Friday, September 03, 2010
The Guardian: “So what is it like to end up in bed with the Tories?
Shirley Williams: "Not one bed, two beds."
The coalition is a great experiment in grown-up government for Britain but it must also be a launch pad for Liberalism, not a slippery slide into decline.
We must maintain our separate identity, develop, promote, deliver and proclaim Liberal Democrat policies or the media will scorn and the electorate desert us.
Develop: We remain a separate party and must not be afraid to propose ideas which Conservatives oppose or the coalition agreement ignores. Our conferences should be fresh and exciting, a hotbed of new ideas, not a coalition rally.
Promote: Coalition is about compromise but after negotiation NOT before. We must argue from our clear vision, not some fuzzy consensus, and we must be seen to argue. Liberal Democrat Ministers defending government policies which we have always opposed will appear dishonest and weak unless they can demonstrate tough negotiation and the necessary virtue of constructive difference.
Deliver: Liberal Democrats in the coalition government cannot implement all our policies but they must deliver some and be seen to do so. Liberal Democrats in coalition must have real value for the voters, not just ministerial bums on seats.
Proclaim: Our identity and our political future are on the table. The future of Liberalism in Britain is in play. We must shout our achievements from the rooftops just as Labour and the Tory press will bellow out our failures. We have to win local elections over the next few years and European elections in 2014 on the Liberal Democrat record and Liberal Democrat policies. We are not all in coalition. In five years’ time we have to fight a general election as Liberal Democrats and emerge stronger.