During the 5 years of coalition – it was painfully clear to those of us who opposed much of the Coalition policy that Liberal Democrats had developed a mindset that required us to grasp at every painful nettle that we saw.  So it was that Liberal Democrats signed up for vital welfare reform and ended up signing off on the Tory Bedroom Tax. We felt that it was necessary to cut the deficit but this then became a sign off on tory austerity. We wanted to fix the funding gap on defence spending but then became party to wholesale cuts on our armed forces. We wanted to be responsible on higher education funding and went against our own party policy on tuition fees. We became the party of government all right – bad government.

It must be hoped that if Tim Farron becomes party leader he will keep the party credible without feeling the need (like many in the Labour Party right now) to copy Tory policy or (worse UKIP) to curry favour with the Daily Mail. We’ve proved we’ve got guts, no we need to remind people we got brains and compassion too.

Austerity & hyper Austerity

As Liberals we should ban this word from our dictionary. Nothing wrong with thrift but austerity is a horrible word no liberal should ever utter.  It stops people spending, it stops businesses investing it wrecks lives. Austerity is a cover for Tory rollback of human rights, the welfare state, local government, employment rights – in short it is a Tory panacea. And it’s working (for them). Our bywords thrift and Prosperity.  Greece is suffering now hyper austerity where it could with a “Grexit” from the Euro (a tory dream only beaten by the fabled “Brexit”) become a failed state in the heart of Europe.  Greeks can’t have a blank cheque but they can’t be thrown to the wolves either.  Germany suffered like that in the 1920’s hyperinflation and the result was Adolf Hitler. If we stop caring it will come back to us.

Popularity not populism

As part of the Coalition “Hair shirt” mentality was a determination to oppose any idea which was considered “populist”.  When communities clamoured about austerity & the cost and impact of the £80 billion HS2 project , so that  80% of the public now oppose this waste of taxpayer money – why did we think it was such a great idea?  - The party has set it’s head against actually representing what ordinary people think.  We are a people’s party – Liberal always have represented the people against an elite who sought to control freedom.  Yet today we have adopted Tory policies via the Coalition agreement– so standing with that elite against the people leaving the field open to the Greens, UKIP and the SNP  to be the parties of protest.  We ought to oppose austerity, HS2 and tuition fees not just because the people do but also because it’s right to do so.  In 2010 we opposed austerity and tuition fees and had not signed up to the crazy Labour-Tory HS2 plans, but we ended up doing all of these and lost trust. The first step back is to return to the 2010 manifesto pledges and oppose them all.    That doesn’t mean like Liz Kendall stealing other party’s slogans (stronger economy, fairer society) and policies (UKIP Australian Points system) nor advocating Hanging because a focus group or poll told us it was popular, some things are just plain wrong.  But lets get back to the popular stuff that made people fall in love with the party in the first place.