Tuesday 15 March 2011

Shock horror: dog wags tail!

If it does nothing else the present performance of the coalition disproves the idea that when a parliament is more representative and power is shared the minor party tail wags the major party dog.

As it happens some Conservatives take the view that this is what is actually happening, as was ably put by Chris in a comment to an earlier post:

.... many Conservative activists have had to tolerate the loss of many cherished goals: the abolition of the Human Rights Act, the putting on the backburner of repatriation of powers from the EU, greater use of custodial terms rather than 'community sentencing' (indeed I think Ken Clarke himself is a massive concession of the Lib Dems), lower rates of Capital Gains Tax, reduction in inheritance tax, a firm Trident decision, measures design to aid the family (particularly in the tax system) to name but a few. The fact that Conservatives feel somewhat disempowered to tackle the ECHR head-on is something many will feel particularly sore about.

Equally many of the social liberal wing of the Liberal Democrat party are dismayed by our craven support of the coalition's economic policies and the abandonment of the principles of Beveridge and Keynes.

So if both parties are outraged is it possible that the coalition is getting things about right?

As Nick Clegg has repeatedly pointed out, we did not win the election and he is the deputy, not the prime-minister. Chris's comments highlight some of what our junior partnership has achieved. With a stronger voice the damage social liberals perceive may have been even further ameliorated. As Jackie Ashley wrote in yesterday's Guardian:

We can all imagine what a coalition government with a stronger Lib Dem influence would look like. It would not have charged so hard towards free schools and against local councils; it would not have embarked on the NHS changes; it would have scrapped Trident; it would have been more pro-European. It would have castigated Labour, no doubt, over spending decisions, but it would have begun to reduce the deficit more through taxation than spending cuts. It would, we know, have been tougher on bankers' bonuses and more decisive in splitting the functions of the big banks.

So like John Cole I shall keep the faith. Liberal Democrats still have a vital part to play in British politics and the stronger our voice the less the damage to what as been achieved in the past and the greater the progress to a fairer, stronger and more equal society.

1 comment:

  1. I suppose it's fairly natural that there would be much weeping and gnashing of teeth on both sides; that said, I'm certainly not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Much like yourself, I suppose I see the areas where there are "Conservative victories" as us managing to push forward what's right for Britain and limiting 'the damage' that might otherwise be done by a more left-wing government. However, I'm also extremely proud of the areas in which both of our interests have been jointly served, where we have made progress that seems to suit both parties that was never taken by Labour. Consider:

    - Raising the personal allowance tax threshold so that people officially classed as being in poverty are not paying tax;
    - Scrapping of ID cards and a rollback of intrusive state powers;
    - Discussions to devolve more planning permission, budget choices and control and participation of public services to a local level;
    - The opening up of government data on expenses, police results, health data amongst others - the empowerment of the British people made possible by the state's (formerly hidden or obfuscated);
    - The establishment of an Office for Budget Responsibility (which has already both backed and criticised the Chancellor when appropriate) to provide independent official economic forecasts, rather than the laughable politicised forecasts made during Labour's tenure;
    - The start of a sensible, balanced and mature discussion on the question of immigration - both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have raised the issue and whilst their angle may differ, it seems finally an issue we can talk about after 13 years of stifling debate by hollering 'racist!' every time it's raised;
    - A free national financial advice line funded by a social responsibility levy on the banks;
    - A crackdown on *both* tax evasion and benefit fraud to hit those at both ends of the ladder who are cheating society and their fellow citizens;
    - Provision of tax credits for hi-tech companies and start-ups, a reduction in the steps taken to start up a new business, a removal of the ban on social housing tenants setting up from their homes...

    ...I could go on much longer, but I think there is a huge list of achievements and planned achievements which both parties can sign up to; and which I feel is infinitely more progressive than the sort of society which Labour was fostering.