Friday, May 21, 2010

House Points: Liberal Democrats on the government front bench

My House Points from today's Liberal Democrat News.

I decided upon a straightforward approach, but an awkward question remains: How do you write a mildly satirical column when your party is in power?

In the Cabinet

It was a sight I thought I would never see: Liberal Democrat cabinet ministers. But there they were on the government front bench when the new House met on Tuesday afternoon: Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander.

Even Ming Campbell had got into the act, occupying Dennis Skinner’s old seat just below the gangway.

And there are many other Liberal Democrat ministers who were not there. Chris Huhne and David Laws are in the cabinet too, and we have also peopled the more exotic backwaters of government. Alistair Carmichael is Comptroller of Her Majesty’s Household, while David Shutt has entered Iolanthe as Captain of The Queen’s Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard.

This is an outcome that could hardly have been imagined when the last Election Points appeared two weeks ago. But when David Cameron made his statesmanlike offer the day after the election it soon became clear that accepting it was the only way forward for the Liberal Democrats.

Talk of a “progressive alliance” with Labour (and who knows what other parties) soon foundered. The number did not add up and senior Labour figures were forming orderly queues to rubbish the idea.

Besides, the idea that we are inevitably on the same side as Labour had to be challenged. We are not part of a wider progressive movement that uses the label “Liberal Democrat” in constituencies where, for some unaccountable reason, the Labour brand does not go down well.

You only have to look at the detail of our coalition with the Conservatives to see that. Cutting taxes for low earners. Scrapping ID cards, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the ContactPoint Database. Outlawing the fingerprinting of children at school without their parents’ permission.

If Labour were a progressive party we would not have been faced with the need to do all this after 13 years of Labour government.

And if, like me, you are a confirmed oik and worry about the preponderance of the products of expensive fee-paying schools at the top of government, be careful to draw the right conclusion. Don’t go in for Labour’s phoney class war: ask why state schools are not doing better.

That is another area for urgent action by Liberal Democrat ministers.


Lavengro in Spain said...

Don’t go in for Labour’s phoney class war: ask why state schools are not doing better.

I can assure you that the people in charge of Oxbridge admissions feel exactly the same way -- remember the Laura Spence fiasco: (

Those universities will take the best applicants that they receive, whatever schools they come from. They do not discriminate on class or school background.

callmemadam said...

ask why state schools are not doing better.
Hear, hear. I never forgave Gordon Brown for the Laura Spence affair.