 2:49pm

    “I wish someone could do something about it, but sadly I can’t imagine the Deputy Prime Minister/Lord President/Defender of the Earth is going to take a blind bit of notice of a bunch of activists quoting the party constitution at him.”

    No, he isn’t. He has shown himself a determined, ruthless and manipulative politician. His right-wing coup within his own party is very reminiscent of Tony Blair, except that Blair actually did it in a more honest and open manner.

    He will take no notice of blogs, motions, or speeches. He might have to take notice of a collapse in the polls or a “Real Liberal Democrats” candidate in the next Parliamentary byelection.

  • “What would impress me is a serious response to the severe financial mess the country is in.”

    Let’s start with Cameron’s admission that the financial situation is to be used as a pretext for a long term change that would otherwise not gain widespread acceptance. Then let’s accept that the deficit must be dealt with in a way that maintains the confidence of the markets, for example halving it over three years as recommended by G20. CameronClegg want to go faster for reasons of their own, unrelated to real need.

    If that’s not serious enough for you, then it’s because you’re not serious enough.

    “When someone makes ad hominen attacks, I’m not inclined to take the rest of their arguments seriously.”

    Translation: “If you praise Clegg I will listen to your points of detail, if not, I will rubbish you.” (Oh and by the way, the subtle way in which I will rubbish you must not in any way be deemed to be an ad hominem attack, of course!)

    Look, for thirty years I have taken pride in my membership of this movement, and its great leadership – Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy, David Steel, and many others. Do you want to drive me away, and drive the public away, by this parade of casuistry, and by abandoning all their principles?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 13th Aug '10 - 1:13pm

    “I set out five factors which should determine when you start cutting the deficit, and one of them related to the conditions in the markets.”

    Yes Vince – but what were the other four factors – and why have you decided to ignore what they say??? The markets are now concerned about growth slowing down – does that mean that the government should reverse its economic policies??

  • My worry is that the lib dem conference will be a stage managed big clap for clegg and co with no dissent just like the last special conference. Carry on clapping while people are evicted, playgrounds are cut, pensions are cut and so on into the vast list. The public will remember at the elections when they are hurting badly.

  • Matthew Huntbach thinks we are ”worthless” does he? Does that include all of those Lib Dem voters that are very angry at what the coalition has done? Thankyou for clarifying how we are considered, First time I have seen red in years and I do not mean Labour.

  • Linda Forbes 14th Aug '10 - 10:39am

    So I wonder how Vince feels having had Philip Green appointed as the new auditor and procurer in chief, when in March 2009, said: “There is growing intolerance of British companies and the super-rich who dodge taxes. Having an adviser who is also a tax exile is completely incompatible and totally unacceptable.”

    Changed your mind again Vince? How much money is someone like Green going to cost us, or is he doing it from the kindness of his heart in gratitude for the tax he avoided in his 2005/6 deal?

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