Friday, 21 December 2012

Nick Clegg - two steps back.

As I mention in the previous post, I am to play Cardinal Wolsey in an amateur performance of Bolt's "A Man for all Seasons" next month. Another of the things I say to Sir Thomas More (if I can remember - learning lines is no longer the cake-walk that it was)  is: "You are a constant regret to me. Thomas."

It would be unfair of me to claim that Clegg is a constant regret - in previous posts I've praised some of his initiatives, and I certainly think he receives more than his fair share of opprobrium, and bears it well -  but his speech on the fifth anniversary of his election as leader of the Liberal Democrats shows a disturbing lack of understanding of the nature of Liberal Democracy and life in the less fortunate layers of British society.

If his speech is correctly reported he states:  " The centre ground is our home."    Ouch! Has he never read any of our literature, any of the many publications, pamphlets, articles in our party newspaper?  One Liberal Democrat activist/philosopher after another- Tony Greaves and Michael Meadowcroft to name but two - have hammered away ad nausium that to be a "centre party" is to allow the other parties to define your position.

We are not a centre party, we are a Liberal Democrat party.  We have our own philosophy and policies independent of what positions other parties take.  Our guiding light is to create and preserve the maximum amount of liberty for each individual commensurate  with the liberty of others.  We believe in a society in which income and wealth are equitably distributed, in an adequate safety-net for those who cannot cope without help, in state intervention where necessary to maintain a balanced economy with full employment, constitutional reform and devolution to create a participatory democracy rather than one that can be bought, democratic participation in industry and commerce, and the preservation of civil liberties and the rule of law both nationally and internationally.

So Nick, please take that as your guiding light and yell it to the rooftops.  Never mind the "centre ground" and what the others do.  That's why thousands of activists over the decades have tramped the street and knocked on doors, served on councils and as lonely back-benchers, to put you where you are.

Equally alarmingly , for the leader of the party which is heir to Beveridge, Clegg defends the benefits squeeze and "tough sanctions to get (some people) active."  Well yes, I'm sure there are some, but I'm pretty certain that the overwhelming majority of the 6 000 who have just lost their jobs at Comet will be desperately looking for more work rather than rejoicing at the opportunity to live in idleness on the £71 a week job seekers' allowance.  Is he not aware of the estimated 32 people who die each week after having been certified fit for work by ATOS?   Clegg apparently justifies his stance on the grounds that ". . . .two thirds of people think the benefits system is too generous."  This from a member of a government that has just agreed to a salary of over half a million pounds a year, plus a housing allowance of over £4 000 a week, for the new Governor of the Bank of England.  You couldn't make it up.

Nick, we should not let the tail wag the dog.  With very very few exceptions people do not chose to be unemployed, and I doubt if anybody at all chooses to be disabled.  A rich society such as ours has the means to look after them and should do so. We must not let the Daily Mail and the Sun set the agenda.  If people are misinformed about the benefits system it is our job, your job, to inform them correctly. 

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