December 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
It’s that time of year where, wherever you turn, there’s a newspaper, TV or radio station reflecting on the past twelve months.
And, what a twelve months it has been.
In terms of politics, it has arguably been the most difficult year in the short history of the modern Liberal Democrats.
I stick by my words that Nick Clegg is the bravest politician in Britain.
Even though I don’t agree with everything he’s said and done, he’s shown leadership, passion and a backbone…standing firm despite receiving a bucket-load of vitriol from his political opponents (on all sides of the House of Commons) and much of the media.
However, he’s not my Politician of the Year.
That accolade goes to my Party’s President Tim Farron.
The Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale has been the President of the Lib Dems for almost a year now and has been proved right on all the big issues.
As President, he’s been able to speak out on issues that our Ministers, constrained as they obviously are by collective responsibility, haven’t been able to.
He’s rightly attacked David Cameron for his attacks on multiculturalism and wanting to see private provision encroach even further into our National Health Service.
He’s also, equally rightly, attacked Labour for ‘thirteen years behaving like Tories and a year or so behaving like Trots and deserve to be derided and ridiculed for both.’
On the previous Government he’s said: ‘I was raised in Lancashire when unemployment was above four million, and much of that unemployment was utterly unavoidable and unnecessary. Margaret Thatcher pursued a deliberate policy, of increasing joblessness-in order to keep down inflation and to subdue the trade union movement. Avoidable human misery was created by a Government who didn’t understand the North and who cared about it even less.’
And, in my favourite line of any of his speeches this year, at Spring Conference, he said: “I joined the Liberals out of a desperate desire to see Britain run fairly, to see economic policies that served the interests of the people-especially the poorest. I joined a party that was unmistakably a radical, social liberal, progressive, internationalist green party…and that is the party I still belong to.”
Tim has rallied my party when it’s been all too tempting to hang our heads.
He’s principled, passionate for his party and cares deeply about the poorest and most vulnerable people in our land.
He believes in society and in our public services.
In my view, we need more like him.
I look forward to him continuing in this vain next year.
I predict a bright future for him.
It’s for all of these reasons-and more-that Tim Farron is my Politician of the Year.
December 27, 2011 § 7 Comments
Recently I suggested on Twitter (@mathewhulbert) that we should be less aggressive when it comes to how we deal with our relations with the Labour Party.
Well, you’d have thought I’d called for the return of the death penalty or something.
Bucket loads of rhetorical slurry were poured over me by some of my fellow Lib Dems, who-in essence-said that we should slam Labour at every opportunity and that there’s no way we could work with them post 2015.
To be frank, I think that kind of analysis is not only wrong, but also very dangerous when it comes to the long-term future of our party.
Let me be clear: Labour did much with which I disagree; to quote our President, Tim Farron from this year’s Spring Conference, “they de-regulated the banks, they out-Thatchered Mrs Thatcher, they idolised the Markets.”
They were also dreadful on civil liberties and much else besides.
The gap between the richest and poorest in our country grew under Labour, between 1997 and 2010.
So, they undoubtedly deserved to lose the last election and we should continue-when fair and true-to point out their failings.
But we also need to be grown-up in our dealings with Labour.
They did much that was, in my view, right. For example, certainly compared to previous Governments, their record on the Gay Rights agenda was excellent.
They made international development a top priority.
When we slam down every single one of their current policies-especially on economic matters-we make it more and more difficult to be able to have meaningful discussions with Labour if and when we have a hung Parliament after 2015.
My concern is that some at the top of our party have decided that they couldn’t work with Labour and are doing all they can to ensure that option just isn’t on the table…meaning (depending on the results, of course) we either continue in Coalition with the Tories, or return to opposition.
The only sensible view, in my opinion, is for us to be flexible. For us to point out the good and bad policies of both of our potential Coalition partners.
The personal preferences of whoever is in leadership of our party should not define what is in the best interests of the party as a whole.
December 26, 2011 § 1 Comment
I’m writing this the day after Christmas Day, so there’s no point in asking ‘Santa’ for any extra wishes this year…but if I could summon up some kind of mythical being who could snap its fingers and give me exactly what I want, I’d ask for simply this: much more to be done, by this Coalition Government, to help the poorest and most vulnerable in our society and more help for women who (it has been argued) are hurt first and most by the Coalition’s cuts.
Now, let’s be clear, I salute this Government for taking the hard-headed decisions needed to help bring down the budget deficit bequeathed to us by a Labour party who might have thought they were doing right by spending like there was no tomorrow but, in actual fact, were leaving a debt it would have taken generations to pay off if they’d have stayed in office.
Let’s remember that, when Labour left office in 2010, the gap between the richest and poorest people in our country had actually grown.
So, we’ll take no lessons from Labour when it comes to social mobility and the need to give a hand out and up to the poorest people in our society.
But, neither should we winch ourselves too near a Conservative Party whose right-wing is obsessed with creating a smaller State, of cutting welfare, who talk of ‘troubled families’ and ‘Broken Britain.’
To quote the Lib Dem President, from a few years back, referring to the Tories, “If Britain is broken, who the flipping ‘eck do you think broke it?”
We need a solution to these issues which is neither Labour’s chuck money at them and hope for the best, but neither the Conservatives’ everything would be o.k. if we could just shrink the State a little more.
I believe in the State and I believe there is such a thing as Society.
I believe in an enabling State that is always there to support those in genuine need.
Therefore I’m very glad that it was Lib Dem MPs and Ministers who argued for an increase in the Welfare budget recently.
Welfare isn’t an end in of itself, but it must always be there to lend a hand out and up.
Of course we need a strong and enterprising economy and, of course, that must include a strong and thriving private sector, but we must always be aware of what impact our policies are having on the poorest and most vulnerable people in our land.
We’ve made a cracking start in doing this, from the Pupil Premium, to taking the poorest workers out of tax, but there is much more to do on this agenda in 2012 and beyond.
I think most people know that I’m a Social Liberal, but I’m more than prepared to work with other wings of the party to see how we can hone more policies to ensure Britain remains a thriving centre of productivity and business, ensuring more and more people have a chance at employment, whilst also always having fairness and greater equality at our core.
That way, in my view, lies not only more electoral success, but, and far more importantly, a brighter, better, bolder Britain.
December 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
In my latest blog post for The Huffington Post I argue that this is no time for people to be calling for this Coalition to be ended and that we Lib Dems need to remain firm and fight for what we believe in, whilst in Government:
December 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
This is my fourth blog post for The Huffington Post online newspaper, in which I argue it’s time for the Occupy St Paul’s protesters to go home: