Friday 15 April 2011

Liberals in government learning at last

We appear to be entering a new and welcome phase in the workings of the coalition. Nick Clegg has let it be known that he had "noted rather than approved " David Cameron's speech on immigration. Vince Cable has been even more outspoken, saying that the speech was "very unwise" and "risked inflaming extremism." Cable has stressed the positive contribution (error corrected thanks to first comment below) that immigrants have made and are making to Britain.

Clearly the days of blanket approval for whatever the coalition does are over. It is also encouraging that Clegg and Cable have chosen to introduce the new era an issue which, though a fundamental part of Liberal Democrat philosophy, is likely to be electorally unpopular. Great: they have political courage after all. Pity they didn't find it when they could have made electorally popular, as well as intellectually consistent, criticisms of the coalition's "savage cuts" economic policy, which David Blanchflower described as "abysmal" on BBC Radio 4 the other day.

When David Cameron was elected leader of the Tory party he he set himself the task of ridding it of its image as the "nasty party." Playing the immigration/race card three weeks before an election shows that the changes are still only cosmetic. They remain the same old Tories, desperately in need of civilising Liberal influence.


  1. I think you meant "positive contribution".

  2. I too am happy for more healthy dissent to be shown, but I think we have to consider also how it is done. Clegg's choice of words seems more careful; Cable's may be honest but it does risk violating collective cabinet responsibility (a concept he has shown he is alien to in the past, such as when he suggested he'd abstain on his own department's policy). I think such professing of differences is healthy but I think it needs to be carefully coordinated in a way that allows both sides to express their differences without being seen to be outright attacking their own government policy.

  3. Once more we're in agreement, Chris. Both partners need to learn to express disagreement in a moderate and civilised way that doesn't endanger the partnership.