Do we need the Conservatives to moderate the Lib dems?


          The Liberal Democrat Orange Book, written by Messrs Clegg, Laws and other leading luminaries contains some strong language.

          Mr David Laws wrote about the NHS. He characterised the NHS as a “cumbersome, centrally directed public sector monopoly” delivering a “second rate state monopoly service” to “passive recipients” rather than to “customers”. He recommended a big dose of “choice, competition and decentralisation” and more use of the voluntary and private sectors to sort it out. He sees many people as “losers” from this “failure”, and condemns the inefficiencies. He strongly recommends competition including more provision from the private sector.

 He concluded that the NHS as we know it should be replaced with a National Health insurance scheme, where everyone would have either NHS or private provider health insurance. In the light of these ideas, it is difficult to understand why Lib Dems say they are needed to stop the Conservatives making more modest reforms to the NHS than they themselves have proposed, especially when the milder  Coalition reforms planned were in the Lib Dem 2010 Manifesto.

          Mr Clegg was very worrying in his aims. He wrote about the need for the Lib Dems to be a pro EU party setting out the case for European integration. He proposed “Liberal Democrats should reassert themselves in this debate  (on the EU), by adopting a clear stance  that addresses the need for EU reform whilst promoting the simple and overwhelming case for European integration.”

            At the edges of the EU government Mr Clegg can be persuaded that we need to change the Common Fishery and the Common Agricultural Policy, but at heart he is a strong integrationist. He says “Far from becoming  outdated, such supranational EU governance represents the most fitting response to the modern challenges of globalisation, in which economic and political sovereignty has become increasingly disjointed”

               Mr Huhne in his conbtribution welcomed the creation of a rapid reaction force for the EU – an EU army – and proposed a single budget holder for weapons procurement in the EU. “Europe needs to reshape its military  to make a substantially greater contribution to the keeping of global order…”

                It may be that the Conservatives have to act as a moderating influence on these bold and in some cases dangerous views.


  1. Mike Stallard
    May 18, 2011

    And they wrote some stuff about free schools too.
    When I quoted bits to a local councillor of the Libdem persuasion, she went all quiet. But it had no effect at all.
    Say one thing, do another – easy if you never expect to get into 10 Downing Street.

    1. lifelogic
      May 18, 2011

      Indeed say one thing do another is always the politicians way.

      It should however be say what will win you votes and do what will work and thus will you votes when it does.

      The Liberals seem to have it the wrong way round preventing what will work and saying what will not even make them or the coalition popular. This through all the Liberals Green, NHS, Education, Ever bigger state, equality agenda, anti Nuclear agenda and the rest.

      David laws seems to have the NHS summed up pretty well in JR’s second paragraph perhaps there is some hope in the liberal even if he cannot do his expense accounts.

      It is just a shame that Cameron is also it seems to be a big state Liberal perhaps he should switch parties with David Laws.

    2. frank salmon
      May 18, 2011

      Surely it’s a case of ‘do one thing, say another’, in the lib-dem-com case.
      By the way, the liberals are a protest movement – they never really expected power, they just want to protest…….

  2. norman
    May 18, 2011

    Give the PM his due, his strategy of destroying the Lib Dems for a generation has been nothing short of genius. Doesn’t matter what they say they believe, the public won’t allow them near the levers of power for another generation.

    May as well let them keep digging for the next 4 years. Teresa May, presiding over relatively large cuts to the police, is anonymous thanks to the bumbling Lib Dems. Gove and IDS reforms likewise. Only Lansley seems to have failed to be protected by the ineptitude of the Lib Dems – Laws should get into a health brief ASAP to ensure everything gets done there. Although he does seem halfway competent so may not work so well, thank goodness he made a mess of his expenses or he would make the Lib Dems look a little less Frank Spencer-ish.

    This coalition business is actually quite good.

    1. lifelogic
      May 18, 2011

      It looks rather likely that Cameron, as Major, will destroy the economy and Tories party too for a generation.

  3. Matthew Hopkins
    May 18, 2011

    It seems to me that the Libdems are a liability for this country; Firstly, they tried to alter the way we vote, and now, Nick Clegg wants to alter the House of Lords into an elected chamber. Why is he adamant of wanting to make Britain into somesort of hyper-European state ?. I understand that the Liberals have their own viewpoint, but, what must be added is that their share of the vote was decreased in election last year, and now, they seem to be able to have the right to tell us what to do. It does not make any sense to me. I just hope the Conservative party will keep them in check

    1. Mike Stallard
      May 18, 2011

      …….and after that the monarchy……..

