Thursday, 23 December 2010

We Lib Dems may dislike the Tories but Labour can *add expletive* right off

It's a bold, sweeping heading for a blog post if ever I've written one but after another tumultuous week for Lib Dem Ministers, some 'end of year' Coalition considerations must be made.

Torygraph 'Sting'
Over the past few days, Lib Dem Ministers have all found themselves at the end of what has basically been an entrapment process by the Daily Torgraph. The ethics and the legality of what this newspaper has done lies on extremly thin ice (sorry, seasonal pun intended) and could be challenged in the courts. But be that as it may, the repercussions of the so called 'revelations' must be dealt with.

Lib Dems don't like Tories - Shock Horror!
What we have heard have been rather frank, apparently 'off-record' murmurings of discontent from Lib Dem Ministers about their Tory coalition partners.

Well don't be surprised! In what has been an incredible year in British politics, we now find ourselves being governed by a full-blown coalition for the first time in 65 years. These things don't happen every day of the week and the implementation of such an arrangement between erstwhile political foes is bound to throw up many discontents.

What we've heard this week in the main has been a personal uneasiness between Lib Dem Ministers and Conservative colleagues who were until last May, sworn political enemies. Crossing the rubicon and working together as has been done in the public interest won't dispel these tensions overnight. Tensions will remain and so they should. For this is a coalition made up of two sovereign parties, both of whom have their own distinct agendas and ideas on how to best run the country. But neither won the election in May and so had to accept that working together in the spirit of compromise was the grown-up way forward.

Tories don't like Lib Dems? You can bet on it!
What we have heard this week of course are the Lib Dem 'discontents' on being a part of this practical process. But what the Daily Torygraph have decided against doing is shining a mirror against the Tory Ministers in the Government to see how they view this political arrangement. Because the truth of the matter is they won't be happy with it either and why should they?! Before the election they accused the Lib Dems of being a 3rd party irrelevance but now, they've had to share power with us and tht sits very uneasily with the right-wing of the Tory Party in particular.

It's the knowing that these grumblings are occurring underneath the Tory surface which makes us Lib Dems know that we're doing something right. Indeed, knowing that our Ministers have these deeply held reservations about their Tory colleagues gives us at the grass-roots level a confidence that they are doing all that they can to push Lib Dem influence to the max in their respective departments.

Vince Cable however, went to far. As much as I and most Lib Dem members would've been pleased to hear him speak of a 'war' against Rupert Murdoch, his comments were ill-judged because of the quasi-judicial role in which he found himself. In 'Council code of conduct' speak, he pre-determined himself and it was right that the decision on Murdoch's take over of BSkyB was taken away from him. It's a shame but the right thing to do all the same even though I share Vince's sentiments.

Rank Labour Hypocrisy
But despite this Lib Dem discontent, it is a boring matter of fact that we are doing what is best for the country in working together with the Conservatives to put the country back on the right track.

Ed Miliband's comments yesterday on launching a scheme inviting young people to join Labour for a penny, in a recruitment drive designed to attract disillusioned former Lib Dem supporters, was pathetic. He also extended an olive branch to Lib Dem ministers unhappy with the government's direction, saying he would "welcome" them on the Labour benches.

Is he stupid or something? As much as we don't find working with the Conservatives a bed of roses, at least they had the balls to come together with the Lib Dems to work in the national interest. The Tories could've stuck it out and led a minority-government, called a snap election for this autumn and could well have won a majority themselves as did Wilson for Labour in '74. But they, like the Lib Dems decided to put party rancour aside to put the country back on a more stable footing.

Labour refused to play ball. They refused to be constructive when the time for talking arrived. They refused to be pro-active in offering a non-Tory government alternative. They refused to admit that they had to accept much of the blame for the financial mess that they left the country in. They refused to take responsibility for their actions and were willing, indeed keen, to go back into opposition for their own party political benefit.

Such a reprehensible attitude towards the greater good has severely damaged their reputation with the Lib Dem grass-roots and now, Ed Miliband wants US, Lib Dems to join back with Labour? Is he completely insane? Me, a Lib Dem, to join a party that reneged on the top priority facing all politicians - the well-being of our country? A party that has such a 'clean-slate' of policies that what it adds up too is having no policies at all? A party that destroyed our civil liberties when in government? A progressive party?! Ha! No chance!

Making a Liberal Difference to the Government of the United Kingdom
The Lib Dem MP for Torbay, Adrian Sanders has put down in writing his own observations on the siutation in his blog here. He gives his own insiders view of the problems that we face as a maturing, grown-up party of government.

What particularly strikes true to me though is his comments about better promoting the message of what Lib Dems in government are delivering. He states:

"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 NMW 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".

His final point is key - getting that message out. Because there's no doubt that this Government has a real liberal streak running through it that would not have existed under a purely Conservative alternative or indeed, a continuation of the Labour farce that preceded it.

We need to tell the world and it's dog what we're doing and how we're influencing government policy with those of our own. We may not like the Tories, but the country is in damned better shape for having us in the middle of government with them that if the they or Labour were left in charge on their own.

So here is one Liberal Democrat member who laughs in the sorry face of Ed Miliband. As I mentioned in my blog post here when he was elected leader, Labour made a big mistake in choosing Ed over David. I agree with my sentiments then, even more today.

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