Party Conference season is now in full swing. The otherwise blameless residents of Brighton, Manchester and Birmingham no doubt have been bracing themselves.
For them it must be like being invaded by a convention of weird Evangelists from hell. I did my penance this week in Brighton with my fellow Liberal Democrats, or “Lib Plebs” as we may expect to be referred to by some of our Coalition colleagues. Jokes about the word allegedly used by Conservative Chief Whip – Andrew Mitchell – are pervasive around the Conference. It’s brought the “we’re all in this together” claim into sharp relief!
Amongst the many problems the Liberal Democrats face are the questions which reasonably arise from our Party Leader’s apology for the Party finding that it was unable to keep its pre-election pledge not to increase student tuition fees.
I have to admit to having a problem with some interpretations of Nick Clegg’s apology.
I suppose it’s less troublesome for me. I of course signed the pre-election pledge and, because I felt unrestrained through not holding Government Ministerial responsibility, I voted against the Government and the proposed tuition fee increase.
But Nick also appeared to imply that, as a Party, we should not pledge to carry through policies we could not deliver in Coalition; which suggests that in future our policies should be restricted to those gleaned from within the narrow boundaries of what the other parties would permit or tolerate.
This is evidently ridiculous. We didn’t win the last General Election so, even in Coalition Government, we cannot deliver all of the 330 or so pledges in our Manifesto. I hope Nick Clegg won’t have to apologise for each of the policies we are unable to persuade the Tories we should implement. That would mean us all having to endure a few more television broadcasts and even more on-line spoofs!
It would worry me if we conveyed the message that the Lib Plebs knew their place when negotiating with, by contrast, the Tory Toffs or indeed with any other Party…
24th September 2012
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