    2. sjb
      May 18, 2011

      Matthew writes: “[LibDems] share of the vote was decreased in election last year […]”

      The LibDems share of the vote increased from 22.1% (2005 General Election) to 23.0% (2010 General Election). Some might think the fact they increased their popular support but obtained fewer seats in the House of Commons suggests that the FPTP voting system needs changing.

  4. Lindsay McDougall
    May 18, 2011

    I worry much more that the Conservative cabinet is less Eurosceptic than you would have us believe. The 1922 committee, if it still exists, should haul Mr Hague (or even Mr Cameron) in front of it to give an account of government policy.#

    Reply: It does, and we do invite them to hear our concerns.

  5. NickW
    May 18, 2011

    The question that has to be asked and answered is ;

    “Why is a party which had such a small percentage of the vote and which has no democratic mandate, being allowed to dominate coalition policy; what exactly is going on?”

    I have a second question;

    “Given the Government’s complete refusal to reconsider aid payments, the huge and unforeseen bail out payments to Europe, and inflation far in excess of the OBR’s forecasts, isn’t the coalition in very serious danger of failing on its “raison d’etre”; Deficit reduction?

    I am sure everyone on this blog, (and probably in the Country), would appreciate a detailed reply to the second question; a mid term progress report.

    It seems to me that the coalition has completely lost its focus on the finances and on growth and that it won’t be long before the penny drops on the financial markets.

    Cameron is turning out to be worse than Heath.

    Reply: This is not yet mid term – it’s one year into a five year plan. I did report that the March 2011 budget decided to increase spending and borrowing by an additional £34 billion over the remainder of the five year plan period compared to the summer 2010 budget. The budget was used to cut the growth forecasts for the immediate year. I have also pointed out that the plan assumes above trend growth for the last three years and have recommended additional policies to boost growth.

    1. Dominic
      May 18, 2011

      hmmm, last year the libdems got 7million votes to the Conservatives’ 11m. There’s not as huge a difference in terms of mandate as right-wingers would like to belive, and indeed half convince themselves is the case when looking at the skewed seat distribution in the commons.

    2. sjb
      May 18, 2011

      NickW writes: “Why is a party which had such a small percentage of the vote and which has no democratic mandate, being allowed to dominate coalition policy; what exactly is going on?”

      If 23.0% is “such a small percentage of the vote” then I am curious as to whether you consider 36.1% (the Conservative Party’s share of the vote) is sufficient for a democratic mandate?

      Many of the people who voted LibDem at the 2010 General Election appear to doubt that the LibDems dominate Coalition policy because their share of the vote at the recent local elections was just 15%.

  6. waramess
    May 18, 2011

    Off piste I’m afraid but, if the Conservatives are to allocate 0.7 percent of GDP to overseas aid, does anyone realise that this is exactly the annual gross farming product of the UK viz 0.7 percent of GDP

    1. rose
      May 18, 2011

      From the moment Nick Clegg appeared in the television studios spouting about “the vice chancellors” and not meaning what we mean by them, it was evident he needed guidance on how things work. Presumably he has had a fair bit by now from the PM, but he still needs watching. An able apprentice? I don’t know, but surely better than Huhne and Cable.

    2. rose
      May 18, 2011

      Sorry, Waramess, I posted mine following yours by mistake. Perhaps because yours seemed so very on-piste.

  7. alan jutson
    May 18, 2011

    Both Huhne and Clegg served their apprenticeship in Europe, so it is no surprise that they support the organisation which launched their political careers.

    The only redeaming feature of their position, is at least they are honest about what they believe, unlike many of the Conservative Cabinet members, Cameron in particular, although the In or Out vote now seems a distant promise.

    I wonder how many Lib Dem supporters recognise or are even aware of the Insurance policy thoughts outlined in your post. Probably conveniently forgotten in their quest to keep up the media protests for the existing NHS format.

    The new NHS proposals “nothing to do with me Gov” even though they voted for them at the time.

    Reply: Mr Cameron and Mr Hague offered a referendum on Lisbon, not on In/Out. They removed the offer before the 2010 election once Lisbon was ratified. I understand many readers do not like this approach, but it was no lie. Conservative MPs votedf for a referendum on Lisbon at the time of the Treaty as promised. Labour and Lib Dems voted us down.

    1. alan jutson
      May 18, 2011

      Understand exactly what Cameron promised before dear old Gordon signed up and ratified Lisbon, but did not Clegg suggest any vote on Europe should be either in or out, and promised/suggested that one would be held.

