Sunday, May 16, 2010

When even Evan Harris and Tony Greaves desert you.........

Well, all over bar the shouting - actually, no shouting whatsoever. Today's special conference, while spawning arguably one of the best conference speeches ever, delivered by Simon Hughes, proved to be more of a triumphalist rally rather than a serious examination of the potential pitfalls of sleeping with the enemy.

The nine amendments to the motion, all of which I supported, I hope will go some way towards dealing with some of the concerns of the activists. However, the very genuine concerns about our MPs abstaining on the issue of top up fees, were not dealt with satisfactorily either by Chris Huhne or Nick Clegg.

But, in all conscience, I was one of the 12-35 (numbers are disputed) who voted against the motion. OK, so my political heroes, Evan Harris and Simon Hughes lead the progressive charge to support it. Even Tony Greaves was persuaded. Maybe this is the point I should concede defeat? Seriously, I wish I could. I was one of the standard bearers for Nick in the leadership election. I had a look back at my "10 Reasons to Vote Nick Clegg" my last reason was that "I would trust him with my life so I know I can trust him with my party". Well, I would still trust him with my life, I now need him to prove I can trust him with my party. This is a high risk strategy, which could make our party irrelevant for a generation. And I am a Liberal Democrat because I honestly believe liberal democracy offers the best hope for us to renew our society, to make it fairer, freer, more equal and more just. Without us there is a vacuum.

So, called as the first speaker after the amendments were moved (I understand there was a bet on FCC about when I would be called!) it seemed the idea may have been to get the awkward squad out of the way. Despite my fear that this new marriage made in heaven may be the Hammer Horror version of Pride and Prejudice - the adorable Mr Darcey turning into Count Dracula, my fellow delegates were far too smitten to give a damn.

But I was gratified that one of my fellow delegates came up to me afterwards to say that my speech (also calling for those of us who I regard as the backbone of our party to stay) had persuaded him that he should not resign, but like me, stay and fight.

When Labour became New Labour I felt so much for my Trade Union pals who felt they had to leave with no home to go to. This week I have really come to understand how they felt. Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning felt like a bereavement. I watched the nuptials on Wednesday morning as if in a daze, surreal. This is the moment I should have been shouting from the rooftops, overcome with excitement, OUR Nick in No 10! But it passed me by, I was too devastated.

Yes I understand all the arguments (more than well rehearsed in 4 hours this afternoon), but however much I understand them, I can't at the moment change how I feel. I am angry with the Labour dinosaurs who blocked a truly progressive alliance, I understand we were backed into a corner, that this is more about damage limitation than a true meeting of minds and ideologies........but I can't change how I feel.

I am genuinely relieved that our involvement in government is already mitigating against the worst excesses of the Tories. I understand why Labour may uncomfortable......A Tory majority government would have been likely to be so unpopular they would have romped home next time, a Lib Dem coalition makes that less likely. It also, I hope, means less people will suffer and even die, because of a right wing Tory government.

Who knows what the coming months will bring. Vince Cable lifted the lift on Pandora's box, telling us that things were far worse than Labour had let on and that it was going to be "bloody awful", but that we could make it less so. That is the best I can hope for.

Oh, by the way, for those of you who were there - I have a pair of pink fluffy handcuffs, one careful owner, never used - free to the person who can demonstrate they will have some use for them :-) or maybe I should auction them on Lib Dem Act????


Keef said...

Hi Linda

Well done for being a dissenting voice, it is after all, what a Liberal should be. Before the election I had decided that I was going to rejoin the party after many years, this is how much I was impressed with the party. However, I have to say that I have been demoralised by the events since the election, and would be more likely to join Labour than anyone else at the moment. It has been a truly depressing couple of weeks, and I just hope that there can be a silver lining...

All the best

Keith (Mr Plug)

Left Lib said...

It amazes me that after 4 hours of debate, only at the end did 1 delegate mention something that should seriously concern us; the prospect of a double dip recession.
Why should we believe him? Because that was what we, and Vince Cable in particular we arguing just 2 weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

Better be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion. ....................................................

Duncan said...

I don't mean to criticise but I worry that this is one of those 'why we don't have referenda on the Lisbon Treaty' issues. The debate over when the public spending cuts should take place and what the possible consequences on either side are is relatively technical and is about as helped by Labour's chat about 'a double dip recession' as discussions of tax revenue are aided by Conservative talk about a 'jobs tax'.

Those in favour of early cuts point to the fact that Britain needs to show it is actively tackling the public deft in order to keep out bonds competitive, and the catastrophic consequences for the country if UK Government bonds are downgraded.

Those opposed are concerned that the demand side will be damaged by cuts to public sector jobs especially in an economy such as Britain's in which (thanks neo-classical exogenous growth theory) manly local economies are highly reliant upon public sector jobs. That last part is a risk but it completely untouched by the cuts in the recent £6billion treasury announcement. Similarly it is the kind of thing which a sensibly conducted phased withdrawal could diminish the negative effects of. The prospects of avoiding a recession are, I think, much greater if Vince Cable and (strike)David Laws(/strike) Danny Alexander have a role on scrutinizing economic policy.