The Lib Dems and the cruel dilemma of coalition politics

The Lib Dems have a big problem with Coalition politics. They are the one party that believes coalition government can be better than majority party government. They are the one party of the top three that know they will need a coalition in future if they are to be in government again. Despite this, they cannot help themselves from constantly criticising the Coalition government from without. Some of their Ministers are endlessly making proposals they know Conservatives cannot accept from outside the government despite being members of it.

As someone who is sceptical of coalition this neither surprises me nor dismays me. However, I do not want it to get in the way of doing things now that would help turn our economy round. Surely for at least the first three years of the planned five year coalition Lib Dem Ministers should concentrate on doing the things that Conservatives and Lib Dems agreee about? The aim should be to stress the advantages of the polices that both parties can accept, not to stress the frustrations that Lib Dem Ministers feel with things the Conservatives will not accept. The aim should be to find more things that both parties can happily do together.

There are many Conservatives today like me who want to see more freedom for UK citizens. We feel the state has grown too big and bossy. We want a government which trusts more of the people more of the time. We want a government with the confidence to repeal some of the excessive number of laws and rules we have, and to cut back on the number of things the state interferes with at considerable cost. I thought there was meant to be a strong strand of liberalism within the Lib Dems. Can’t we have some more of this?

I went to see Nick Clegg early on in the governent’s life. There were strong rumours that he was going to put through a Freedom Bill. I took forty or so proposals for repeal to add to his measure. I set them out for him in writing. In the meeting I explained that doubtless he would not like all of them, but several of them would seem natural for Lib Dems to welcome. I expected that if he had another list I would like many of the items on it. He was friendly, but it ended with the news that he was not going to put through such a Bill after all. Isn’t it time to revive it?

Conservatives are tax cutters by instinct. We do get a little weary of hearing that the wish to cut Income Tax is a unique Lib Dem proposal. We are willing to cut Income Tax in the particular way they wish to get some tax cuts through. Together the parties should be able to come up with a stronger agenda to cut tax on enterprise and effort.

At the start of the government’s life I was asked by a senior Conservative Minister what I thought of the idea of major reform of the NHS. I said that “would be brave Minister” and went on to suggest not attempting it in this Parliament, given that we had not won the election and given likely coalition pressures. I argued that successful reform of education and welfare would be difficult enough. When I read the Preface to the White Paper on NHS Reform signed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg I decided that their vision was one I should support. I overcame my worries and have ever since voted for the measure and done my best to explain the government’s case for it. I was also swayed in favour by some of the comments in the Lib Dem’s Orange Book and their Manifesto, though their proposals went further than I would have chosen myself. I therefore find it surprising, eighteen months on, to read that it is the Lib Dems who are toning this measure down or saving the NHS from these reforms, when they had such impeccable Lib Dem origins and support as well as appearing in the Conservative manifesto.

The cruel paradox for Lib Dems is this. They need to show coalition works. Instead, every time Labour attacks them from the left for daring to support it, Lib dems are wobbled off and attack the coalition with Labour. They are undermining the public’s view of coalition at the very time they should be trying to show it works.

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  1. Antisthenes
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    It does not matter what type of government we have because we have economic and social models that are so flawed that in the end they will ensure national impoverishment. There is neither the time or the popular support to reform these models significantly enough so that the nation can prosper. The coalition typifies this as the electorate wanted a government that would solve economic and social problems within the existing structures unaware that it is those structures that are the problems. They want the symptoms addressed not the causes. The only difference the type of government the country has is in the speed of the decline left ones hasten it right ones slows it a little. The coalition is proving to be somewhere in between.

    • Disaffected
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      I disagree. all the figures, as John points, are worse under the socialist Coalition. Spending and Borrowing up, mass immigration up, unemployment up, welfare lifers up, more EU regulation and laws. What have the Coalition improved??

      As for John’s main point, there is an alternative: general election now. We cannot continue like this.

      Good article by Janet Daley in the DT about Tory contradictions. Even better is the best rated blog which sums up why Tory back benchers need to think carefully about why Tory voters are fed up with Mr Cameron and Osborne.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    The Lib Dems have a big problem with Coalition politics namely: all their policies were devised just to win votes. They never thought they would ever have to implement them as they never expected to ever hold any power.

    Their policies of pro EU, higher tax borrow and waste, the ECHR, over regulate everything, and mugging the rich are the opposite of what is needed.

    “Conservatives are tax cutters by instinct” – well are they? Clearly not in practise, to cut taxes you also have to stop wasting money hand over fist or giving it to the PIGIS or the EU. Lip service to tax cutting is not sufficient when they have put taxes up all over the place. Attacks on child benefits, personal allowances, 52%, 20% VAT, pensions attacks, fuel duty, NI etc. are all tax increases in effect. How is the £1M IHT coming on (As Osbourne promised in 2008)?

    Lip service to de-regulation is not sufficient either. They have put brought more regulation all over the place – the no retirement rules, no gender insurance rules & still have pointless home energy certificates and over regulation of Landlords and Business everywhere. They have done nothing on the absurd employment laws nor the “heads you win tails you win” tribunal system nor the no win no fee racket.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Listening to Ed Davey MP Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change this morning was rather depressing. He thinks wind subsidy is good because it is a new developing technology but nuclear subsidy is bad because it is established.

      Might not a better determinant be just what works and is economic and what does not work and is not likely ever to be economic. Anyway all technology is developing all the time. Nuclear is very different now and will be different again very soon.

      I see he is yet another Oxford PPE man what on earth do they teach on that course that seems to make people so irrational? Does it perhaps come under the control of the “Faculty of divinity and irrational belief systems”?

      He is also in favour of the tycoon tax. Unless this is going to attack non doms which would be counter productive then I cannot see that anyone much be be affected it. It will just be a silly PR gesture as usual.

      Why on earth is energy department not let by an Engineer or Physicist who might have a clue what he/she was doing?

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        Anyway wind power has been used for thousands of years and nuclear power for only about 60 years so where is his logic. We moved away from wind to far more efficient, cheaper and more reliable alternatives some time ago.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        Clegg is still droning on about a “green John Lewis economy” and even thanking Chris Huhne for his contribution (to closing down UK industry and wasting billions on mad subsidies I assume).

        I am not sure there is much that is very green about selling consumer durables (that are not very durable) and over priced and over packages fruit, veg and ready meals flown in from around the world. But I suppose they do have the odd wind turbine generating tuppence of energy on the odd roof and do charge for carrier bags.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

          Now Clegg goes on about “millionaires scheming to keep their taxes down to a bare minimum”. He seem to be against it for some loony reason. Does he mean Ken Livingstone or Huhne I wonder?

          Anyway surely it is a positive thing as it enable them to invest more, create jobs and stops Clegg and Cameron from wasting it all on Green tosh, the PIGIS, the EU, transfers to the feckless, pointless wars, and overpaid/pensioned state sector workers doing little of any use.