      For clarification perhaps I should have written: the In or Out (Lib Dem) vote now seems a distant promise.

      Reply: Apologies, you are right that they promised an In / Out referendum.

      1. Tim
        May 18, 2011

        Why can’t we have our In/Out vote on the EU? There are no benefits for the UK. We are merely used as £10 billion net milch cows. I have not heard one argument that persuades me of any benefits and the majority of the country want this vote.

        1. BobE
          May 18, 2011


          1. frank salmon
            May 18, 2011

            Shame on you. The EU brought in compulsory electric plugs on everything we buy.

    2. Robert
      May 18, 2011

      Clegg and Huhne are not required when it comes to accepting all things from the EU. The Prime Minister is doing a good enough job without their support.

      You may remember we had a referendum in 1975 about our memerbership of the EEC after the Conservative government had taken us into that organisation in 1972. A referendum therefore on the Lisbon Treaty would have followed the precedent. Cameron had no intention of doing anything about Lisbon. I will never vote for the Conservative Party again.

  8. Magnolia
    May 18, 2011

    I like Mr Laws ideas for the NHS and can only think that it was a crying shame that the government didn’t adopt them
    Health is one of those things that we can’t live without like food , energy to keep warm and a financial system that works!
    Without health, one has nothing.
    If a child has a swollen infected appendix then it needs removing promptly and with skill, probably locally.
    If an elderly person has a failing hip then they need it replacing without too long a wait in a clean hospital with skilled staff, emergency backup and perhaps at a hospital that could be anywhere in the country.
    The elderly person should be able to choose where they have their elective hip operation using transparent data that they can understand and at a price that is affordable for both state and patient.
    The child needs immediate emergency attention and I would sugest that the state should ensure supply of those facilities.
    It should be possible to devise a system that caters for these two different needs.
    The problem for health is very like that of our banks in that there cannot be failures for both political and moral reasons. That’s why outright competition is repellent to the electorate.
    I believe that hospital doctors, nurses and lab staff and even hospital managers would like some freedom to manage their budgets and change the way that they deliver their services as well as GPs and this change would introduce some ‘survival of the fittest’ forces without obvious financial competition by privatization.
    I would have liked free hospitals to be rolled out alongside centrally managed ones using the free schools model of Mr Gove.
    The state will have to eventually make plain the limits of it’s funding in health and there will be some rationing as there already is with dentistry, drugs and optometry.
    It would be better that this was handled with honesty rather than to just lurch from crisis to crisis with trial by sad cases paraded in the media.
    Voters will get very cross if they have to give up medical services to fund silly things and that could be a useful starting point.

    1. Mike Stallard
      May 18, 2011

      At the moment the NHS is run by managers and bureaucrats under the elected government.
      Let us look at the bottom line shall we? The motive of the managers is to do well at their jobs and possibly get promotion. The motive of the bureaucrats is to remain in post and not get into trouble. The motive of private companies is to make a profit. The motive of the politicians is to be popular and to get re elected.
      This, of course, does not mean being cynical. All of them contain decent men and women who are there to serve the public. All of them have people who want to see change. All of them have deadbeats and menaces.
      I think Mr Cameron’s idea is to look past the ideology and let the Doctors who look after and consult their patients choose the best. That seems to me to be a noble ideal.

      1. Magnolia
        May 18, 2011

        I agree with you but it’s a question of which doctor is the patients doctor?
        The child with appendicitis is treated by a doctor who is a surgeon, a doctor who is an anaesthetist etc. etc. I think these doctors also deserve to be involved in the decision consultation with their patient (or his or her parent/guardian) as well and looked at like that then the health reform proposals look to be restricting patient choice particularly if the GP is operating in a fixed budget environment.
        Whether it’s fair or double standards to allow the patient/GPs to choose providers but not to allow the staff who work for the providers to have free and real choice of employer (remember the NHS is a state monopoly with a pension that binds its workforce in) is another point to consider when there is no real alternative private medical care sector.
        The reform proposals offer the supermarket solution to the patient/GP but not, on the whole, to the hospital staff who are pretty much stuck with what they’ve got.

        1. Farmer Geddon
          May 18, 2011

          Classic divide and conquer tactics I’m afraid, then the GPs will get the blame for reduced services as further cuts occur.

