Saturday, July 10, 2010

Leaving the Party? PLEASE, DON'T DO IT!!!

The news yesterday that Liverpool Lib Dem leader, Warren Bradley had spoken out about coalition cuts and his fear that the party would be wiped out, sent a shudder through my spine. His description of feeling physically sick when he heard about the cuts to the BSF budget reflects the way I have felt since that fateful day in May. More worrying for me was the news that many of his Lib Dem councillors were considering leaving the party - my huge plea to them is don't do it!!!!

Now, more than ever before, those of us who love this party, who have chosen it over others because it most reflects our values, surely must now stay and fight - the alternative is the wipeout Warren warns of. And then what? A return to less choice, to the "big boy" bullies who think they have the right to rule, be they on the left or right (although ironically we were always seen as to the left of Labour - hey those were the days!) and a far more disaffected electorate, particularly those who already feel marginalised and ignored.

OK, I know we have a wing of the party that is far more economically liberal and has a lot in common with the Tories, but at our heart we are a progressive party, we rightly champion our belief that "noone should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity" and yet right now we are joining forces with those who will further impoverish those already struggling to survive financially. What is sticking in many folks gullet is, I believe, what looks like a lack of integrity on behalf of the party. Vince looks uncomfortable and squirms - he doesn't display the body language of someone who is saying what he truly believes. The wonderful Michael Moore, someone who I have always rated, looks similarly uncomfortable on Question Time trying to justify the unjustifiable. To hear our MPs defending what are Tory not Lib Dem values is excruciating. No wonder people are wondering what we stand for now!

A few short weeks ago, when Nick Clegg (rightly) was wowing the crowds, it seemed we really were going to break the mould of British politics, the vision of the "Gang of Four" all those years ago. Now we are left with what by any standards is the rump of an idea for electoral reform - of course I will join the campaign for AV, it's better than what we have, but frankly the whole point of it diminishes somewhat if the consequence of us getting it is the return to two party politics! And as someone pointed out recently, for those of us who really don't have a second choice it is totally meaningless.

As someone who has always been prepared to challenge when I think something is wrong I realise I will continue to upset some folk. I am truly sorry. It would be far better for my blood pressure if I could genuinely applaud what our party has signed up to, if I could find it in my heart to be happy about our role in government. Unfortunately, given the prospect of up to 40% cuts, over a million extra on the dole, the condemning in particular of so many of our young people to unemployment, poverty and misery, the prospect of families becoming homeless because of housing benefit cuts, forgive me if I don't sound too enamoured at the moment.The rationale that our presence in the coalition would somehow mitigate against the worst excesses of the Tories kinda rings hollow now, would they have been looking for 60% cuts without us then?

However, it is precisely because I care about the future of our party that I can't keep silent. If you saw your dearest friends, rushing like lemmings to the edge of the cliff - would you just stand by and let them get on with it?

10 comments:

Paula Keaveney said...

Thanks Linda. I am one of the Lib Dem Councillors in Liverpool and someone who encouraged Warren to make his statements around the BSF announcement. Speaking out against the national party is not something we do lightly but like other colleagues I feel a high level of unease at the moment. I agree with you though that it's much better to try to change things than to stomp off. Interestingly a number of e mails from us to the national party have been ignored, or at least not replied to until yesterday when at least we got a call from the press office!

Richiedaw said...

Clearly Mr Bradley still has an opposition mind set and is covering his own backside !

What about having some balls and explaining to people what a Coalition means and explaining that government means tough decisions unlike the luxury of opposition .

How about explaining to everybody that Labour are cowards who would be making exactly the same deep cuts but bottled out at the election !

Our government makes the cuts or the IMF or EU come in and make them for us-you choose .

Warren resign and join the Liberals they will suit you best you clearly don't understand what is going on and are best off out of the Lib Dems. Your're a hypocrite standing for a party that has always advocated coalition politics but now you can't stomach the painful reality.

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Gwenhwyfaer said...

"If you saw your dearest friends, rushing like lemmings to the edge of the cliff - would you just stand by and let them get on with it?"

No. But if they aren't slowed down by my shouting at them that there's a cliff in their path, I'd move the hell out of their way...

Dale said...

