Skip to main content

The Liberal Democrats get established

There has been a whole load of ill informed, wishful thinking in the British media of late. In the face of the (sadly all too common) post election fall in Lib Dem support in the opinion polls, the usual suspects on both right and left have been quick to forecast an early end to the coalition. Yet, despite having no leader, no policies and no principles, Labour continue to hold a respectable poll rating. The journalists who continue to hope for the fall of the coalition do not understand the fact that an early election would probably not lead to a strong majority for the Conservatives: it could even lead to a Labour recovery, which would exclude both coalition parties from power. The coalition may not be a love match, but it is a marriage of convenience, and one where mutual respect has emerged on both sides.

Simon Hughes criticism of the idea of ending life tenure for council tenants is not the first breath of a coalition-ending storm, it is perfectly legitimate to voice an opinion on a policy which is outside the remit of the coalition agreement anyway. In fact I can see the point of the policy, but understand Simon's concerns- it is a legitimate debate. Likewise, Liam Fox' attempt to secure Trident outside the Defence budget is a legitimate debate too: but what is interesting here is that more Conservatives now understand that the Liberal Democrats' position on Trident was not a question of Unilateral Nuclear disarmament- which just for the record is not supported by the party. In fact it is a question of bringing our nuclear deterrent into line with the strategic stance of the conventional armed forces, which do not anticipate an unexpected nuclear attack from another state: which is what Trident is designed to deter. The cost of Trident is undermining our capacity to fight the wars we are already engaged with: that is the point we were making at the general election, and now many Conservatives understand this and even privately support it.

So, despite attempts by the press to suggest that the Liberal Democrats discussion of policy implies a desire to leave the coalition at the earliest opportunity, in fact the Lib Dems are still broadly supportive of it- after all the party held a special conference to discuss the proposal and they overwhelmingly endorsed the coalition. In fact the risk to the coalition lies not with the Liberal Democrats, but with the rejectionist Conservatives. However these are increasingly isolated within the party. Many journalists, like Simon Heffer, who have been most critical of the Cameron leadership are, of course no longer members of the party- giving their support instead to minor parties such as UKIP. Thus the influence of their siren songs against the leadership has inevitably fallen. Though many of the new Tory MPs are said to have profoundly anti-EU ideas, the fact is that no one in the Conservatives -left or right- wants to return to their bitter civil war, and the presence of Ken Clarke and the Liberal Democrats in cabinet means that more provocative ideas can be kicked into the long grass. The government's policy on the EU is friendly engagement, not integration, and that is a good balance- as we have already seen in the recovery of British influence in the Union itself.

So despite the pressure that the economic emergency puts on the coalition, in fact the government is at least as stable as the previous Labour government, only without the element of back stabbing soap opera that so disfigured the Blair-Brown fiasco. The Liberal Democrats have seen many local parties gain a large number of new members. The party, despite the loss of "short money", is learning to be more efficient. The leadership and the activists can see that their policies are indeed being enacted in the coalition programme, while Labour's betrayal of electoral reform will be remembered or a long time to come.

Meanwhile the party will kick off the conference season in Liverpool on 18th September, and it is already set to be a record breaker. More attendees, more exhibitors, and inevitably more security underlines the fact that the Lib Dems now matter. They are in government. Although the party will undoubtedly debate the issue of the coalition, the fact is that the party is already benefiting- whatever the short run polls say.

For a party that prides itself on being anti-establishment, it is a shock to be part of the establishment. I am sure that the debates in Liverpool will be undeniably "full and frank", but the questions are now not how to obtain enough power to implement our policies, but how to actually implement them.

As David Cameron faces the dissidents inside his own party, he may find that the Liberal Democrats give him a far more positive reaction when he addresses them. Now, now we can get to work to build a more Liberal Britain, and the realisation that this is what the coalition actually means will certainly make the conference justify the attention that it will surely get.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Cicero ReDux

By Special Request of Baroness Scott and Mark Valladares... Cicero's Songs returns: bigger, longer and uncut.
October 1st marked the half way point of the Estonian Presidency of the European Union.  Perhaps for many people such an anniversary is of passing interest at best.  Yet the conduct of the Estonian Presidency is reinforcing just how forward looking and innovative the most northerly of the Baltic States has become.
Estonia is a country that wants to live in the future, and with its openness and innovation, that future seems a lot closer than almost anywhere else in Europe
It is not that Estonia does not “do” the past: the picturesque cobbled streets of old Tallinn have tourist crowds a-plenty enjoying the mediaeval architecture in an Indian summer of sunshine and blue skies.  The real point is that Estonia refuses to be a prisoner of its past. Lennart Meri, Estonia’s President in the 1990s- who spent years of his childhood in Siberia- once told me that the country had to conc…

The American National nightmare becomes a global nightmare

It is a basic contention of this blog that Donald J Trump is not fit for office.

A crooked real estate developer with a dubious past and highly questionable finances. he has systematically lied his way into financial or other advantage. His personal qualities include vulgarity, sexual assault allegations and fraudulent statements on almost every subject. 

He lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes.

He has, of course, been under criminal investigation practically since before he took the oath of office. The indictment of some of closest advisers is just the beginning. His track record suggests that in due course there is no action he will not take, whether illegal or unconstitutional in order to derail his own inevitable impeachment and the indictments that must surely follow the successful investigation of Robert Mueller into his connections with Russia.

However, all of that is a matter for the American people. 

It is also a matter for the American people that Trump is cheating…

In praise of off-shore tax havens

The last few years has seen a spate of "scandals" about the use of off-shore tax havens. The hacking and subsequent leaking of data about who does and does not hold assets in off-shore jurisdictions has become an old perennial in the British press, rather like the "COLD weather happens in winter and QUITE HOT weather happens in summer", whose alarmist capital letter laced headlines are such a lazy part of contemporary "journalism". 

The increasing sophistication of the hackers, whether Russian-inspired or not, has resulted in a steady trickle of information becoming a torrent. After the relatively filleted release of data in the so-called "Panama Papers", the data release of the "Paradise Papers" is even larger.  Of course, just natural curiosity dictates that the off-shore ownership, or even just "ownership", of assets is of general public interest.  Celebrities, from the Royal family to the cast of Mrs Brown's Boys, are …