Thursday, September 19, 2013

Crisis? What crisis? My Leicester Mercury column on the Liberal Democrats

This is my surprisingly loyalist 'First person' column in today's Leicester Mercury.

Three years in and the Lib Dems are doing okay

Crisis? What crisis? When I joined the Liberal Party in the late 1970s we were finishing behind the National Front in parliamentary by-elections and our former leader was about to go on trial at the Old Bailey for conspiracy to murder. That’s a crisis.

The Liberal Democrats at their Conference in Glasgow this week has been wrestling with a very different problem.

Our rickety electoral system managed to produce the correct result at the 2010 general election. The voters wanted to get rid Gordon Brown and Labour, but didn’t wholly trust David Cameron and the Conservatives. So a Tory – Liberal Democrat coalition was about the right outcome.

The Liberal Democrats were left to answer a new question for Westminster politics: how does the junior partner in a coalition maintain its identity while acting as a responsible party of government?

We have not got everything right, but we have made a pretty good job of it. The Lib Dems have been unshakeable in their commitment to cutting spending to put right the mess that Labour left us. When a pretty mild alternative was put forward at the Conference, it was voted down.

The Coalition has helped businesses create over a million new private sector jobs and 1.2 million apprenticeships have started, some with financial support from the government. Best of all, we are giving a £700 tax cut to 24 million people by making sure nobody pay any income tax on the first £10,000 they earn.

That tax cut was in the Liberal Democrat manifesto. David Cameron said it couldn’t be done, but we made him do it.

Not that I always agree with Nick Clegg. I was pleased to see the Lib Dem Conference vote against the ‘bedroom tax’ this week and pleased to see many of our MPs refuse to support military strikes on Syria. This coalition business is difficult and Nick and his party are still learning.

But, I hear you ask, aren’t the Liberal Democrats doomed? Just look at the opinion polls!

We Lib Dems are used to doing badly in mid-term polls and we hold many of our seats because we are strong local campaigners. You can look at Eastleigh, where we held the by-election that followed Chris Huhne’s resignation, but there are good examples nearer to home.

In this year’s county elections the Liberal Democrats scored their best ever result in Hinckley & Bosworth, held all their seats in Oadby & Wigston and polled more votes than any other party across the Harborough constituency.

Coalition is not easy, but the Liberal Democrats are alive and kicking.

Jonathan Calder is a former Liberal councillor in Harborough and blogs at Liberal England.


Anonymous said...

"The sheeted dead did squeak and gibber"

Gawain said...

Well done, JC. But will the Liberator mafia not now excommunicate you?

Herbert Eppel said...

Good article. Shame the Lib Dems haven't been unshakeable in their commitment against nuclear power, with some notable exceptions – see ""

Jonathan Calder said...

Anonymous: Good line. Maybe you could work it up into something?

Gawain: No chance. I know where the bodies are buried.

Herbert: Thanks (and a lot of Lib Dems agree with you).