Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Coalition: Special Conference speech
What do we think of this coalition ? Some will say with Wordsworth, "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven". Others with Browning, "Never glad confident morning again". I go with Longfellow, "Life is real and life is earnest". Sadly however, while we campaign in poetry, we govern in prose. I wanted a progressive alliance but there were two problems, quantity and quality. There weren't enough Labour MPs and Labour wasn't progressive.
This is a Westminster coalition, not a merger. We know that Liberal ministers will be bound by collective cabinet responsibility and that the whips will try to restrain Liberal MPs, but Liberal MEPs in Strasbourg will not be restrained, Liberal councillors in Birmingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Cardiff will not be restrained and above all our party will not be restrained.
Charlie Kennedy is afraid of being swallowed up. Well I'm not. The Liberal Democrats are not. Paddy says he's confused. I'm not confused. Paddy was at my wedding at a Quaker meeting. One of the elders addressed the congregation and invited them all to stand and speak if they wished to. I looked at the crowd of Liberals and thought, "We'll be here all night". You cannot shut Liberals up and you shouldn't try.
As Liberals grasp the reigns of power, they should continue to reach for their ideals. I hope Robert Browning will forgive me when I say, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp or what are the Liberal Democrats for ?"