Monday, January 10, 2011

Guest Blog Post - Jeremy Ambache

Following my posts last week about Jeremy's resignation he has written more about his reasons for leaving the party - concerned that we seem to be obsessed with tactics rather than policy issues -

Firstly thanks Linda for featuring my decision to leave the party on your 'Lindylooz Muze' blog. I do appreciate the kind things that you have written about my contribution to the party over the last 30-years!

I have just cancelled my accommodation booked for the March Sheffield conference. And I will miss the Lib Dem Conference particularly for two main reasons:

  1. the excellent level of debate of the important political issues facing the country


  2. the friendships made over many years.

I have read the comments on your earlier posts and I am disappointed that people writing in seem more interested in 'tactical issues' (like the positioning of the Lib Dems) rather than the more important (in my view) political issues. The most important is the way the cuts that are going to affect individuals and communities right across the country.

In my view many aspects of the cuts will particularly affect less well off people and those who are 'less able'- in their everyday lives. The cuts will affect those on benefit and those who are most vulnerable and rely on 'services'. The government is planning to cut some 25% of many services over the next 4 years. This will drastically reduce vital 'services' that include:

Benefits / schools / special education support services / early years childcare / job training / social housing / libraries / Care services (from birth to old age) / mental health services / drug services / alcohol services / police / youth services and Connexions / probation/ leisure and culture and the whole of the voluntary sector!

In my view these cuts will hit those who are poor and least able (and the most deprived communities) most severely. Also, I think that there will be a huge social cost from these cuts for individuals and local communities.

Many people will know that Nick Clegg has repeatedly said that he is concerned about the 'public health statistic' that some people live 7+years less long in the most deprived ward in Sheffield compared to the most affluent ward. Nick has said that he is committed to reversing this; but sadly the proposed cuts are likely to make the longevity / mortality differences even greater!

I think the other major social policy problem will be in the 'disorganisation' of the NHS - as a result of the radical shake up planned. I worked with others in the party to draft our policy on the NHS, which was agreed at the 2008 Conference. We agreed no major reorganisation; so did the Tories, and so did the coalition agreement! Yet Messrs Lansley and Burstow have decided otherwise. They have not listened to wider consultation with many of us (including the Doctors, Nurses, NHS confederation) who replied to the NHS White paper consultation this autumn. The planned reorganisation (to GP commissioning consortia and a national commissioning board) will waste many £millions and cause massive uncertainty within the NHS. On top of the impact of the cuts this will disadvantage those with long-term health conditions and those in the most deprived areas – including the ward in Sheffield where people have the shortest life expectancy.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Jeremy Ambache Resigns Update.............

My original blog was hurried as I have also been enjoying the delights of the Bavarian winter! But since Jeremy has given me permission to reproduce his email to colleagues, I thought it was important to include this. I honestly believe that if our leadership do not listen to him and others, like Richard Huzzey, we are facing a bleak future. The sad thing is that people like Jeremy become so much part of our furniture that we take them for granted - can you imagine a conference without him? For me he has always been an encouraging smile or comment at conference, someone who I know absolutely sings from the same hymn sheet and he is hardly someone who would have the same accolade as me for being "that troublemaker" or worse!

Jeremy's email in full:

I am writing to you as one of my Lib Dem friends to explain why I am leaving the party. However, I do hope friendship will transcend party affiliation!

I am writing to let you know I have just cancelled my membership of the Liberal Democrats after 30 years (Lib Dems and formerly SDP). This has been a difficult decision for me not least because I have many good friends within the party – and I wish you all well.

I have come to the conclusion that the Social Democrat wing of the party (now more usually referred to as Social / Liberal) is not represented by the leadership of the party. I do not find the party's previous commitment to 'social justice' and greater equality is represented by our government Ministers - and I have written to Nick Clegg saying just that!

The key policies area that I do not accept are being promoted effectively by our Lib Dem Minister are:

  • Education – Ministers are not following the party line on 'free schools' and tuition fees
  • NHS re-organisation and consequent uncertainty and chaos (both the Lib Dems and Tory's promised no major top down reorganisation)
  • Benefits cuts - to Housing, Children and Disabled benefits (many experts predict more homelessness, hardship and rise in child poverty)
  • Budget and Local Government cuts - too rapid deficit reduction and consequent huge public service cuts (these are likely to hit the poorest hardest, including young and old)

I personally am committed to grass roots local community politics – so I consider all of the above is of key importance.

I do wish you well for the future,

All best wishes,


I am well aware that there are many in our party who are perfectly content with the current arrangement and I understand that, if I was on the right of the party I would also no doubt be delighted. But, we are first and foremost a social liberal party - our policy reflects that - and we neglect that position at our peril. To be perfectly frank I am beginning to wonder if a "two state" solution is the best option? As in the Netherlands, maybe a D66/VVD type split is the only answer to ensure that liberalism in one form or another survives. At the moment it feels like when a couple continually papers over the cracks in order to save a relationship when ultimately everyone knows their relationship is doomed. So am I being unduly pessimistic? Should I be buoyed up by Nick Clegg's enthusiasm for the project and Simon Hughes' insistence that without us in government things would be much worse? Well, like Jeremy, I am finding it increasingly difficult to deal with. As I said yesterday, I am not about to take flight (sorry!) I think our party is still worth fighting for, so frankly even if it's a fight to the death.........I'm still in it to win it and I hope Jeremy and others who feel like us may think the potential gain is worth the current pain.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Jeremy Ambache Resigns

Last night I received a very sad email, it was from Jeremy Ambache to let me know that he has resigned from the party. Doubly sad I guess because he, unlike me, supported the coalition. As someone who has devoted 30 years to the party his decision has not been taken lightly and cannot be dismissed as a fit of pique. Whether those on the right who are extremely comfortable with the way things are going, like it or not, as others have pointed out 68% of the membership see themselves as on the left of the spectrum and yet we find ourselves with a right wing leadership, even contemplating it seems, pacts with the Tories.

While I fully appreciate all Jeremy's concerns about the kind of decisions we are now party to and the lack of political leadership from our cabinet members, I have to say my personal view remains that I have to stay and fight for the values which lead me to join the party in the first place - I haven´t changed - the party hasn´t changed, but it will beyond recognition if we lose our core activist base. The fact is however much we trumpet the very real successes we have achieved in government, they are a bit like the bunch of flowers the abusing partner brings when he has punched his "loved one" in the face! Its difficult to see the good because of the damage that has been done and until our leadership gets that no amount of shouting about what we have achieved will have any impact at all.

2011 is going to be a tough year - ít may all end in tears, but for the moment I trust, however unbearable some of what is being done in our name is, enough of us will hang in there and see us through what hopefully will turn out to be a blip in the party´s history.

In the meantime I thank Jeremy for all he has done for this party and his community, I know he will continue to work for the things he believes in and I trust maybe one day, our party will again be a home for him.