          If he says “green growth” or “green deal” again I shall scream. Every green job must cost at least ten in real industry and give the odd granny or two Hypothermia too.

          It would of course be better still if the tax system were simple with sensible rates then instead of “scheming” they could just concentrate on running their businesses well.

          • APL
            Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

            Lifelogic: “Does he mean Ken Livingstone or Huhne I wonder? ”

            Clegg isn’t short of a penny himself.

            Then with his tax rebate, aka parliamentary salary, which itself puts him comfortably within the top 10% of the population by income, he is ‘sitting very pretty’ indeed.

      • oldtimer
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        It does appear that there are several MPs toting PPE degrees who are in danger of giving this degree course a bad name. One could be forgiven for thinking that philosphy taught was screw the taxpayer, the politics taught was preparation for the games they all play in the Westminister village and the economics taught that it was quite all right to go on spending £4 for every £3 you earn.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 11, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

          Indeed perhaps it teaches how to play the game of politics (for personal enrichment) and the impoverishment of the country.

          • APL
            Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

            Lifelogic: “it teaches how to play the game of politics (for personal enrichment) .. ”

            That’d be the one!

      • Timaction
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        I totally agree and the policy is based on unproven science that has been shown to be a nonsense. Yet Governments continue with financing groups who are looking to find climate change and not scientific facts!!
        We need people in charge who have the National NOT personal interest at heart. Canada, America etc have abandoned this climate change nonsense. The BRICS haven’t even considered it! Its more EU nonsense.

        • Derek Buxton
          Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

          I do not think America has dumped the greenie ideas, their group responsible for controlling emissions is saying that CO2 is a pollutant and must be banned. Like our puppet government they will not accept that CO2 is necessary for life to flourish. Taxing carbon is the fastest way to ruin an economy there is. The work just goes to a more sensibly run Country.

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        lifelogic can I strongly recommend you get yourself along to a conference. I think you would enjoy being able to engage these people in direct conversation. It’s a very difference experience to reading about it at a distance and often a totally contradictory experience to reading about it through the lens of the media.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          Alas too busy running things, given the mess government have created and the total lack of sensible banking at the moment which has created extra pointless work for me.

          Anyway I have had to leave the UK now as it is more sensible & efficient to run things from overseas and so am very limited on my days in the UK anyway.

          I am not sure I could take it without being rather rude to people.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

            If things are that bad perhaps you should consider that devoting part of your time to getting involved in the processes which would improve things would be wise.

          • lifelogic
            Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

            I have to be realistic and look after my young famil y, my businesses and my employees. I am not sure I could join the Tory party its current socialist state anyway.

            There are only so many hours in the day after all. I moved out of the UK when I worked out it would cost me (and my businesses) about £20M in taxes to stay in the UK (over the rest of my expected lifetime). Money I would rather use to create jobs and build business than give to Cameron to waste.

            Hopefully by my moving and others too the government will eventually realise that they are just killing the golden goose that feeds them through absurd over taxation and over regulation.

            We shall see in the Budget next week but the noises look very bad so far.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

            I too have deep reservations about getting involved in politics because of the consequences of the demands it will make on me for our younger children.

            However looking back I realise how much I learned from my dad having been involved and how much of my character was defined by the way in which he and those around him took flack and took strain and retained their dedication.

            If I do get involved I hope my children will learn about society and the better attributes of those who take responsibility in it as I did. You can’t learn that through the media.

          • lifelogic
            Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

            Being involved in politics also tends to mean you can never say what is true or what you really as you think as you are bound to offend someone. This is why most politicians only say one of two things: either something so obviously true that there is no point in bothering to say it (such as we want an integrated transport system – who wants disintegrated one?) or things which are clearly not true but they think may win them votes (such the Labour and Libdems love of the evil politics of envy and the green religion or we will give you a referendum on ….)

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted March 14, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

            I think that’s true when they’re high profile politicians engaging with the general public lifelogic, but not all those involved in politics are high profile and the picture is very different when you speak to those who are in more extended or less formal situations.

            I think you like John’s blog because it tends in that direction but when you actually get involved in a fringe conference or local politics it is likely you will find it far further in that direction.

    • libertarian
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      Once again Lifelogic I agree 100% with you.

      Totally correct. We are governed by a talentless rabble whose only priority is to sustain government.

      We need a party that is NOT a social democratic party as we have 3 of those already

    • Disaffected
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      Lifelogic, I think you might have forgotten that Mr Clegg promised a better EU referendum than the Tories and had no intention of ever giving one as the Lib Dem whipped votes demonstrated last October. As we witnessed, EU liberals will do everything they can to prevent an EU referendum taking place- in contrast they spent a lot of taxpayers’ money to get thrashed on the AV referendum (sort of goes against the EU dictatorship rules, I suppose it only counts before getting elected, afterwards the rules change). Mr Clegg promised, in clear categoric language, that university tuition fees would be abolished in one parliament and they would not go up. He was even for the NHS bill and in contrast was asking for changing up to the last minute. As everyone in the country has come to realise, you cannot believe a word the man says. Before the election Mr Cable changed his mind on a daily basis about the UK’s economy- watch Andrew Neil’s Politics Show- it was embarrassing to watch Mr Cable’s feeble attempts to deflect the criticisms. In fact it made me feel like saying leave him alone he is just an old deluded man.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

        I agree fully.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      “The Lib Dems have a big problem with Coalition politics namely: all their policies were devised just to win votes. They never thought they would ever have to implement them as they never expected to ever hold any power.

      “Their policies of pro EU, higher tax borrow and waste, the ECHR, over regulate everything, and mugging the rich are the opposite of what is needed.”

      Whose vote are the Lib Dems trying to win with this? I thought supporting the EU and ECHR would cause you to lose more votes than you’d gain.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

        You ask “Whose votes are the Lib Dems trying to win with this?”

        The strange Libdem voter I assume, people who have a sort of BBC think (and no understanding or science, business or human nature) People who think being in the EU will just make them enjoy their holidays gites in France or Italy more and usually hate the USA, Dr Beeching and Murdoch.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    I am getting worried.
    I wholeheartedly believed Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg when they were first put into government. I really thought they had serious intentions of cutting back the state, paying off a little of the debt, reducing the Civil Service and above all, reducing the deficit.
    Quite honestly, they just have not achieved as much as I had hoped they would.

    On Roger Helmer’s blog, I read of hundreds of people turning out in St Ives, Hunts, (back end of nowhere) not far from here for a UKIP meeting.

    The natives are getting restless, I fear.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      I agree with this concern.

      Some real cuts have happened but some of the proposals which were said to be about savings were not, that was a gloss for pushing through ideology and some of the proposals which were vaunted as leading to efficiencies won’t.

