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Sunday, August 16, 2015

100 days that offer an opportunity for Tim Farron

The blogpost after two weeks away is always a difficult one to write, but an event that occurred whilst I was away offers a good starting point. That is the passing of the first 100 days of David Cameron's new administration.

As this article makes it clear, the absence of the Liberal Democrats from government has released the Conservative Party from some significant restraints and that is not a good thing for the people of Britain.

Tim Farron writes that week after week, we have seen the Tories roll back a whole raft of policies that the Liberal Democrats blocked in government:
He continues:

On the environment, David Cameron is now free to be every bit as good as his word, and, with a massive downgrade of the agenda that the Lib Dems championed in coalition, he absolutely has. So, we have already seen ten key environmental policies, developed by consensus over many years, watered down or completely scrapped.
With the UK's housing stock already responsible for almost a third of our greenhouse gas emissions, the last policy puts it on course to rise to more than half by 2050. It's hard to see the upside. Sadly, we have seen this bull-headed, unscientific approach spreading through government departments like wildfire.

So, we have a home secretary committed to bringing back the snooper's charter that we blocked in government. And that is despite the findings of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation that deemed its plans to retain everyone's internet browsing logs - a move unprecedented across the Western world - as "undemocratic, unnecessary and in the long run intolerable".

We have a prime minister intent on scrapping the Human Rights Act, despite little information on what it would be replaced with, other than "a common sense approach" which to many of us, including large numbers in his own party, sounds frankly terrifying.

We have a Chancellor who wants to cull £20billion from Whitehall budgets with no clear vision for what public services will remain after departments have had their budgets slashed by up to 40%. And a health secretary who has silently - and without consultation or parliamentary account -kicked the cap on social care costs due to come in next year into the long grass.

In one stroke it has crushed the hopes of tens of thousands of older people and their families who will now face the catastrophic costs of care on their own. This was a policy that had been ignored and pushed back by governments for decades and which, thanks to Lib Dems in government, it looked like we had finally cracked. Instead, we've seen it consigned to the dust heap without any assessment of the costs to individuals or councils, and no plan to address the growing crisis in social care.

The Liberal Democrats leader concludes that the Liberal Democrats have been the only ones to front up and oppose brutal welfare cuts on the weakest in society. We are the only party showing compassion to desperate asylum seekers from war-torn countries and calling for an EU wide solution to a true humanitarian crisis.

On this he is right. What we need to do now though is to take that message to the country, community by community through the sorts of grassroots campaigning that the party once specialised in. With Labour in disarray, with the nationalist parties of Plaid Cymru and UKIP having nothing new to say on these issues, this is our opportunity. We must not fluff it.
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