On Tuesday a Guardian leader discussed the present predicament of the Liberal Democrats and I am pleased that today they have published the letter I wrote in response. Perfectly reasonably, and without altering the sense, my letter was edited down, so here is the full version, with the cut (less than savage in this case) in bold.
Oh that it were true that “Lib Dems stare silently at their feet whenever the coalition does something particularly egregious…” (Call for a lost voice, 8 March) Unfortunately, as a Liberal/Liberal Democrat activist for almost 50 years I am haunted by the very opposite, particularly the vision of Nick Clegg putting his arm round George Osborne and congratulating him on that first budget which betrayed all the teachings of Keynes and the principles of Beveridge. Ouch! And by all accounts Danny Alexander relishes even more than the Tories the cuts which are systematically destroying our welfare state founded on Liberal principles.
If arcane rules of collective responsibility preclude Liberal Democrats in government from verbally dissociating themselves form decisions alien to the tenets of Liberal Democracy, than at least some distancing by body language would be welcome. For liberal Democrat MPs not members of the government an opportunity arises to establish the party’s true stance at this weekend’s Spring Conference. An amendment heavily critical of the NHS reforms and in particular the opening up of NHS services to “any willing provider” is to be debated. By supporting this they, along with like-minded activists, can express their vigorous opposition and the party can be seen to be doing its best to stop this ideologically driven quasi privatisation in its tracks.
Another article in today's Guardian hints that opposition to the Tory proposals is gaining ground in our party. If it is successful, and the Tories are forced to backtrack, this would not only be good for the nation's physical and mental health, but also our political health if it begins the restoration of the Liberal Democrat party's reputation after the debacle of the student fees issue.
So all power the the elbow of our activists true to the faith at our spring conference.