Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's Liberal about this coalition ?

Don't tell me the usual shopping list which begins with increasing the personal allowance. So far in government we have abandoned Keynesian economics, our opposition to nuclear power, our commitment to higher education available on merit not wealth, our historic identification with Beveridge's welfare state and our long-held support for a united Europe but we're still the party that loves liberty, aren't we ? Well, actually, no. Today the coalition government publishes its plan, the draft Brighton declaration, to "reform" the European Convention of Human Rights or rather to re-nationalise it and undermine its ability to protect human rights. The BBC says "There is also the question of the Liberal Democrats. Many are very reluctant to question the role of the Strasbourg court and some may find these proposals hard to stomach."

Let's measure the government's performance against the declaration on my membership card.

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of
liberty (see ECHR above),
equality (err, really ?)
and community ( The Localism Bill perhaps, the Big Society maybe ?)
and in which none shall be enslaved
by poverty (welfare cuts, public service cuts),
ignorance (tuition fees)
or conformity (Any ideas ? Anybody ?)

I am a Liberal so where else should I go ?


Arthur Snell said...

As we all know, the word liberal can be interpreted in millions of different ways and in some societies has come to mean left-wing and in others to mean right. Whereas, many UK LDs would say they are neither (and some would say they're on the left - I doubt any LD feels s/he is on the right).

But it's a fair idea to assess the membership card. I think you're pretty harsh (and I'm not an activist, just interested). So here's my attempt:

"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of
liberty (end to ID cards, control orders),
equality (tough in these times, but how about: tax reform, student fees - you are probably thinking I'm mad now, but the new system does more for the poor than the old one -, )
and community ( The Localism Bill definitely, the Big Society surely and elected mayors, police commissioners and a host of other measures)
and in which none shall be enslaved by poverty (hold on a minute - when those words were written, we were talking about a world when people were more or less in slavery to their socio-economic situation. Can anyone in the UK still calim that),
ignorance (again, hold on. The biggest barrier to ignorance - and equality - is the schooling system which under the two main parties has left far too many people functionally illiterate, so how about pupil premium)
or conformity (since the lib dems are so unpopular right now they hardly be accused of conformity!)

The other point is that you ask, what is Liberal about this coalition? Of course, part of your problem is that it's a coaltion. With the Lib dems holding less than 1/6th of the seats on the government side of the house (yes I know that's unfair and due to the electoral system) to have a substantial influence on government policy (which I think is evident - if limited) is pretty remarkable. No wonder so many back-bench Tories are annoyed.

Radar said...

"...our commitment to higher education available on merit not wealth"

I wish people would stop spouting this drivel. It is fine to argue against tuition fees being charged and whether we should have agreed to their increase given our pledges but don't perpetuate the myth that only the richest will be able to afford to go.

No student (for the first time this includes part time students) will be paying fees in advance - in stead they will be paying them back as their income allows once they earn above £21,000. Given that they will also be receiving a maintenance loan then they don't really begin paying off their fees until they have paid back their loan - in which case they will have to be earning a considerable amount. In general it will be those who do better for themselves after University that will pay the most.

Contrast this with Scotland, without fees their students are given lower maintenance loans and grants which as a result makes them worse off when they are studying and therefore need the help most (and definitely better off than I was with just £1k fees that were paid in advance - if my parents hadn't saved for years I wouldn't have been able to go).

I may agree with you on other things - particularly the Brighton declaration, but please stop repeating rhetoric that is only going to (wrongly) scare students away from University.

Kempinski said...

I'm wondering the same thing. Extending Workfare, restricting legal aid, supporting the break-up and privatisation of NHS, cutting welfare support from most vulnerable, highest youth unemployment...