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Thursday, December 23, 2010

After the Crash

The Guardian's Wintour and Watt blog highlights a typically frank blog post from the Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay, Adrian Sanders.

As you would expect the journalists are keen to quote the fairly strong criticisms of Nick Clegg than the more positive message at the end:

Its overall message represents a head on disagreement about strategy, attitude and tactics. Around the time of the tuition fees vote, the party was rightly praising itself for conducting its internal debates without rancour. Well rancour has now well and truly turned up.

Sanders writes:

Unlike the bulk of the Liberal Democrat membership, the current leadership and their advisors are dominated by people who give the impression they didn't, among other things, enter politics to deny the Conservatives political power. That is the fundamental difference between them and those who have spent a lifetime campaigning against the enemy, and who view the Tories as the opposition to just about everything we stand for.

We have a leadership that seems keener on impressing the Conservatives as to how much we can be relied upon to take 'tough' decisions, than on asserting how much the Conservatives need us in order to remain in Government.

The leadership almost revels in having to take decisions against the grain of Liberal Democrat support and can't see the damage and hurt left in their wake.
Adrian's message though is far more positive:

There is a better way and that’s to demonstrate the difference the Liberal Democrats have made to the country, and importantly, to the Conservatives.

When constituents and others complain to me about putting the Tories in power I ask them to imagine a Conservative Government retaining a 50p top rate of tax, introducing an increase in capital gains tax, implementing a bank levy to fund child tax credits for poorer families, taking the lowest paid out of income tax altogether, extending the national minimum wage to include apprentices and reducing the age at which the full National Minimum Wage is paid, increasing the number of social housing allocations above those of the previous Labour Government, establishing a pupil premium to increase the funding for pupils in poorer areas, investing £900 million to reduce tax evasion and amend legal loopholes that allow for tax avoidance, proposing a £140 minimum state pension, setting up a Green Investment Bank, moving towards a House of Lords elected by PR, agreeing to a fixed term Parliament and much, much more.

And before they can say tuition fees I ask them would a Tory Government have agreed to a fee cap?

Would they have introduced measures where all students will repay less per month under this Government’s policy than they currently pay? Where the lowest earning 25% of graduates will repay less than they do now? Where the top earning 30% of graduates will pay back more than they borrow and are likely to pay more than double the bottom 20% of earners? Where over half a million students will be eligible for more non-repayable grants for living costs than they get now? Where almost one million students will be eligible for more overall maintenance support than they get now? Where part-time students will no longer have to pay upfront fees benefiting up to 200,000 per year? Where there will be an extra £150m for a new National Scholarship Programme for students from poorer backgrounds and tough new sanctions on universities who fail to improve their access to students from such backgrounds?

There is so much positive policy and influence to promote, but we can’t get it across to the electorate unless we can show how we made the difference. Getting this information out and understood is part of a giant task that now confronts us to rebuild trust with voters who feel we have let them down, or worse betrayed them.

That is the message we need to be getting out in the run-up to the May elections. Adrian's conclusion is spot-on:

Perhaps we can start by admitting to ourselves the pleasure most of us take in the distress Conservatives have being in coalition with Liberals. It is such a pity that some in our leadership give the impression they feel the same discomfort with members of their own Party.

If they could only see what we see; that the Tories need us to implement some of their policies far more than we need them to water down, or corrupt ours, then maybe we can see light at the end of the tunnel, rather than the lights of another train bearing down upon us.

The message is clear, this is not a Tory Government. It is a genuine coalition and one in which the Liberal Democrats have real influence. It is now up to Nick Clegg to start shouting that loud and clear, starting on the first working day of the new year.
Cut and paste. Cut and paste. Ctrl & V....don't forget to write and tell us what we haven't already read sometimes...
As blog is short for weblog, which is a log of things one has read on the web, then this technique is perfectly in line with that. I do comment on the items I paste.
Peter, I have consistantly insisted that I support a Coalition Government, in which Lib Dem ministers play an equal part. And I try to highlight the courage and commitment that Lib Dem ministers are playing.
Glyn, I dont believe that I have said or implied otherwise.
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