I agree with the entirety of this, I am so so uncomfortable... There is no home for the Liberal Left if you don't consider the Lib Dems home anymore... What I'm saying is I love them and want them back, now, please

Richiedaw said...

God some people are so wet what don't people get about coalition politics ? Lib Dems are a party thats campaigned for coalition politics for decades and first chance we get (there was no realistic chance with labour) people want to run off !!

Aren't we in politics to get our policies enacted or do we just want to remain in oppposition for ever .

Coalition is a compromise by defintion and you have to take the rough with the smooth !! Theres plenty of good Lib Dem policy in the Coalition agreement .

Might it not be that we might just be a moderating force on the Tories and a catylist for progressive politics .Already they have moderated their views on Criminal Justice and the EU plus swung round to our way of thinking on the NHS.

The budget was tough yes but it was necessary as these are very dangerous times indeed and a sovereign debt crisis is a very real threat and that would make the banking crisis look like a tea party.We make the cuts or the IMF come in and do it for us.

The Labour party are exactly where they want to be in opposition critising the cuts that would have made too and yes even they would have put up VAT as Peter Mandelson revealed last week.

If you haven't the stomach for the fight then leave and join the Liberal party or even the SDP (they still exist too) or perhaps go Green.

elmyra said...

I am one of those people who let their membership lapse as the party started going through its current identity crisis. I'm finding it really hard to get a feel for where the majority of the party actually stands. I read repeated comments that the Lib Dems at the moment are essentially a left-of-centre party which is led from the right, and if that is true then by all means we need to take our party back. But I'm struggling to understand if it really is true.

Matthew Huntbach said...

The Liberal Democrats is a democratic party. It belongs to its members, not its leader. Ultimately, if the leader is not listening to the members of his party, it is the leader who should go, not the members.

The current coalition was the only realistic way forward from the general election results, I accept that. The negotiating power of the junior partner in a coalition where there isn't any reasonable alternative coalition is quite limited, I accept that. We are in a difficult economic situation, so there are things any government would have to do that will not be popular, I accept that.

Nevertheless, Nick Clegg keeps doing things which I think he doesn't need to do and which are making him look more like an uncritical supporter of David Cameron than leader of the Liberal Democrats. Or at least suggest a gross bias towards one strand of opinion within the party. I don't accept that. We are a democratic party, and he needs to explain himself to us, that may involve some toughness on our part as members of the party. The old assumptions that in public we uncritically cheer our leader should go as many other assumptions have had to go in the new situation of coalition government. Also, any leader must work to unite all factions in his/her party which may involve putting aside some of his/her personal opinions.

Anyone who is concerned but wants to be practical should realise that running away from the party is the worst thing they can do. It puts the Conservatives in a position of strength, able to say "you are losing support and will be wiped out of we call another election, so you have to stick with us whatever we ask you to do". Staying in the party and being critical of Nick Clegg enables him to say "Look, my members are pushing me, I'm in trouble with them if I don't deliver".

Our party has the power to bring the coalition down through a vote of no confidence in its leader. We should hold this in reserve, but we and he should be aware it is there. If we are really losing popular support, the election of a new leader proposing a radical change of direction for the party may work wonders for us and save us in the general election that would follow. However, it would help to have a decent Labour Party that looked like a realistic alternative coalition partner. We don't have that at present.

Tony Vickers said...

I don't know if Warren Bradley has a problem with Coalition politics or just with the policies it is having to implement, as minor partner in this particular Coalition. My gripe is with the lack of a distinct continuing Lib Dem message, which it ought to be possible for Simon (and other senior MPs) to express more clearly than they have been. We do still have distinct policies, some of them potentially attractive to some Tories, which are not in the Coalition Agreement. We certainly have a distinct philosophy. I don't see why we can't say more often, from 'on high': "this is what we would like to do if we had MORE power" (e.g. more tax shifting and less cuts). Meanwhile this Tory-led Coalition is better than no coalition and rush to an early election under a minority tory Gov't.
My impression is that many Tories are more uncomfortable working in coalition with us than we are with them (not surprising in a way, otherwise they'd support PR!) but also that some actually have increased respect for Liberal Democracy and are as uncomfortable with what the Government is doing as anyone. We should see this an opportunity to 'break the mould' - which never had to result in a realignment of the LEFT only....