  9. Brian Tomkinson
    May 18, 2011

    The electorate has now worked out that the LibDems are an untrustworthy self-serving rabble and treated them appropriately in the recent elections and referendum. When will your party learn the same lesson and put them firmly in their place? The longer you leave them to bad mouth your party and promote their own mad ideas, even if they were saying the opposite just a few months ago, the greater the danger that you are tarred with the same brush and will suffer the same electoral consequences. Many of those who voted Conservative in the general election are already far from impressed by the way the government is tackling the problems the country faces.

    1. Adam
      May 18, 2011

      this. a thousand times this.

      the tories would have already lost my vote (if UKIP stood in my constituancy).
      my friends are’t far off shifting allegiance either…

      the tories need to start putting the lib dems in their place and not let them have their own way all the time.

  10. oldtimer
    May 18, 2011

    Somewhat off topic, but it does concern a LibDem (Huhne) and the workings of the EU. According to the Daily Mail, on March 12, 2003, “Mr Huhne had been at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where records show he voted 42 times from 12.39pm to precisely 1.23pm.” That works out at nearly one vote per minute!

    How can any organisation give proper consideration to issues that are voted on at this speed? Is this how the LibDems want to conduct matters in the UK Parliament? No wonder EU measures do not get proper or serious consideration in this country if this is how they are passed in Europe.

    1. rose
      May 19, 2011

      It is Caroline Lucas’s model of modernity for our Parliament.

  11. Michael Read
    May 18, 2011

    Is this one of your rare jokes, so subtle and sublime that I don’t get it?

    David Laws on anything, for God’s sake.

    What’s that legal principle, again?: “You can’t come to equity with dirty hands”.


  12. Javelin
    May 18, 2011

    The LibDems will ony listen to the Manderins calls to save the UK from the toxic New Labour. The only reason they want to be more integrated into the EU is to give more power to LibDem MEPs, encourage PR or localism. They are a party whose main strategy is to seek power not to seek workable policies. If they got to form a Government through PR and the EU they would walk about like a headless siamese-twinned chicken pulling itself apart (with one sandalled and one brouged shoe).

  13. Gary
    May 18, 2011

    Seems that Laws is out of place in any mainstream party. With such sound market proposals, he needs to join the Libertarians.

  14. lojolondon
    May 18, 2011

    Clearly, the LibDems are neither Liberals, nor a Democratic party. Their policies are also extremely flexible, 180 degree turns are a common feature of their spin. But they are never held to account for the rubbish they speak.

    I am always annoyed that the media gloss over left-wing contradictions and u-turns, why can’t David Cameron fulfil his promise to make the BBC fair and impartial?

  15. Dominic
    May 18, 2011

    you seem to have misunderstood the difference between essays and policy-making, Mr Redwood. You are quoting the views of one MP from six years ago ruminating on options for the NHS. This is quite distinct from established party policy, as agreed by the (sovereign and policy-making) LibDem conference. Mr Laws’ views from the Orange Book are no more LD party policy than the musings in your book about the credit crunch are Tory party policy. Get it right!

    Reply: I did also quote the Lib Dem Manifesto which was Lib Dem policy.

    1. Dominic
      May 19, 2011

      I’m afraid that you didn’t quote the manifesto, Mr Redwood. You said that the milder coalion proposals were in it, which they were not. The manifesto said, inter alia, that the LibDems would scrap SHAs and hand commissioning powers to local health boards, who would include councillors. There was no mention of GP commissioning, scrapping of PCTs or allowing ‘any willing provider’ to take over health services. Those are Tory policies.

      Reply: On the contrary, it recommended choice of provider as a central plank, and devolution of power as I catalogued here in my blog with the full quotes from the Manifesto.

  16. Acorn
    May 18, 2011

    Question please JR. Do we still need a bicameral parliament, now we are a classless society and the Serfs not ruled by LORDS anymore? There are currently about ~180 Bills before parliament, only about 18 are government Bills. With the introduction of the Back Bench Business committee, do we still need private members Bills, the vast majority of which, never get near royal assent, and are just debating opportunities. Surely an opportunity to improve efficiency and spend more time producing fewer pieces of legislation that will function properly.

    The coalition is suffering a lot of misfires currently; NHS; Education; Lords reform and today, rape sentencing. There is far too much shooting from the hip. You are even getting mugged by second rate day time news presenters and one-man-and-a-dog, single issue pressure groups. This is not looking like a team that will make Champions League by 2015.

  17. electro-kevin
    May 18, 2011

    All anyone is talking about here is Mr Cameron’s increase in overseas aid to levels matching the defence cuts.

    The Sun has done a pretty damning full page spread on it today.

