Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hypocrisy, mendacity, stupidity and ineptitude !

Today I wrote to a friend and green activist drawing his attention to Chris Huhne's victory in cabinet over targets to reduce carbon emissions. His response was to point out that Hammond wants to raise speed limits to 80mph. I wasn’t trying to defend the entire coalition government and certainly not the Tories, but I thought that Chris Huhne had done a good job here. I am very critical of some of the coalition's policies but I am just bloody angry at Labour hypocrisy, Tory press mendacity and voters' stupidity (not to mention our own leadership's inept management).

One of the things which has hit Liberal Democrats hard is the widespread misunderstanding of coalition government. We lost the general election. Labour lost the general election. The Tories also lost but had the most MPs. A Lib-Lab coalition which many of us would have liked was impossible because the numbers didn’t add up and half the Labour leadership were against it anyway. There were three real alternatives.
1) Tory minority government. I and most of my LibDem colleagues are convinced that the Tories would have called a second general election (probably last Autumn) and won a majority. This was Harold Wilson’s tactic in 1974, the last time we had a hung parliament.
2) Tory minority government with LibDems offering a confidence and supply agreement, i.e. no guaranteed support for any particular policy. The same objection applies and we wouldn’t have got any of our policies adopted.
3) Coalition with the Tories. We have got some of our policies adopted and what Chris Huhne has achieved is an example. A purely Tory government would never have done this. Coalition inevitable involves compromise and the government has adopted some policies which many LibDems oppose as well of course as LibDem policies which many Tories oppose.

Yet the electorate has shown itself determined to punish the LibDems and not the Tories and indeed to reject electoral reform not on its merits but to punish us ! Three areas where I feel the electorate’s judgement and the hypocrisy of the Labour Party coincide:
1) Nuclear Power: Labour and Tories both want it. We don’t and have managed to limit it by ensuring much less public subsidy than they would have liked to provide.
2) Trident: Labour and Tories both want to replace it. We don’t and have forced the government to postpone the main gate decision until after the next election. Much will be spent in the meantime and can’t be stopped because of the Labour and Tory attitudes. The way to stop trident now is to get Labour to change its mind before 2015.
3) Tuition Fees: Labour and Tories both wanted to increase them. We didn’t. Vince has negotiated a much fairer scheme than would have happened if only Labour or Tories were in power in a traditional majority government. I believe this was badly handled and all LibDem MPs should have abstained. As it was half voted against. Nevertheless a better outcome than would have happened without us.

All this has been achieved with only 57 seats. We didn’t win the election. We’re doing our best. Labour has spent the last year lying about their own policies, lying about us and lying about the problems they left behind. The Tory press had done its best to undermine the coalition and destroy the Liberal Democrats. Sorry to go on, but given the arithmetic and the ridiculously adversarial nature of UK politics, it’s bloody marvellous we’ve managed to get anything changed.

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