Tag Archives: Lord Rennard

Power-hungry Liberal Democrats are addicts after their next fix

Hard hat to be worn at all times: Vince Cable will need it to avoid the brickbats his latest comments - and his party's power-hunger - will attract.

Hard hat to be worn at all times: Vince Cable will need it to avoid the brickbats his latest comments – and his party’s power-hunger – will attract.

There can be no truer example of the adage that power corrupts, in today’s UK, than that of the Liberal Democrats.

Now neither liberal nor democratic, that party’s leaders are telling their members to do whatever is necessary to keep them in government.

They may be in coalition with the Conservatives now, but the message is that they will seek an alliance with anyone who will have them, if that is what it takes.

For what purpose? We have already seen all the evidence we need that they will abandon any pretence of principles if it will curry favour with a larger, and therefore more dominant, political group. Nick Clegg may have apologised for reversing his position on student tuition fees, but that hasn’t stopped them rising (pointlessly, according to recent revelations).

They have proved to be as susceptible to the temptations of petty crime as anyone else – look at Chris Huhne, praised by Nick Clegg for his skills as a secretary of state, even after he was convicted of perverting the course of justice. That’s a serious crime. Clegg should not be praising anyone convicted of it.

But then, Clegg is in the muck right up to his own chin. He denied prior knowledge of the allegations against former party chief executive Lord Rennard, then had to go back on it. Now there are questions about when senior figures in the party knew of the allegations that Huhne’s ex-wife Vicky Pryce had taken speeding points on her husband’s behalf.

Undoubtedly there is more that we do not know (there always is). Undoubtedly there is more that we will never know.

Do you remember last year’s Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, when the Parliamentary party was instructed to vote against the then-Health and Social Care Bill, because of the harm it would do to the National Health Service if it every became law?

What happened about that? Oh yes… the Conservatives made a few mealy-mouthed promises and the Lib Dems voted it through without a qualm. That, in turn, led to Statutory Instrument 257 – the regulations that proved the Tories had been lying in their assurance that doctors would not be compelled to consider private-sector bids to run NHS services. Those regulations have been withdrawn for a re-write after the public – not the Liberal Democrats – protested.

Because the Liberal Democrats have changed in the last year. There is no similar moral crusade this time around.

Instead, former party leader Paddy Ashdown has told them to do everything possible to secure a second term in power. Commentators have taken this to mean they will whore themselves to whichever of the main parties secures the most seats in the 2015 election (if, again, no party gains a majority).

They’ve had a taste of power and found it addictive. “I want it to become a habit,” said Lord Ashdown. What a shame it seems to be the kind of habit we see in users of illegal drugs. They’ll do anything for more.

Ashdown went on to quote the party mantra introduced, to much hilarity in this blog, just after Christmas: “to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life”.

It’s about the least effective soundbite possible, considering the nation’s current circumstances. The economy has been deliberately weakened and society is becoming progressively less fair, thanks to the efforts of Conservative ministers, aided and abetted every step of the way by the Liberal Democrats. If you want evidence, read practically any entry in this blog since it was founded at the end of 2011.

The part about “enabling everyone to get on in life” is particularly sickening, considering the number of chronically ill or disabled people who have died as a result of Coalition policy on benefits.

If you think the above is enough to sink this once-great party for good, think again because there’s more. It goes to the heart of Liberal policy-making and shows that they are prepared to reverse the very best acts of the great Liberals of the past, just to service their own convenience now.

I refer, of course, to the words of Business Secretary Vince Cable.

He wants the government to stop protecting spending levels on the health service, and he also thinks that pensions should be means-tested or taxed.

The introduction of old-age pensions was the first step towards the modern welfare state, in 1907. That step was taken by a Liberal government (yes, the Liberals used to get enough votes to take office on their own). Current Liberal Democrat MPs aren’t fit to clean the shoes of those former ministers (and believe me, in comparison to today, 1907 was a barbaric time).

And of course the NHS was created in accordance with the report of Liberal William Beveridge, who recommended creating “comprehensive health and rehabilitation services for prevention and cure of disease”. The Coalition’s treatment of the NHS constitutes a comprehensive betrayal of that plan.

Incidentally, Beveridge opposed means-tested benefits, meaning that Cable’s plan for pensions runs against established Liberal philosophy as well. It’s also bone-headedly stupid for a member of a party seeking re-election because pensioners are more likely to vote than any other section of society. That’s why the Tories have always tried to avoid hitting them with benefit cuts (although that determination has eroded over the course of this government). Upset the grey vote at your peril!

And let’s not forget that the government’s claim to have increased spending on the NHS since 2010 has been questioned – most relevantly by the UK Statistics Authority.

As we enter the last day of the 2013 Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, then, it seems reasonable to ask: Just what do the Liberal Democrats stand for?

It can’t be the values that made the Liberals great (when they were great) – the current Parliamentary party is betraying those.

It can’t be the values held by the Lib Dems before the 2010 election either – the current Parliamentary party has betrayed those as well.

The only possibility left is that they want power for its own sake.

They should never again be allowed to have it.

Labour’s Eastleigh defeat could provide a map to general election victory

While Cameron and Clegg beat themselves - and each other - up over Eastleigh, Miliband can learn the lessons and prepare for victory in 2015 - if he wants it.