      The questions is – what do we do? Please don’t just comment here – please get involved in the debate directly through which ever party you feel most at home with ideologically / repulses you least.

      • zorro
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

        There is very little sense of strategy in trying to reform services or identify core aims of organisations which have grown smaller. It is just do ‘more with less’. That is not good enough. You must identify how you can do that effectively with the resources you have. Is it sensible to get rid of staff, pay them off handsomely and then re-engage them as you have miscalculated the resources you need. It is quite frankly outrageous but happening right now at a department near you….Why do they insist on employing senior managers who know absolutely nothing about the business they have been appointed to run. Do they purposely want these departments to fail so that they can say that they are un-reformable and sell them on to the cheapest bidder…?



        • Tedgo
          Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

          We will see this with the NHS reforms. Thousands will be made redundant from the existing PCT’s on generous terms, rather than statutory minimum, only to be re employed in the GP commissioning arrangements. Most of the GP commissioning will be subcontracted to private firms.

      • APL
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        Rebecca Hanson: “Some real cuts have happened .. ”

        How can someone who teaches math, claim that there have been ‘real cuts’ when even by the governments own figures the deficit has increased and continues to increase?

        What you may be reporting is a reallocation from an area of government spending that impacts you personally, to somewhere else – who knows where.

        What we do know is that government borrowing is still increasing two years into this regime.

        • Electro-Kevin
          Posted March 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

          There does appear to be an imbalance of where the cuts are taking place. Against essential workers. Senior officials seem to be safeguarded or paid off generously.

          • APL
            Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

            Electro-Kevin: “There does appear to be an imbalance of where the cuts are taking place.”

            Then the whole process is a waste of time. We should be making *real* cuts, not reallocating from one expense center to another.

            If it isn’t done now voluntarily, we will follow the Greek example and be forced to cut indiscriminately.

    • Duyfken
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      I think you are right, Mike, to believe the “natives are getting restless”, but unwise to fear such rather than welcome it.

      The problem arises not so much with what the Cameroons have done so far or failed to do what was expected of them, but from a betrayal.

      Cameron set out his stall when vying for the leadership and whilst campaigning for the GE, as a Conservative in the traditional mould, making all the right noises to reassure and mollify the Party faithful. The outstanding example was his cast-iron guarantee but there are other instances some of which you have suggested, and it is clear now if not before that Cameron has at all times been bent on pursuing his own agenda of centre-left policies regardless of traditional Tory expectations.

      For me, it would be a betrayal were I to give my voting support to a Party led by Cameron and a Cabinet of social democratic side-kicks. Much as JR derides UKIP and its chances of success, it seems that it is the only alternative available for such as me, and for you also perhaps. But what I really want is a true Conservative Party.

      “A vote for UKIP would let Labour in again” so we are told. That may be the price to pay for voting according to principle rather than indulging in tactical legerdemain. So when is the Conservative Party going to repair the damage, remove Cameron, and become a Party worthy of support?

      • Derek Buxton
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        well said Sir, I completely agree. However I saw through Cameron from day 1 and so did not vote for any of the three main parties, they are too alike.

    • outsider
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

      Dear Mr Stallard, I am surprised that you, as a Peterburgher like my great grandfather, should say that St Ives is “the back end of nowhere”. One of the most delightful towns in England, it is also one of the fastest growing, with lots of young families and Cambridge commuters and plenty of millionaires across the meadow. If there is such a thing as middle England, as opposed to cross-section UK, this is it.

      • stred
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        i have been visiting St Ives for 58 years. The harbour front has now started to make Brighton look tasteful.

  4. A.Sedgwick
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Any Conservative leader worthy of the name would not have agreed to a coalition with the Libdems or the non trade union wing of the Labour Party as I prefer to call them. An old joke when David Steel in 19?? at the Liberal Party Conference said “return to your constituencies and prepare for government” there was a rush to the bar by the parliamentary candidates needing stiff drinks at the thought. This Coalition has achieved nothing of note and has just delayed and exacerbated the much needed changes in our economy, society and “democracy”. The Libdems are still riding on the success of Charles Kennedy and being against the Iraq war. Had Cameron kept Clegg off the TV debates the Libdems would have done worse in 2010. Their current poll rating is about 10%, a fact which does not seem to register in Downing Street. The tide is turning for Mr. Ed, Cameron and the Coalition are his best allies in winning the next election, the worst scenario for Labour is the collapse of the Coalition and a re-emergence of the real Conservative Party following the wishes of the majority.

    There is nothing in the legislative can apart from Lords reform, boundary changes/MP reduction and the Scottish referendum. This is a legacy timebomb for Cameron, more than anything that Blair left behind. Salmond is a wily politician, who sees a delay to 2014 only to his advantage and clearly Cameron sees at as an increasing risk. As the UK stagnates and London dominates more, logic could disappear in this vote with Scottish residents simply deciding it can’t be worse, let’s get rid of the toffs. I wrote several times pre 2010 that Cameron should seek an accommodation with the SNP recognising the Conservative Party was dead in the water in Scotland and defusing the independence issue, basically suggesting an agreed Devomax. Now I would suggest the way out of this constitutional hole is for Cameron to blindside Salmond with an EU in/out referendum.

    • rose
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      I get the feeling when I meet Scots off the record that it isn’t a left wing state they want at all, but one independant of the over-populated multicultural mess, as they see it, down here. The media aren’t going to report this aspect of Salmond’s success, and he isn’t going to draw attention to it himself.

  5. GeoffM
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    We see in this am copy of the Telegraph that the Gov is going to court to ban the wearing of a cross at work, is this also part of the LD influence on the coalition. The irony is that last week there were shots on the TV of a cross been attacked in an Allied war grave in Libya. Priorities Mr Cameron, priorities and while you are at it for the good of the nation get rid of Mr V. Cable.

    • colliemum
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Thanks for bringing this up, GeoffM.

      I hope that some in the Tory Party are capable of pointing out to the government that this decision will have unintended consequences of which they should not just be aware, but of which they need to be afraid.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Clegg finishes his speech with a call for “freedom” but clearly not freedom to wear a cross (not that I would wear one) but I cannot see why people should not if they want too.

      Freedom to live in a poor, jobless, non democratic EU I assume he means.

    • Timaction
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Why are the Government interfering with the rights of individuals from the Christian faith (crosses) yet they do not consider it necessary to ban the Burka or Turban? It seems there is a constant attack on the Christian faith and traditions (gay marriage). Why? It shows the majority of English people that the mainstream political parties are not on their side any longer. They have no respect or understanding of a value system, culture and traditions that go back centuries. These big brother policies have no mandate and are disgusting. People will not forget at the next election. It appears we have a bullying Coalition Government that is imposing its will on “equalities” agenda, much the same as the former socialists who were in power.

      • Derek Buxton
        Posted March 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        I am afraid that history is not known to these “elite” rich children we have running the Country….into the ground. History only started in 1997 don’t you know!