    Seems that it’s the PM that needs moderating if you ask me – and Kenneth Clarke while we’re at it. Do you really think your average Joe listens to what those soppy LibDems say ?

    1. Tim
      May 18, 2011

      I think this sums up the mood of the Nation on Mr Cameron’s policy on foreign aid and then increasing in these austere times. What other nation on Earth would borrow £9 billion and give it away to foreign governemnts who don’t even like us but constantly betray us (Pakistan).

  18. REPay
    May 18, 2011

    There are clearly (though they may wish to disavow them now) some classic liberal ideas still at home in the Lib Democrat Party . However, sadly the Orange Bookers are a minority. Being in government should make the split between themselves and the fundamentally statist social liberals – Hughes et al more obvious. Perhaps the latter group will go to where they really belong, in the Labour Party, except they might not like the type of people there any more than they like Tories. Being a Liberal Democrat is essentially a social positioning statement. The commitment to Europe is real – it will be a useful provider for Clegg et al in a few years.

  19. Anoneumouse
    May 18, 2011

    One day, a yellow scorpion was walking along a river bank, wondering how to get to the other side.

    All of a sudden the yellow scorpion saw a toad.

    He asked the toad to take him on his back across the river.
    The toad said, “No, If I do that, you’ll sting me and I will drown.”

    The scorpion assured the toad, “If I was to sting you, we would both drown.”

    The toad thought about it and finally agreed and the yellow scorpion climbed up on the toads back. The toad began to swim… but…. halfway across the river, the yellow scorpion stung the toad.

    As the poison filled his veins, the toad turned to the scorpion and said, “Why did you do that? You know that we will both drown.”

    “I couldn’t help it,” said the yellow scorpion. “It is my nature.” I am a Liberal Democrat and that’s what us Liberal Democrats do.

  20. Bazman
    May 18, 2011

    Customers? Competition? what planet are these people on. If your local takeaway goes bust then you can just ‘choose’ another. However if your local health service goes bust then there is no other, and also the ‘customers’ that use and need the health service most are the ones that often have put the least into it. If there is spare cash to pay companies profits then the health service need to be organised to put this money into additional care/efficiency. It will end up with sovereign wealth funds and private companies milking the taxpayer. Again. More fantasy.

  21. Kenneth
    May 18, 2011

    The ‘simple and overwhelming case for European integration’ is not made.

    The question is simple: why?

    The answer is less simple and underwhelming as pro-eu-ers talk in riddles as they attempt to talk around corners, avoiding the logic and reality that would shatter their dream.

    John Redwood, Bill Cash, Daniel Hannan and Nigel Farage are good speakers. However I doubt this is all down to natural ability (John may disagree!). The singer needs a good song and there is no simpler and no more compelling argument than those who defend a democratic nation state against the monster quango that is being created.

  22. Kenneth
    May 18, 2011

    The Lib Dems don’t know what’s hit ‘em. The BBC is running negative stories about them after years getting an easy ride. I wonder if they will ever get back to those more civilised days when they enjoyed uncritical access to the airwaves along with the statutory Green (is that why it is called the green room?)

    They shouldn’t worry unduly. The BBC is still reserving its main force for the Conservatives (the BBC is starting to use the ‘nasty party’ term gratuitously and with apparent relish these days).

  23. Martin
    May 18, 2011

    I guess the idea of all these debates between the Conservatives and Liberals is to keep Labour out of the limelight.

    Mind you Labour have been out of office for a year and lack the ability to radically change themselves so perhaps being out of the limelight is their game plan!

    Any opposition worthy of its name should be hammering the government about economic issues like inflation and the weak pound.
    Milliband today was reduced to asking who said what on Radio 4 questions. So I guess we should be grateful for the new politics and Con Lib debates!

  24. Stephen Gash
    May 19, 2011

    The Lib Dems believe in local government provided that government is local to Brussels. It is amusing to see the professional political hecklers, the Lib dems, squirming now that they have some responsibilty in government. I almost wish they’d gone in with Labour because that would have seen them both done and dusted for 20 years, in England. Mind you that would have finished off the economy for good.

    What most of the population here is worried about is the Tories throwing out the baby with the the bathwater, as happened in the second half of Thatcher’s stint as PM. Labour’s crass dogma of nationalisation together with the union bruvvers was the hammer that smashed British industry. However, Thatcher had the opportunity to hone it down and make it competitive.

    It beggars belief we threw it all away, so that Italy is making most of the owrld’s liners and we have no car indusry of our own, unlike Germany, Italy and France.

    The Tories have to get it right this time.

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