Sunday 25 March 2012

The truth put brutally.

What has been striking about the coalition thus far is how wonderfully useful it has been for its dominant partner. The Lib Dems attract and absorb the bulk of any campaigning attention against unpopular bills, as they do the bulk of the hatred when the bills go through. They themselves bleat truthfully but cravenly that they negotiated some important concessions but rarely - never - create space to explain what an alternative, Lib-Dem formulated policy would actually look like. Deborah Orr, Guardian 24th March, 2012.

Brutal but, I regret, absolutely true. There is still far too much "ownership" of coalition policies, the latest being Nick Clegg's description of the budget as something of which Liberal Democrat can be proud - even when it is plainly illiberal, abandoning as it does the principles of both Beveridge and Keynes, and the supine acquiescence to the reduction of the 50p tax rate when only a few years ago we were proud to be the only party proposing it.

I suspect our "bleating," as Orr puts it, of the minor concessions we achieve, does not make much positive impact on the electorate in general, and our triumphalist claims that we are "punching above our weight" do not do much to promote the politics of cooperation rather than competition.

What is desperately needed, and I hope it does not take a slaughter of our councillors in May to prove it, is a change of tactics to include:

1.After repeating the fact that the Tories have 306 MPs to our 57, calm and non-point-scoring references to the modest moderations of policy our influence may have helped to achieve.

2. Robust declarations, from Simon Hughes, Tim Farron and others not in government if ministers aren't allowed to do it, of what Liberal Democrats would do if we were in government on our own.

3. Reversion to core Liberal Democrat values and policies. To give but two examples, why are we blethering about mansion taxes and the latest trendy tycoon tax when we have perfectly sound policies, honed over the years, on land value taxation? And why aren't we saying that we're keen Europeans and should be in there with our money to help the Euro to survive, rather than giving patronising lectures from the sidelines?

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