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Vince Cable did a long interview with a local reporter on North East economic affairs. The reporter, who is normally limited to single questions or 2 minutes max, probed all sorts of stuff in depth. Anyone could attend and there were only about 50 people there as there was so much on at the same time. You could ask questions directly.

      Why not come and do that GeoffM?

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

        You can ask questions but you do not get answers just evasion I imagine.

        • APL
          Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

          lifelogic: “You can ask questions but you do not get answers just evasion I imagine.”

          Sounds like the BBC ‘s ‘Question time’.

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

          I got answers. There seemed to be no culture of evasion.

          When people are given time to explain themselves thinks seem much more true than is possible through the lens of the mass media and the environment was set up to create the opportunity for that deep dialogue and explanation.

    • zorro
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I saw them attacking the cross too, but the newscaster said that it wasn’t a religious based attack…..


  6. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Could it be that in the minds of some LibDems they are trying to ensure they retain enough of the vote at the next general election so as to be well place to enter a coalition government with Labour?

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Nope. Didn’t hear that anywhere.

      Mainly I heard people talking in great depth about difficult issues. Here’s an overhead conversation (from memory).

      “I’ve been talking to a GP who was head of a primary trust for 7 years and worked in the department for 3 (now being a GP again in his retirement). He’s horrified by the NHS bill because it came from nowhere and wasn’t on the manifesto and seems to be entirely about private firms making profits and thinks we should vote it down. What do you think?”
      “I’ve been aware of those issues since it came along and have been tracking the amendments. It’s been touch and go but I’m convinced the things Shirley Williams are proposing will take it to a place where the NHS is properly protected for the future. I think people are unaware of the damage which was done by Labour legislation which needs to be urgently addressed and how this bill will now do that. Which particular aspects are you still concerned about”

      Personally I was having many deep conversations about education.

      What have you been doing this weekend Alan?

  7. David B
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I am afraid the lib dems have learnt that you need to be careful what you wish for.

    government is difficult compared to the purity of opposition where policies can be announced without reference to anything else and safe in the knowledge they will not need to be justified when the law of unintended consequences takes effect

    I wonder how many now wish everyone had disagreed with Nick

  8. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    The LibDems have always been the most duplicitous politicians, arguing one way to try and win Conservative held seats and often the opposite in Labour held seats. They really are political parasites who intend to live off Conservative and Labour. Most of them would be happier in coalition with Labour and some of them (notably Cable) are clearly working hard to bring this about. They are untrustworthy and devoid of any principle other than furthering their own careers and ambitions. Regretably, Cameron seems happier with them than his own party.This can be seen daily as they display contempt for cabinet responsibility, claim the credit for what they perceive as popular measures and blame the Conservatives for all the unpopular things which they are “forced to go along with as the price of being in coalition”; the response from No. 10 is a deafening silence.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t find any duplicity there. I think you should go and see for yourself Brian.

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        No duplicity? Were you there when the conference voted against the NHS bill which the leadership are said to support? Just a simple example of how they like to have it both ways – they support it but oppose it at the same time!

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

          Brian what I saw was grass roots democracy in action – a free vote.

  9. lojolondon
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    John, the LibDems are neither Liberal nor Democratic. They certainly, more than anyone, lied to the British public about a referendum as the commitment was in their manifesto at the last election.
    What I do NOT understand in this coalition is the dishonesty and treacherous nature of these people, and, conversely, the safety of their cabinet seats! Cable and Huhne are good examples. How many times have they disclosed private coalition scoops in the media, (this type of conduct-ed) is not second nature to these people, it is first nature!
    If a Conservative cabinet minister took these actions, he would be rightly put on the back benches. Any yet, the leaks and exposing of information goes on, no censuring activities in sight.

    Reply: Mr Huhne has resigned.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      But he didn’t resign because he leaked did he?

    • APL
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      JR: “Mr Huhne has resigned.”

      But not in connection with his behavior in government, it was the (alleged-ed)dishonesty of his private affairs that caused the resignation.

      Cameron should have moved first to remove him.

      But instead he condoned both his (word left out) behavior in government and his very (word left out-ed) in his private affairs. The man was clearly unfit for public office!

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      “Mr Huhne has resigned” but not alas for the right reason i.e. because his policy on energy was clearly mad.

      • Disaffected
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

        Mr Harvey states he will continue with Huhne’s plan.

        • APL
          Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

          Disaffected: “Mr Harvey states he will continue with Huhne’s plan.”

          The stench of the EU hangs rancid in the air.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 14, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

          So the same applies.

    • nicol sinclair
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Dear Mr Redwood.

      Yes Huhne has resigned. Only because he is being accused of perverting the course of justice. If not that, we would still be suffering him and his policies of tilting at windmills. But, the wretched Cable is still there frothing at the mouth… He needs to be thrown out on his ear.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      You could have come and questioned either of them about these issues this weekend lojolondon should you be interesting in establishing the details of what has happened.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        Cable does at least now realise that if a bank lends you 75% of a property vale then at renewal says they will reduce it to just 40% there a serious lack of banking problem that needs a solution.

        • APL
          Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

          lifelogic: “if a bank lends you 75% of a property vale then at renewal says they will reduce it to just 40% ”

          You are usually on the ball on financial matters, what this suggests to me is that ‘the banks’ are expecting a significant drop in equity values. Cutting back on their exposure would be sensible if that proves to be the case.

          lifelogic: ” there a serious lack of banking problem that needs a solution.”


          • lifelogic
            Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

            I do not think it is too do with risk even with other guarantees offered they are simply not in the lending business they clearly do not have seem to have the funds to lend to this area of lending.

            Yet on owner occupied loans they can go to 90%?

    • lojolondon
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      He did resign, but he was not only completely hopeless at his job as ‘Energy’ minister, only focussing on the totally wrong ‘green’ portion, but he was publicly known as the biggest source of media leaks that intentionally wounded the coalition, backstabbing the hated Tories whenever he got the chance.

      Leaving him inside the camp for so long was on a parallel with allowing the BBC to continue their pro-Labour, anti-Conservative crusade!!

  10. Alan Radfield
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    The single narrative coming out of government about the deficit is to find new ways to raise taxes. The political will to reduce spending as a solution seems to have simply evaporated, along with my interest in politics. I will almost certainly not bother to vote at all in the next election, and leave the ‘Westminster Jobs Club’ to look after itself, which I am sure it will do handsomely.

    • Bob
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      You really should use your vote, after all the blood that has been spilt to give it to you.

  11. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I’ve been at the Libdem Conference for the last two days.
    It’s been an inspiring place to be. Lots of highly intelligent and strong minded people talking about complex issues in depth.

