Friday, March 9th, 2012 08:27 am
I'm not going to have time to to do much posting during the Lib Dem Party's Spring Conference this weekend in Gateshead, for which many of you will probably breathe a huge sigh of relief. If I weren't busy enough, I'm now potentially going to have to do some reading up on both the Communications Capability Directorate and the Welfare Reform Bill (yes, I've downloaded the Spartacus Report), because I may have to talk intelligently on both of them later this weekend. Eep.

So, any posting is going to have a strict half-hour curfew. Apologies in advance for any terseness and lack of polish as a result (I'm not sure what my usual excuse is, though).

Anyway, later today, Nick Clegg and Tim Farron are going to urge Liberal Democrats to stop apologising and start celebrating. Nick will (I gather) say:

"And now it is time to move on. To stop justifying being in Government and start advertising being in Government. To stop lamenting what might have been and start celebrating what is. To stop defending our decisions and start shouting our achievements from the rooftops."

And Tim's going to point out:

"We got three quarters of our manifesto into Government policy, so I hereby allow you to stop saying sorry for the quarter we didn't get. And if people wanted that missing quarter, well they should have flipping voted for us shouldn’t they?"

I presume that Tim, like me, was brought up on Grange Hill. He's used the word 'flipping' for as long as I've known him - over twenty years - and it's futile to try to get him to stop now.

Both of those have some good points. It frustrates me when people talk as though Lib Dems have achieved nothing in Government, because from our point of view we have achieved a lot; much of it in areas we really care about. Mark Pack has a handy infographics showing Lib Dem achievements in Government here. The graphics may look a little twee - although I personally like them - but the bigger point is that these are things that most Lib Dems really care about.

This often comes as a surprise to people who aren't Lib Dems and who haven't followed the party closely. They (and many of them are my friends and generally clueful politically, so this is less critical than it sounds) tended to assume that with the AV Referendum lost, that was it for the Lib Dems. But that's not the case; you'll notice that the AV Referendum and Electoral Reform isn't even on Mark's list, even though just delivering the referendum was itself a major achievement, even though we lost it (badly). But electoral reform isn't the be-all and end-all of the Lib Dems, and in many other policy areas we've punched well above our weight. In a Government that's over 80% Conservative, the Lib Dems have delivered (and continue to deliver) a far more Liberal programme than could have been expected.

For that, they deserve unqualified credit, and I don't always give it to them.

Where I part company with Tim and Nick is in the idea that we should stop apologising or defending our decisions. Later on, Nick's speech continues:

"So: no more looking back. You can't drive if you’re only looking in the rear-view mirror ... So let's tear off that rear view mirror and look straight ahead. Let's get on with the job that we all came into politics to do. Making this a more liberal nation."

I'm not sure I want to get in a car driven by Nick Clegg. Sure, you can't drive if you're only looking in the rear view mirror, but the thing's there for a reason. It's not: "Cross fingers, signal, manoeuvre." Tearing the mirror off because you don't like the view in it won't stop you getting run over by a lorry, or knocking a motorcyclist into the road. There's a phrase for people who drive with the attitude Nick Clegg is expressing here, and that phrase is 'hit and run driver'. I'm not well disposed to them; one of them broke my arm three years ago as I was cycling home from work. That driver ignored his rear view mirror and focussed on doing whatever job he had ahead of him, too. I was off work for two months, and my hand has never fully recovered.

In our rear view mirror are, among others, the bodies of disabled people left reeling from the impact of the Welfare Reform Act. I don't want to forget them, and leave them lying in the road. I don't think that's a free or fair thing to do; it's not Liberal, it's not British, and it's not acceptable. We need (among the many other things we do) to look back, stop the car, and go back and help those people. Otherwise, we're not responsible drivers, however many other people we deliver to where they want to go.
Friday, March 9th, 2012 12:58 pm (UTC)
Great post. Nick's metaphor is ridiculous, and only seems to confirm that he Just Doesn't Get It at the moment.
(Anonymous)
Monday, March 12th, 2012 10:06 am (UTC)
"There's a phrase for people who drive with the attitude Nick Clegg is expressing here, and that phrase is 'hit and run driver'."

That made me chuckle.

Sorry to hear about your arm. I broke my arm a few years back (slipped and fell when the whole country iced over), so my sympathies.