Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Clegg wants us Lib Dems to work til we're muscle bound

Marking the first anniversary of the coalition Nick Clegg speaking today says that the Liberal Democrats will be more "muscular" in government and our influence more "visible".

Speaking this morning at the National Liberal Club he says:

"The coalition has shown itself to be a durable, stable government. But it is clear, not least from what we heard on the doorsteps in recent weeks, that people want the Liberal Democrats to be a louder voice in government."
Actually Nick it wasn't just in recent weeks, it is what activists have been telling you since late last year, it is what conference was telling you at Spring conference. Maybe it has been the lose of so many good MSPs, AMs and councillors that has pricked up your ears. We are meant to be the party that works for our local people all year round, not just at election time. That is what I have done for 23 years, that is what many of my fellow activists have been doing. We try and get the message that we are still distinct out there to the electorate yet we hear our most senior voices seemingly singing from not just a different hymn sheet but often in some foreign language.

"In the next phase, both partners will be able to be clearer in their identities but equally clear about the need to support government and government policy. We will stand together but not so closely that we stand in each other's shadow.

"You will see a strong liberal identity in a strong coalition government. You might even call it more muscular liberalism."
We will see a strong liberal identity??

I thought we'd already claimed to have 75% of our manifesto  included in Government, opposed to 60% of the Conservatives. Surely that should mean that we are already seeing a strong liberal identity.

I may have been a little quiet on the pushing the liberal agenda in a broad sense in recent months, I was pushing for electoral reform, working with other parties, so keeping my own politics on a lot of issue under the carpet. Doing what was best for the referendum and not trying to do what was best for me or the party working with a broad cross section of parties. But I'll be shouting things from the rooftops again, I know why I'm a Liberal Democrat, I hate being told by people that I'm just a Tory as I know nothing is further from the truth.

David Cameron is denying claims that Lib Dems have "moderated" the Conservative agenda. So Dave, as the Browne report suggested uncapped tuition fees, would the debacle of yesterday where students paid full fees have become a reality for all without Lib Dem intervention? Would this have been brought in without any requirement on the Universities to help the poorer students into Higher Education? Would the income tax threshold have risen so far ahead of inflation, to ease the burden of your VAT increase on the poorest families? Would you have returned pensions in line with earnings, something your party has said for a long time they were against?

The answer to all these and many more is that without Lib Dems you would have made things tougher on the poorest, you know it and yet you claim that this is what you wanted all along. These are the muscles that we have been flexing over the last year, one muscle we haven't exercised enough has been the one in our mouths to speak about it.

It happened to us in Scotland were over eight years in coalition all the best policies the ones that resonated with the public were being claimed by labour as being their own. By in large most of these has originated in Liberal Democrat manifestos. If we're seeing the same in Westminster we shouldn't let the Tories rain on our parade, steal our limelight and claim that all is sweetness and light.

Last Thursday the public punished the moderating force not the ones wanting to cut more. We need to show them that while Cameron and Osborne claim "We're all in this together" that it is actually the Liberal Democrats who are on their side, fighting for the NHS, for the students, the pensioners, the poorest, the unemployed.

As my picture for this post implies us Lib Dems are strong to the finish, cos we eat our spinach, that spinach being the content of our policies and our manifestos.

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