    Would you agree with me John that both party philosophies believe very strongly in the importance of devolution of power to the lowest level, however the Libdems tend to be detailed consideration regarding the planning and infrastructure behind that devolution of power (retaining central power where it is shown to be functionally appropriate for the power to be central) while many of those driving Conservative policy at present are more keen to simply remove planning infrastructure? Please do challenge that if you like – I value your perspective.

    That’s how it looks from my point of view having listened to and spoken with many intelligent speakers. That’s why it looks to me like coalition is working – because this juxtapositions is creating a very vibrant dialogue in which each party has to justify in detail its conclusions on each detail of policy.

    Personally I don’t think coalition was very functional in the early days because ministers seemed to think that once they’d won the debated with their coalition partners policy should follow directly and proper consultation with the parties who would be responsible for implementing the policy was bypassed. But on the other hand I’m not sure that problem would have been mollified if we not had a coalition.

    There was also much discussion going on about the nature of coalition government – our inexperience with them – lessons which could be learned from other countries and so on.

    I have always felt very alienated by politics and am now getting involved with great reluctance because I am deeply concerned about the quality of policy in education. I hope it is obvious that my passion will be for quality of policy and I will always be repulsed by many of the competitive features of politics.

    I have to say getting involved so far has been an inspirational experience because of the quality of people I’ve met on all sides of the debate. Please can I very strongly recommend that readers of this blog do get involved with their local parties of whatever persuasion they feel may be right for them and then please also consider going to a conference? Our democratic systems need people to make them work. If they’re not tended to they become weak.

    Reply: It is Conservative Ministers in charge of planning. They are retaining a national system with new shorter national rules and guidance. I do not recognise a disagreement on this issue between the partners.

    • rose
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      We should look back at the Coalition governement under Churchill to judge whether the junior inexperienced partners are always of value. Whereas Bevin did a splendid job as Minister of Labour in the war, it is doubtful whether Attlee and Beveridge’s plans for a welfare state were superior to Neville Chamberlain’s. But the former prevailed, and we are stuck with their unsustainability now, as well as the lasting damage they have done to the family, the work ethic, and the national identity. Take note, Vince and Shirley. Better to have the reputation of Bevin for posterity, even if it needs enhancing now. Presumably Bevin was erased from history by the Left because he saw the USSR for what it was and said so. It is high time he was rehabilitated.

      • A Different Simon
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

        Rose ,

        I think you are being disingenuous :-

        “but the former prevailed, and we are stuck with their unsustainability now”

        Attlee and Beveridge would surely have been disgusted to how the safety net they implemented has been debauched .

        There record will stand proud compared with the coalition’s crowning glory of using taxpayer money to underwrite a scam to prop up house prices .

        • rose
          Posted March 14, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

          Agreed, and Beveridge only intended the NHS as a temporary measure, to bring the working class up to a general standard of good health; but Chamberlain’s welfare schemes were better conceived and costed, as you would expect from a successful Birmingham business man and administrator.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      “Lots of highly intelligent and strong minded people talking about complex issues in depth”

      Talk is cheap.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure what you mean by planning John. I was thinking about general policy for administrating society.

      I think the thing which has struck me most is the difference between what was actually happening and what was reported which is why I think it’s so important people go and see for themselves.

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        How can you go to a party conference without being a party member?

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

          Join and go and leave if you are not convinced afterwards that the experience was of value. That was my attitude.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Rebecca you say “I’ve been at the Libdem Conference for the last two days.
      It’s been an inspiring place to be. Lots of highly intelligent and strong minded people talking about complex issues in depth.”

      Are you being satirical or is there some side show there that is never reported?
      Are they perhaps considering changing their clearly satirical name from “Liberal Democrats” as they are clearly neither?

      Might I suggest the “Ever bigger government, over taxation, fake green, pro EU, anti democratic party” perhaps. Perhaps someone can find a good acronym for it.

      • stred
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        I actually joined the Liberals when young because I thought the Tories were corrupt and the Labour lot were thick inverted snobs with no understanding of enterprise. Then I found that the Liberals were a combination of both but basically mad but with a few credible PR fronts. plus ca change.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      You say “the importance of devolution of power to the lowest level” so employing staff might perhaps be left to the employer and employee for example? But strangely the lowest level always seem to be at EU level.

      The EU decide, for example, that the life insurance risk of a man in the same as a woman not the insurance company. It all sounds very sensible and efficient.

      • stred
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        Exactly sums up the LibDems. They believe in individual freedom but legislate like Commissars. Totally bonkers.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      I think you are being a little naive here in education.

      Michael Gove presented (March 2010) in a public meeting the Free Schools idea and publicly supported (I was in the room) the idea of for profit schools, especially IES.
      I haven’t managed to get hold of the Orange Book but understand the idea of Free Schools was in there too.

      Cut to the present. The DfE is in control of the Academies programme, except for staff appointments and some minor curriculum changes. Country authorities are being cut out. In order to start a Free School you have to fill in a long form for the DfE and it is they who decide whether or not you will be allowed to start up. They make the rules, they choose your pupils, they choose your curriculum (more or less) and they approve of the “ethos”.

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

        In reality Mike, professional freedom in schools is suffocated by narrow high stakes assessment and by the outdated and discredited practices Ofsted employ which contradict the best practice in regulation to which other UK regulators conform.

        Free schools were never going to solve the very real issues school face. I’ve said that again and again and again.

        The two key components of the solution are:

        1. We need to reform Ofsted to get it in line with the recommendations of the Hampton review and the resultant law to which Ofsted became obliged in 2009 and which it has ignored.

        2. We need adjust policy to support and encourage the innovations powered by ICT which make it possible to integrated formative assessment (APP) and summative assessment to make it possible to move on from SATS to something much more intelligent and empowering for students and staff.

        Then ALL SCHOOLS will have far more appropriate professional freedom to innovate.

        • rose
          Posted March 12, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

          And how do we bring back teachers with good English?

  12. peter davies
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Given the political energy needed on the NHS issue one does wonder if this should have been left until next term once the economy has been placed on a level footing (hopefully)

    LD and their supporters do need to accept that there are measures which must happen and they are a small minority partner so should not be playing politics with too many important issues and they say should accept their stake in the coalition which is around the 1/6 mark.

    Anyway time will tell – this is new territory for UK politics so how it shapes the next election will be interesting. I just hope there is no major fallout that gives the 2 Eds a license to come back it and mess things up again – thats the last thing we need, just imagine – Ed Balls as chancellor, that fills me with horror.

    To all those blog commentors and others who are disgruntled with the coalition, think of the alternatives.

