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Our Nick.

Did you know that the last time a liberal politician was in government was 1945. Near enough 70 years. The last time before that, which was the last time we had real influence, was 1922. About 90 years ago.

So why on Earth, would we, as a party, want to get rid of the first leader to take us into government in 70-90 years. We have 75% of our policies in government. We have a veto on the daftest Tory policies, like scrapping the Human Rights Act and trying to pull out of the EU.

Ok, we must be free to admit, we are not hugely popular. We did very badly in the local council elections and far worse in Scotland. Though I think we have been doing a lot better since we started showing our differences to the Tories recently.

We are on about 14% in the polls. True enough, we were on high twenties to thirties going into the general election. However, governing parties often get a slump in the polls. We so often forget what the rumours were at the start of the coalition. No one was accusing us of selling out or being Tories with yellow ties. They were saying it was a stupid thing to do as the coalition wouldn’t last a year because the parties were so different! How times change, eh? It was extremely sensible to make us look as close to the Tories as possible. How many of our policies would we have implemented if the coalition had ended in 6 months due to extreme rumours about fractures at the heart of the coalition? I’m going to bet not 75%.

Recently we have been getting 14% -ish and similar in the polls. 4-5 months ago, April-May time, we were getting around 10-11%. The difference between then and now is that we have started showing our differences to the Tories. The pull-them-tight era has definitely stopped. But we are still not at full throttle. It might not look like it now, but in a couple of years, the party and Nick will focus more on attacking the Tories. Specifically in ways which could gain centrist-KenClarke-Tory votes. Accusing them of wishing to “Tear apart and destroy anything which proclaims human rights” or similar.

Our current new stretch of differentiation came about during the AV referendum. Personal attacks made on Nick and such made us come to the stance we are on now. So in the last 4 months we have pulled ourself up 3-4 points. By 2014-15, I honestly think we could be on 19-20. Especially going into the TV debates. When people listen, they often understand better. We may have lost the novelty of being the fresh, young, new, anti establishment party. But in the next election, being “in government, on your side” and having people listen to us will make people realise we aren’t just Tories. That we can be responsible in government. Nick will show how we stopped the Tories being needlessly authoritarian and right-wing on tax, we will be able to show how we cleared up Labour’s mess. That Ed Miliband is still the backroom boy unable to run a country, who just wants to fiddle away with details. A nice man. But one without policies

That is why the party will not get rid of Nick, we need him. If we get rid of him, divide the party, get someone from the “left” (I dislike such terms) of the party, we will go into the election as a party divided, that doesn’t know what it is, that doesn’t like being in government. So why on earth would it be returned to government?

Nick is the key, we will keep him.

Liberalism, in blue and red?

I’m very proud to be a liberal and that is why I joined the Liberal Democrats. However, it came to me today that not all Liberals are in the Lib Dems. There are people with progressive and liberal beliefs in the Labour and Conservative parties. People who fall closer to us than their own parties.

A good example and one that is often raised within the Lib Dems is Ken Clarke, Conservative Secretary of State for Justice. Look at his policies on justice, he believes in restorative justice, that prison isn’t always the answer, that it is often better to get people to realise the error of their ways through community work and meeting their victims that to lock them in a cell where they will meet other criminals and learn new skills of their nasty trade. Is that not a liberal belief?

And what about the reds? James Purnell, former Labour Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has said “I have never bought the argument that universal benefits bind the middle classes in. It feels too much like taxing with one hand to give back with another.”  Neal Lawson, Labourite and chair of the centre-left think tank/pressure group Compass has said “Labour and the wider Left to have any chance of success – and ‘by success’ I mean the reduction of inequality and control over climate change – then it’s going to have to become more liberal. By ‘more liberal’ I mean less statist and much more relaxed about people having the autonomy to run their lives.”  He has also supported efforts to let Lib Dems be members of Compass (as they now can be).  The Conservative MP Mark Reckless (and can I just say, what a superb surname for an MP) has said “we should accelerate tax cuts for the least well off and pay for it by taking more tax from the very wealthy.”

So the evidence is there, there are people with clearly liberal beliefs in other parties and whose parties disagree with them on it. Many within Labour vilify Purnell, as do many within the Tory party towards Clarke.

Some may question why people who are antagonized by their own party, and clearly share our Lib Dem beliefs on many issues, stay in the other parties. An obvious answer is that they wanted power to implement their beliefs.  Two of the three MPs I mentioned have been ministers before. Would they have done if they had joined the Lib Dems? For a long time it looked like the Lib Dems would never have power. But now, research is showing increasing chances of hung parliaments in future. Even supposing we don’t do so well at the next election, we may still be sent to Whitehall. We may have Lib Dem ministers for two parliaments in a row. Perhaps it is time to ask certain people if they’d like to start wearing yellow rosettes instead of blue and red.

Another answer to the question, is that they simply see us as a party of protest, of shouting very loudly and not doing very much. But again, we are in government. For all the criticism launched at the party, few people suggest that the party isn’t being serious about government and its responsibilities.

These liberals in other parties will probably not leave to join the Liberal Democrats. They may well lose their seats and be called traitors, regardless of that they would be being true to their principles.  But the question is now to the future. If they didn’t join is when they first went into politics as we weren’t serious and didn’t stand a chance of power, and we have established that this is no longer true, will the next generation make that choice? Will the young liberals who want to implement their beliefs see joining an illiberal party with hopes to changing it as the best way to push their views and ideas? It seems less likely.

Perhaps that is the greatest party political benefit of being in this coalition. The future may yet be more yellow than we imagine.

Liberalism and I

This is my new blog then it seems. I’m a liberal. I support the Liberal Democrats. I support the coalition.

I’m a liberal because I believe in freedom. The Conservatives believe that everything should be controlled by the successful minority from privileged backgrounds who run large businesses. Socialists and the Labour party believe that everything should be controlled by the minority who have managed to get themselves government jobs. A liberal believes neither of these things. A liberal believes that every individual should choose what to do with their own life. Liberals believe that things should be controlled by ordinary people, with their own interests at heart. A liberal believes everyone is equal, regardless of wealth. All people should have the same opportunities, regardless of background of privilege. Liberals believe that you should live your own life, how you like, without other people interfering to much, unless you’re directly interfering or damaging someone else’s. To quote the Liberal Democrats constitution:

“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which noone shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.”

My favourite is the first line “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which noone shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.” This is the guiding line of my life

What does this mean to me? It means I believe passionately in the following:

  • Progressive taxation: The rich much pay more than the poor, simple.
  • I believe that climate change presents a clear and present danger to the world: We must try to halt it.
  • The market: The only way to give people true freedom is to give them choice, this means not the socialism of Labour where government controls choice and not Conservatism where choice is only given the rich minority who run large businesses
  • Devolution, community politics, the EU and the UN: Major decisions should be made as close as possible to the people they effect. Decisions need to be taken more on a local scale, and on an international scale.
  • Democracy: The House of Lords needs to be elected, by proportional representation, as does the House of Commons. I propose  open lists PR for the Lords and AV+ or STV for the Commons.
  • Liberty and Freedom: I don’t care about your sexuality, gender, whether you’re disabled, or an immigrant, you’re a human and you deserve to be treated equally. No one should have how they live their life dictated to them by the state, or by the market.

These are my beliefs, all further posts by this blog shall adhere to them.

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