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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Marching through gunfire

It is good that despite all the negative sniping and biased write-ups in the media that at least one national newspaper is prepared to recognise the achievements of the Liberal Democrats in Government. Today's Independent on Sunday has a blisteringly good editorial in which they praise the party's resilience and its achievements:

[The] party is gathered in Brighton for its spring conference this weekend in better heart than it has been at any time since that glad confident morning in the Downing Street garden. The immediate source of its good spirit was its success in holding Huhne's seat in Eastleigh in the by-election last month. Simply holding on is a huge achievement for a government party at a time of economic gloom and anti-politics mood. For the Liberal Democrats, after their travails and when their standing in national opinion polls is well below half their share of the vote at the general election, it seems miraculous.

Two lessons may be learnt from this. One is that the personal conduct of the party's leaders, acknowledged or alleged, has not detracted from voters' assessment of Lib Dem policies and values. The other is that the party will be a large presence in the House of Commons after the next general election, as it has proved that it can defend most of the 57 seats that it holds.

Yet the party is buoyant because it is more than just a vote-harvesting machine. Its members believe that they have shown maturity as a party of government, and that they have made a difference as a junior coalition partner, which the voters have recognised and for which they will be rewarded. Whereas for journalists, "coalition tensions" has been one of the easiest headlines to write every day for nearly three years, for the Lib Dems, those tensions are the point of pluralist government.

They have prevented the Conservatives from doing things which are not in the national interest, such as scrapping the Human Rights Act or wasting a tax break on marriage. And they have persuaded the Tories to do things that they might not have done, such as raising the income tax threshold.

The paper concludes:

Despite everything, Mr Clegg's party is still with us, and still fighting for many of the values shared by The Independent on Sunday. They are the greenest of the three main parties, the most pro-European and they are the party that, 10 years ago this month, opposed the invasion of Iraq.

Their record in government has been mixed. But, for a party that was last in office in 1945, to have a record in government at all is an achievement. A Liberal leader once urged the party to march towards the sound of gunfire. Now, as Liberal Democrats, they are going through the gunfire. And they are still standing.
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