Last night's online Leadership hustings did not disappoint. Tim Farron rightly said liberals wanted to help people and that's the point of the party. However it became clear that both Norman Lamb and Tim Farron are still fixated with government. Both maintain it was right to go into government (though Farron qualifies this by saying it was the wrong thing for the party). Tim Farron describes how the issue of trust over the broken promise of tuition fees created an invisible force field of distrust with the public that no amount of campaigning could break. He likened it to the Sci Fi Movie Independence Day when missiles bounced off the Alien force field. (Tim did not break his pledge by the way, but Norman did vote for tuition fees - something he is reluctant to talk about.)

The point that Norman and Tim miss is the reason for this invisible barrier - distrust. Not just of broken promises. People
break small promises every day (the cheques in the post etc) but a feeling that by the public that all liberal democrats care about is getting into government at any cost. Power at any price. Power before principles. That's bigger than just one broken promise.

If the public felt that we would fight for our principles and only compromise on details not principle they would love us as the party which we were up until 2010.

So the narrative of aspiring to government must be first qualified by aspiring to principled government. Principles before power. If we do this we might well just like the SNP who saw it's poll rating double after referendum defeat, be able to reconnect with that 24% of voters who lent their support to us in 2010 but who rightly deserted the party in 2015.


WHAT PRINCIPLES DID WE BREAK

We kept so many principles but the public are mindful of the principles that we broke. Here's just 3

1. Every person regardless of income and wealth should have free access to education : primary, secondary & tertiary
2. As a party which fought austerity in the 1920's, 1930's and 1980's & having promised to oppose it we signed up 
3. Standing up for the poorest and weakest in society - signing up for the Bedroom Tax and Disability Cuts


REALISM

We all remember David Steel's much parodied : "Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government." - to paraphrase Bob Monkhouse , they laughed then, but their not laughing now.  With only 8 MP's preparing for government, or aspiring to government is going to be laughed at again. We have to recognise this and work in small practical alliances to make a difference - stopping Heathrow expansion, fracking, scrapping Human Rights, the snoopers charter, selling off social housing, scrapping HS2 in favour of regional rail, votes at 16. 

LABOUR : Failed opposition= Tory Lite

Labour's decision to sign up to heathrow expansion, austerity and benefit caps show they have abdicated their duty as official opposition. We must fill the gap, with our tiny numbers - championing the issues people really care about and those that the other parties neglect out of populism such as immigration & human rights Even die hard anti-liberals on the Labour left are re-evaluating their attitudes to the party such as the Daily Mirror's Kevin Maguire in a recent article