    If you abandon the Tories because of the consetions made to LD and go to say UKIP or some other small party all you will do is let Labour in by the back door which I’m sure none of you want.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      I don’t agree with Peter Davies’s backdoor argument;

      (i) If the Conservatives know that they can swing to the left and still retain the economically liberal voters for fear of returning an even more socialist government then there is nothing preventing them doing this. Fear of losing voters to minor parties would hopefully stop this drift. (Vote minor to keep the Conservatives blue not glaucous).
      (ii) I think the policy effect is fairly non-linear/threshold, once the Conservatives have drifted too far left then the backdoor risk is worth taking, because the policies come through the frontdoor anyway.
      (iii) Eventually breakthroughs can happen as the Green’s showed in Brighton – it won’t happen by ignoring the minor parties or waiting for electoral reform.
      (iv) An appropriate electoral reform offer (e.g. mixed member proportional + appropriate Lords change not AV), may have to occur once the ‘no mandate’ argument becomes clear. If the turnout is low and a large proportion of those that did vote were truly unrepresented (due say to minor candidates taking substantial vote but not being represented) then I believe even the existing politicians would see a need for change … change has occurred in far scarier countries than the UK.

      Currently I see little reason for voting party politically for any of the three major parties, if there is no specific constituency candidate reason for voting for one of them then it would seem that integrity would demand looking at the alternative candidates in a constituency, and if none were appropriate then not voting. [It may deliver coalitions, but at least with MMP they would be more interesting coalitions!]. Sadly there is a longway to go before the next GE.

    • APL
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Peter Davis: “Labour in by the back door which I’m sure none of you want.”

      That assumes there is a discernible difference between Tory (under Cameron ) policies, and Labor under .. whatisface.

      And anyway, both parties are content to collect their allowances, expenses et al, then do what Brussels tells them to do.

      It’s little wonder the faces change but the policies remain largely the same.

    • Steven Whitfield
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      If you abandon the Tories because of the consetions made to LD and go to say UKIP or some other small party all you will do is let Labour in by the back door which I’m sure none of you want.

      My view is that it doesn’t matter one jot whether we have a Labour or a Conservative government. They are effectively the same thing considering actual policy decisions – rather than small differences in rhetoric that always amount to absolutely nothing in practice. The only way I would consider voting Conservative is if my own Mp broke free from the Westminister group-think by backing the EU referendum for example.

      Atleast with a Labour government we know exactly what to expect and there is some hope that the Conservatives might wake up and abandon the unpopular so called ‘middle ground’ of politics.

    • BobE
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      The only real party left to vote for now is UKIP. The others are simply carbon copies of each other.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Peter I think it would be helpful if the Tories who are complaining about the ligdem influence actually listed the concessions which have been made to the libdems and stated which they felt should have been allowed and which should not.

      The problem is that every time the libdems see aspects of policy which they think are not fit for purpose they are challenging those details and much is getting done and changed because they are winning their points through robust justification. If you don’t want this process to be happening you need to say where you feel Britain would be better off if policy was not being ‘interfered with’ in this way.

      From the Libdem point of view there seemed to be a feeling that they were turning bad policy into good policy by relentless attention to detail and that at the end of the day they would get no credit for that from the public who would not see what had happened.

    • Bob
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Lib Dems and UKIP are neck and neck in the polls.
      In the EU elections UKIP came 2nd to the Tories with Lib Dems in 4th place.
      When people learn about UKIPs policies they will see that it’s the only way forward, the old established parties have passed their sell by date. The problem now is how do the electorate become informed about the issues while the BBC maintain such a stranglehold on the media?

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

        Indeed the BBC do maintain a stranglehold on the media, in political issues especially? That is one of the main problems and compounded by the appointment of Lord Patten by the alleged “Euro sceptic” Cameron.

    • Martin Sewell
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      The problem is, how else do we put pressure on Cameron to signal that his liberal instincts are not acceptable to the Conservative base.

      We need a UK Andrew Breibart to speak plainly for those who do not hold
      ” progressivism” to be the unanswerable default position in all public debate.

    • Robert Christopher
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      Would we notice the difference?

    • uanime5
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      Given the the Conservatives can’t pass any of their bills without Lib Dem support the Lib Dems have every right to act as they want and demand concessions on anything. This is the perk of being the smaller part in a coalition.

  13. K
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I think you’ve made an assumption that most Lib Dems are interested in being in government – they’re not. Only a few of their MPs (mainly Orange Bookers) are.

    In my experience, the vast majority of Lib Dems are parochial, interested in single issues and winning local council seats. They are most comfortable criticising from the sidelines, and smugly announcing that policies which turn out to be unpopular have nothing to do with them.

    Coalition or not, Lib Dems are finding the experience of national government completely abhorrent. There is nowhere to hide, and their previous modus operandi of holding two completely opposite opinions on a particular policy depending on what day of the week it was and what region they were campaigning in will not work any more.

    Given the above, it is impossible for Clegg and his ministers to please his membership. I don’t envy his task, but I don’t feel sorry for him either.

  14. Paul Danon
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Very good as ever. Please publish your c. 40 candidates for repeal.

    reply: They are in the Economic Policy Review of 2007, which is available as a download on this site – see deregulation chapter

  15. rose
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    They are also the party which bangs on most about fairness. Why then do they not support, and themselves advocate, the raising of the threshold on IHT? If they are concerned with parity between homosexuals and heterosexuals, then they should be concerned too with the plight of bachelor brothers and sons, and of maiden sisters and daughters. These may have lived in their homes a lot longer than bereaved civil partners, but must be made homeless in old age because of inflation in property prices.

    Mrs T was the fairest politician, for understanding inflation is the unfairest tax of all, and doing something about it.

    • rose
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      PS if they did embrace the raising of the threshold they might enjoy sharing some of the apparent popularity evinced in the opinion polls when GO first announced it. After all,, popularity is what they like, not doing the right thing.

      • rose
        Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        And the going rate for exemption seems to be £2 million now, according to Liberals, not the original £1 million. What will it be by the general election?

  16. Electro-Kevin
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    The one single benefit of the coalition is that the Lib Dems were at Mr Osborne’s side when he went through the books and saw what a dire mess Nu Lab had left behind.

    The Tories and the Lib Dems ought to be railing against Labour (Ed Balls) at their every utterance about cuts or proposals for economic solutions – they should be left with no credibility whatsoever. They must never hold office again.

    Other than that the Coalition is a cruel bodge at the very time we needed decisiveness and boldness from our PM.

    The extrication of our troops from Afghanistan on coming to office was a brilliant opportunity missed.

    What astonishes me is how similarly many issues are treated by political leaders.

    I do feel that Mr Cameron is rather more Lib Dem than Conservative. In fact I believe he’s more Labour that Conservative – their isn’t a fag paper between our party leaders.

    Whichever way we vote the Guardian’s agenda is the one which gets delivered.

    He lost the election because he was not Tory enough. I’m pretty sure that I could draw up for you the manifesto which would have given you a landslide general election victory.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      The Conservatives can’t rally against Labour because many of their policies are based on ideology rather than what’s best for the country, so if they tried to explain them they’d exposed their true purpose. The Lib Dems won’t rally against Labour because they may need to form a coalition with them in 2015.