While Cameron and Clegg beat themselves – and each other – up over Eastleigh, Miliband can learn the lessons and prepare for victory in 2015 – if he wants it. (Cartoon: The Spectator)

Most of the UK is probably sick to death of Eastleigh by now.

We all woke up to the news that the Liberal Democrat candidate had narrowly held the seat for his party, with UKIP as the surprise challenger. The Conservatives came an ignominious third and some commentators have tried to get mileage from the fact that Labour came fourth.

The fact of the matter is, Eastleigh is extremely Liberal Democrat. The local council is entirely Lib Dem, if reports on last night’s Question Time are to be believed, and the party held the Parliamentary seat, even against Labour’s landslide of 1997. The headline result is no surprise.

But this election has shaken out a wealth of detail and the Labour leadership should study it well.

All parties agreed that the main national issue on the doorstep was immigration and the influence of Europe – this is why UKIP won so many votes. The British people think an undemocratic European bureaucracy has far too much influence over their lives and Labour now needs to shape its policy with that in mind. The correct way forward is to seek reform of the European institutions, to return power over matters like immigration – among others – to sovereign nations. Labour would do well to start discussing these matters with politicians in other EU countries, in order to seek consensus on a way forward.

Of course immigration into the UK has fallen, according to the latest figures, and the Conservatives have been quick to leap on this as a vindication of their current policies. It’s a bold claim, but not really supported by the evidence. What we’re seeing is an evaporation of interest in a country that is no longer an attractive place to live or work. So the Conservatives are admitting their policies are putting people off the UK. We’ll come back to this later.

The other big issue is a perennial problem for politicians: Honesty. If Labour comes away with anything at all from this by-election it is that the party must keep faith with the electorate. The Liberal Democrat share of the vote fell by more than 14 per cent – in what that party calls it’s own backyard. The blame for this can be fairly put on Nick Clegg, who spent the last week squirming under questioning about allegations against Lord Rennard. Did he know anything about this before? At first he denied any knowledge but when evidence came to light, he had to admit that he did. Is this an honest man? Of course not. As someone mentioned on Question Time, he said he was sorry in his video apology for U-turning on student tuition fees, but his current behaviour shows he isn’t at all.

Of course the honesty deficit in the Conservative Party beggars belief. How many of David Cameron’s election promises have proved to be untrue? Can anybody keep score any more? We’re all aware of the great betrayal of the National Health Service – and you can only hope for the success of opposition to the new regulations his government quietly introduced, to enforce privatisation of health services in England from April this year. That’s next month.

There are many other examples. To choose one that is topical, he promised that the bankers who caused the economic crisis would be made to pay for the disaster they caused. In fact, he is even now fighting to make sure that the European Union does not put a cap on the obscenely bloated bankers’ bonuses, that are still being paid by the UK’s financial organisations to the people who caused the crisis, even when those organisations have been losing billions of pounds per year. His reasoning for this is that these financial experts (and I use the word sarcastically) would probably leave the UK if they weren’t guaranteed these huge bungs all the time. Good riddance, I say. There are plenty of people both willing and able to fill the void and I dare say they would do a better job. Mr Cameron is trying to reward the financial betrayal of Britain. It is interesting to note, getting back to the point on immigration, that he has no problem with letting foreign bankers into our country.

His attitude to the richest in society contrasts brutally with his treatment of the poorest. It seems, if you are rich, you need a tonne of money to motivate you into work; if you are poor, you need to be made poorer, according to his philosophy. That is why the benefits budget is being squeezed so hard that the poor, sick and disabled are actually dying as a result – from lack of food, lack of heat, lack of medical care and lack of hope. Never forget that this man pursues economic policies that kill his own fellow citizens.

Now we hear that his government has been deliberately misusing evidence and statistics to misrepresent the plight of the poor, according to a report by a group of British churches. Evidence has been skewed to put the blame for poverty at the door of the poor themselves.

Honest? Trustworthy? Fit to govern?

Again, there are lessons for Labour. Ed Miliband’s party must realise that the Conservative Party’s attitude to social security – and New Labour’s before it – is completely at odds with public feeling and must be scrapped in its entirety. The social security system needs an overhaul with new values placed at its centre – values of fairness to the claimant, whether they are jobless, sick, disabled, or simply poor. It is the need of the person applying for help that must define what they receive – not a grubby money-grabbing plot. Above all, Labour must accept that any policy that leads to a claimant’s untimely death must be halted at once.

The fact that the Coalition has allowed these deaths to continue – and in fact increased their frequency – should be a matter for criminal proceedings in the future.

The question of how we pay for social security leads us back to the nation’s economy. Labour must come forward with a robust plan for investment in the nation because – if done right – this will pay for itself. Conservatives run down the idea of borrowing to invest, even though this is how Tory entrepreneurs made their own fortunes, but it is the only way forward. The economics of the Coalition can only lead to ruin.

So: Reform of the economy; reform of social security; reform of the health service; reform of our relationship with the European Union; and trustworthiness, to keep its promises. That’s how Labour will win the next election.

Let’s face it; there’s no opposition from the other main parties.

The only way Labour can lose is if it doesn’t see what’s staring it in the face.