After the massacre

In June 2014, we called on Nick Clegg to stand down and the party to return to the 2010 Election Manifesto and a RECONNECTION WITH DISGRUNTLED 2010 LIB DEM VOTERS.  Sadly, party members were prevented from getting a say on the leadership and we have now seen the result – the biggest electoral disaster in our party’s history, with 56 MPs reduced to a mere 8. Nick Clegg has finally gone, which is at least one positive outcome but our great party is left damaged and divided.   We will have a leadership campaign and it is vital that the next party leader never again puts the party in such political jeopardy as Nick Clegg.

We now need to rethink what we got so badly wrong, and avoid a knee-jerk jolt to the political left in response to the 7 years of Orange Book Cleggism.  It is certain that history will judge Nick Clegg favourably for sacrificing the party for the national interest, just like David Lloyd George sacrificed the Liberal Party on the altar of the First World War. Liberals are suckers for throwing ourselves under the political bus when the Conservatives wave the National Flag and ring the churchbells to call alarm. It’s in our DNA. Four times we have answered the call, 1915-1922, 1931, 1940 and 2010. Each time ended in defeat for our party, but each time the country was saved.

Lessons to learn

  • The Unbalancing of the party – Clegg’s leadership saw the Orange Book centre right politics dominate so much that we lost millions of traditional centre left voters to Labour and the Greens, not to mention activists and party members. Many of these people are returning to the party now Clegg is gone, (5,000 in recent days). Whilst we do need to return our policies to the Traditional Centre Left 2005 and 2010 manifestos we need to ensure that we don’t lurch to the left like the Labour did after 1979 and 2010.
  • Tuition Fees – the public won’t forget this, nor forgive till we face up to this. The Principle of free access to a university education, was and ought to be again a cornerstone value of our party. We should oppose the American Style system of paid Higher education which has developed. So Clegg was wrong to try and change party policy on Tuition Fees in 2009,and during the campaign in 2010. Wrong not to fight against Tuition Fees in the Coalition negotiations in 2010, wrong to allow the fees to treble in 2011 and be one of the 28 MPs to vote for the trebling of fees against the 21 brave and True Lib Dems who opposed it. He was wrong to applogise for making the pledge and not apploogise for breaking it. In 2010 we had a costed policy to freeze fees and we should have stuck by it. Any future party must now commit to abolishing fees , wiping the mountain of student debt and find a long term public funding of universities . It will take a huge amount of money but we should make common cause with anti-tuition fee parties like the Greens and the SNP to find a way to make this happen.
  • Austerity – I met with Danny Alexander in October 2014 with Bradford’s MP David Ward and begged Danny Alexander as a small business owner to remove the word Austerity from his speeches.  Austerity damages economic growth. He ignored me. We ought to be interested in finding creative, Keynesian and imaginative ways of reducing the money government wastes by channelling more to promoting economic growth and jobs.  The public clearly want an end to the criminal and corrupt waste of public money by maladministration of public officials and also an end to the dependency culture of the welfare society yet we also want to see needy people given a springboard to prosperity. The something for nothing society must end and we need to see decent pay and benefits for those who work hard to help others and their own families. ECONOMY  & PROSPERITY YES – AUSTERITY NO.
  • High Speed Folly – For many of us, the way the Coalition Policy of HS2 was forced onto the party by a group of Coalitionists & Rail lobbyists was undemocratic and illiberal. Not only can’t the country afford the £80 billion cost of HS2, it has blighted communities along the route and is a classic example of a White elephant project – should be scrapped . UKIP and the Greens listened to the public (60% of whom oppose HS2) we should have too. BRAINS NOT TRAINS.
  • Women in the party- sexual harassment and Cyril Smith  - Nick Clegg provided terrible leadership on these issues. Firstly – we should be the first party to ensure that 55% of candidates for 2020 – ie 348 out of 632 candidates are women. Secondly we need to make sure that never again the sexual harassment of people can be covered up and a total & full cooperation with the police (opening of the archives) over Cyril Smith and past Liberal scandals is allowed.
  • A Party of Small Business and of Educators – This is our party roots and we need policies to please and reward our supporters – abolishing Business Rates for companies below 50 workers, abolishing OFSTED. Ensuring Grammar Schools, Private Schools, Academies and Free Schools have open access to poor applicants. Ending the micromanagement of education.
  • Nuclear Power, Fracking and Nuclear Weapons – Liberal Democrats have been against Nuclear Power yet the Coalition dragged us into a Nuclear commitment against our principles.  We ought to be committed to a minimum low cost land based British Nuclear Deterrent in a framework of multilateral nuclear warhead reductions as an alternative to the expensive and unsustainable Trident 2 system. We ought to oppose Fracking as a fossil fuel.
  • NO MORE COALITIONS – but issue by issue cooperation with other parties on a basis of what is the right position on each issue.
  • EU REFERENDUM – we ought to now accept that the public has endorsed a referendum and that we should campaign to stay in a reformed Europe.
  • Housing – Protect the Green Belt – build a million homes on brownfield in a private/public partnership (not PFI) with major house builders and local authorities.
  • Fair Votes - A recent poll showed 60% of the public again backing PR, STV is the best system yet we ought to raising the corrosive nature of "Safe Seats" which are modern day rotten boroughs where no one's vote counts. A study ought to made to present to the boundary commission to see how boundaries can be altered to ensure that all seats are marginals and that smaller parties get better representation in parliament.