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

        Yes. David Cameron would have to explain that he is not really a Tory and resign.

        I don’t understand what you mean about ‘based on ideology’.

        Whose ideas aren’t based on ideology ?

        • uanime5
          Posted March 12, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

          The problem with ideas based on ideology is that they’re usually not based on fact or reason. Thus their failure rate is very high.

  17. David John Wilson
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    The Libdems were forced into the position of having to criticise the coalition from the outside by the Tory policy of trying to ensure that they were elected as a single party government at the next election by similar actions.
    Sorry but this is one of your views that I cannot support.

  18. Andy Man
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Lib Dems are at heart big state socialists. They talk reform but don’t mean it. They want to be consumed in a Euro super state so that any hard decisions will be taken out of their hands and they can just wring their hands and say how awful it all is.

  19. colliemum
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    GeoffM above pointed out this report in the DT:

    which says that the government – this coalition – will argue that Christians do not have the right to wear a cross at work because wearing a cross ‘is not a requirement’ of Christian faith.

    Neither is wearing the burkha, the hijab or niqab a ‘requirement’ of the islamic faith. we allow this because we’ve been told for years by government and Whitehall mandarins that its is a display of their culture, of which we must be tolerant.

    Are we now at the point where society tolerates the display of symbols of other peoples’ cultures, but not that of the ‘culture’ which is fundamental to this, our country, Christianity?

    I am bringing this up because it seems to me that too many of you in the political parties, in parliament, in government, and of course in the media, are focussing on issues which pale in comparison to the fundamental question of equality before the law.

    Does anybody seriously believe that it is ok legally to ban Christians from wearing a cross while legally allowing other faiths to do so? How is that ‘all are equal before the law’?

    I think it is necessary that you, John, and others in your party, take a step back and look at where our society as a whole is going.
    No amount of economic prosperity will outweigh the destruction of the fundaments of our society. One does not have to be a Christian to recognise that.

    • zorro
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      I’m afraid that tolerance only goes one way. If someone is offended by what you’ve said, thought or done, you’ve got problems. You thought Labour was bad…? This Coalition is even more PC in places, and actually worse in operation.


    • uanime5
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps we should adopt France’s solution and ban all religions symbols in schools and public places.

  20. Colin Hart
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    The Lib Dem leadership went cool on the NHS reforms because they listened to their grass roots members. No danger of that happening elsewhere.

  21. Bob
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    “Dilemma” – and you a politician too!

  22. Steven Whitfield
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    “When I read the Preface to the White Paper on NHS Reform signed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg I decided that their vision was one I should support. I overcame my worries and have ever since voted for the measure and done my best to explain the government’s case for it”. JR

    Well i hope Mr Redwood has now seen the light – decision making is far too important to be left to a lop sided cabinet committee formed by two political parties that have irreconcialable views.

    Always always always follow gut instinct on policy making and never, never change direction to appease the party line or try to fit in with the present orthodoxy. This is the road to ruin.

    I’m sure Mr Redwood’s meeting with Mr Clegg gave the Freedom bill the ‘kiss of death’ – this is no bad reflection on John Redwood but a reflection of the petty nature and smouldering bitterness of the Liberal democrat party

    Reply: NO, he had already decided to axe it before he saw me.

    • zorro
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      He never had any intention of repealing legislation or bringing in a Freedom Bill. It was all flannel. Remember their pledge on student fees? All the Lib Dems are interested in is positioning themselves as potential partners after the next election. They are quite frankly pathetic.


    • Steven Whitfield
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

      Reply: NO, he had already decided to axe it before he saw me.

      Mr Redwood, please forgive my cynicism about the nature of coalition politics.

      I was thinking about this over Lunch when Mr Clegg came on the wireless talking about the health bill.

      “Because this is a coalition government, this is a Bill for patients, not profits ” NC

      Well it seems, until Nick Clegg came along on his White horse, those heartless Tories were planning to put balancing the books before patient care. Utter drivel ofcourse but it made a good rabble rousing speech.
      I would be interested to know Mr Redwood’s view on this and whether these distortions of reality cause his blood to boil ?

      I’m no longer a Conservative supporter but I would be fuming at this betrayal if I was. Cleggs speech is even more wounding than an opposition attack to the Conservatives as they seem mostly appear anyway, to lack the resolve to fight back when it’s there own side snipping.

      Seriously, with coalition ‘partners’ like the Lib Dems, who needs political ememies ?. The coalition needs to break apart allowing the Liberal party to spend a period of reflection in loony left oblivion. Conservative minds need to then think how this country can get out of the mess we are in before the dept mountain dept cripples us.

  23. Anoneumouse
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    The coalition isn’t working.

    The LibDems are so duplicitous they don’t even realise that their elected representatives are flavouring their own porridge.

    Who voted coalition?

  24. Barbara Stevens
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I watched Nick Clegg this lunchtime at his party conferance, and after minutes of waffle and soundbites, I turned him off and watched Crufts.
    He is the most disliked politician at the moment, if you read forums on different papers, and his party are ridiculed daily. For me, I’ve no time for Lib Dems at all, I feel they turn like the wind if it suits them. I’m surprised Cameron aligning himself and his party to them at all. As for helping this country, they are doing the opposite, holding it back. They have now revolted on the NHS bill and requested in the House of Lords they appose it. Why did they agree in the first place? This won’t wash with the public, who don’t want this bill, whatever politicians say or think. Its not wanted and will at some point be repealed by another party, or reformed in some way or other. Yet we hear nothing about the £55 million per year we lose from health tourists, who should pay for treatment but don’t. Will this coalition stop this practice and ask for money before treatment like they should, and like they ask us when we go abroad? I’m not happy at all with the coalition, it’s become a farce, and parliament is now a debating society not a parliamentry system as it should be.

    • zorro
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      No, but they will bring in a measure to say that anyone who owes the NHS £1,000 or more will not get a visa. How about stopping them getting the treatment in the first place (not emergency treatment by the way).


      • A Different Simon
        Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

        Insist on a valid certificate of approved private health insurance as a condition of admittance for anyone ; EU or non-EU .

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t go into the main chamber much. I found the smaller events where you could quiz people in depth rather than listen to pre-prepared speeches better Barbara and I suspect you would have too.

      But I did go to the bit where Tim Farron read the press reports about how angry the Tories were with all the policy the Libdems are getting through. That got a big laugh from the main house.

  25. Richard
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, I was a member of the LibDems as a student from about 2001-2004, before leaving to join the Conservative Party; and I have to say, the recent positioning of the LibDems as the party of tax cuts strikes me as utterly bizarre. At the time, I would have said there were as many as 10 SDP tax-and-spend centre-left wingers to every orange book classical liberal.

    I realise all political parties are I themselves something of a coalition, but the constituent parts of the LibDems seem more sharply contrasted than in the Conservatives or Labour: statists and liberals; ‘equality of outcome’ and ‘equality of opportunity’; those to the left of (New) Labour and those to the right; realists who would cautiously engage with governing, and those who would secretly prefer eternal opposition as the Nice Party (which group I’d suspect contains most LibDem voters).

    Conservatives really need to (re)claim ownership of the 10k tax cut. (And implement it, of course!)

    • zorro
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      The Lib Dems are way to the left of Labour on a number of issues.


    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      A big proportion of the people there seemed to have been personally inspired/recruited by Paddy Ashdown post merger.

      Most seemed to have got involved because they had deep concerns about particular issues (like me and my concerns about education).

  26. Phil Richmond
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I said in May 2010 to all who would listen that it was impossible to have a coalition with a left-wing Euro fanatic party. My great fear was that this coalition was being agreed to because our PM was 1) Power hungry to get inside No.10. 2) He was more alligned with Lib Dem policies then we thought.
    I will make another prediction. Cameron will only serve one term and will go down in history as a lying treasonous quisling. I pray the Conservatives will not make the same mistake again when electing leaders.

    • zorro
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      ‘Cameron will only serve one term and will go down in history as a lying treasonous quisling.’ – John, I think that ones a no at the next election….


  27. Matthew
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Mr Cameron’s mistake to go into coalition with a party, with beliefs largely opposed to Conservative beliefs.
    A minority government may just have given him the chance of forming a Conservative majority government, perhaps by now.

    Voters would have given him the chance I think.

    • zorro
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      The Lib Dem views tie in nicely with his own views.


  28. Christopher Ekstrom
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    England will not continue to tolerate the timid & the loony forever. There is another way. All significant changes are scoffed at by the conventional wisdom of its day. The impasse is so total , andwith further EU disasters, a new day will arise & UKIP will begin the work needed to save ENGLAND!!!

  29. brian
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    In a Coalition there will be different approaches to policy. Even with a one party government there is often disagreement. The LibDems show their immaturity by directly and publicly slagging off their partners in government, calling them “evil” and “heartless”.

  30. Jon
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    That reminded me of Scottish politics. There is Alex Salmond constantly blaming Westminster or England for anything thats wrong. Scottish Labour bought the tactic 100% only to find themselves in an awkward situation recently when they need now to defend the Union. Silly shortsighted politics.

    Lib Dems have forgotten liberty and freedom and are sounding more like social engineers as they try to out do Labour.

  31. Manicbeancounter
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    You make some very valid points here. The Lib-Dems need to make some positive contributions to the coalition, that make the appearance distinctively different from a purely Conservative administration. That means playing to their strengths AND their differences from the opposition. Playing the opposition within, moderating the policies they disagree with (or are least popular with the electorate) leaves to a destructive approach. That is, their future success is at the expense of successful government, whilst a successful government will be viewed as having come about despite the burden of Lib-Dem criticism.

  32. Andrew
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    While I do not particuarly wish to comment on “private” disputes, you correctly point out some of the “internal contradictions” of the Coalition.

    I am afraid I have little sympathy for the Lib-Dems position. “You make your bed, etc…”

    In local politics after all they have been well known for years for their shilly-shallying and “playing both ends against the middle”, “Leftish” in Tory areas, “Rightish” in Labour areas, etc…

    The Orange Book does not represent agreed Liberal party policy of course, –it was said to be the product of “Right wing ” or “Right -leaning” Liberals , including Nick Clegg.

  33. Michael Read
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    “A Coalition Breakdown May Come Sooner Than You Think” – standfirst in Monday’s Guardian prefacing an article by Mrs Marr.

    With Tim Montgomery espousing centrist initiatives on the basis of the Conservatives’ mean polling average over the last 4 elections of about 32%, I think a period of reflection on your part would be most welcome.

    Don’t, whatever you do, get into a photo-op with any individual sporting a multi-coloured boating blazer. That inclusion condemned you as a crazy, and that is a shame. I am often lifted, if not enlightened, even if I disagree profoundly, with your postings on this site.

  34. uanime5
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    “Some of their Ministers are endlessly making proposals they know Conservatives cannot accept from outside the government despite being members of it.”

    Perhaps the Lib Dems are getting revenge because the Conservatives make them announce all the bad news during the first few years in power, made the Lib Dems renegade on their pledge not to raise tuition fees, and didn’t support the Lib Dems’ AV voting reform.

    • Mark
      Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      It’s a funny kind of revenge when Lib Dems poll about eh same the Liberals did in the 1960s

  35. Max Dunbar
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    The Lib-Dems are no more liberal than the German Democratic Republic was democratic. The Lib-Dems are socialists and are effectively a fifth column within your coalition. They naturally default to Labour who are their closest bedfellows; really a fifth column who are damaging to the common good of our country. At best clueless – at worst subversive.

  36. Paul
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    The Lib Dems are the only party of the big three that had the right policy on Europe – to give the British people an in/out referendum. Not a pathetic vote on a new treaty which Cameron proposed and dropped which even if we had the vote and said no would not have made any difference. It’s such a shame that the one area where I actually agree with the Lib Dems was dropped. UKIP really is the only option.

  37. Derek Emery
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I don’t think the Lib Dems believe that a coalition is good for the country so much as good for themselves as the only way of having any power.

    Mark Oaten produced a book on the history of European and UK coalitions since the 1800’s and found they were destructive for the minor party. This is illustrated by Lib Dem poll figures of 9% now compared with over 20% at the election. This bodes ill for the future number of Lib Dem MPs. Party followers do not approve of coalition policies in the slightest and are dropping the Lib Dems.

    Hence all the efforts by Clegg and Cable to disagree with the policies they have signed up for and point out what Lib Dem polices would be. This is not working and Lib Dem poll figures refuse to rise. Their latest theory is that it will take time for Lib Dem voters to respond but this is just wishful thinking.

    I don’t expect either the coalition or the Conservatives successfully to address major problems such as the lack of growth or falling education standards. The lack of suitable funding to allow SMEs to grow has been known since at least 1997 but nothing has been achieved and I doubt anything will.

    The coalition has had 2 years so far. In the private sector you would be sacked if you had nothing to show after two years.Talking about the problems would not be seen as adequate. Cameron is pro-equality in education, hence the compulsory future dumbing down for UK research based universities. If you are pro-equality you are anti-performance.

  38. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    It’s Conservatives that face the cruel dilemma. At the Libdem conference, the delegates declined to vote against the Health Bill; later they declined to vote in favour of it. How do you govern in partnership with a rabble like that? In practice, the Conservatives have give way to any number of damn fool amendments from the unspeakable Shirley Williams, and this is their reward.

    I hope that, once the Bill has become an Act, Andrew Lansley will review the conduct of the LibDems during its passage through Parliament.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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