Friday, 4 March 2011

Independence

On 1st March, my colleague on Hedge End Town Council, Jenny Schwausch, and I acted on our increasing disappointment with the Liberal Democrats at a national level and left the party.   We will sit as independent councillors until the elections in May.  This means that there are now two independents on Hedge End Town Council and four on Eastleigh Borough Council (equal with the Conservatives - I wonder who is the "official" opposition now).

David Laws MP speaking on Radio 4 recently made it clear: "The party has changed and now the challenge for everybody is to look to the future rather than to re-fight battles from the past."  Nick Clegg is leading the party in the wrong direction for me, and when I look to the future I can only see it getting closer to the Conservatives.  For somebody who hoped the Lib Dems would bring about a realignment of the Left, that is clearly a disappointment. 

It can't be right to promise to vote against any rise in tuition fees and then vote to triple them.

It can't be right that councils are being forced to cut libraries, children's sure start centres, and day centres for older people when George Osborne found £7 million to bail out the Irish government.

It can't be right that people with disabilities are worried about losing their disability living allowance when bankers are still walking away with their massive bonuses.

It can't be right that the coalition is forcing through massive changes to higher education and the NHS which were in neither party's manifesto.

The old cliche "all politics is local" means that local politics also gets tainted by national politics.  It is not possible to stand as a "local" liberal democrat and dissociate yourself from the national party.  So although I have no major arguments with the local liberal democrats - and still have many friends who are choosing to stay in the party - I couldn't honestly put on an orange rosette in May.

5 comments:

  1. Interesting news Keith. I wish you and all the other independents well.

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  2. On the subject of tuition fees.

    By my reckoning Lib Dems came 3rd in the General election. In other words they lost. Their manifesto was rejected by the country as a whole. The tuition fees promise was rejected by the country as a whole...

    That hasn't stopped students and socialists (often one and the same) from using the promise as a stick to beat the Lib Dems with, but I don't think they are being fair when they do so.

    Where the coalition went seriously wrong was in not putting the coalition agreement to the country once they'd agreed it.

    Constitutionally we're not set up to do that, but surely when we have a General Election we should anticipate the possibility of a hung Parliament and be prepared to hold a referendum two weeks later, to vote on whether the coalition agreement is acceptable or not...?

    If there's a "No" vote, the parties go back to the negotiating table and try again, with further referendum as necessary. Whilst that process plays out, the outgoing PM stays in office in a caretaker role neutered and unable to do any further harm.

    Surely we can afford to take the time to get the coalition agreement right and proven to be accepted by the public, can't we...?

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  3. @TGR Worzel - Thanks for your comments.

    The Lib Dem manifesto commitment was clearly and unequivocally to scrap tuition fees entirely (over time). As the Lib Dems (as you rightly point out) came third, it is indeed unfair to criticise them for not keeping to their manifesto commitment.

    But the NUS pledge was a personal promise made by every Lib Dem MP to their voters (especially students and younger voters). It was a promise to vote against any increase in fees.

    Now, if the Lib Dems had gained a majority, there would have been no question of an increase even being proposed, as the official party policy was to phase out fees over time.

    Despite Clegg's subsequent sophistry, it is clear that the personal pledge was not at all dependent on the Lib Dem's winning the election, but was made in the expectation that they would lose and be free to vote against any majority party's proposal to raise fees.

    Bottom line is a promise was made and broken. They broke both the tuition fees promise and the "no more broken promises" promise.

    Your thoughts on how to legitimise coalition agreements are interesting.

    What worries me more is that the coalition is pushing through policies which are not in either party's manifesto or in the coalition agreement.

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  4. I see your point Keith.

    Strange that the NUS pledge was made on the assumption that Lib Dems would lose the election. The whole point of the pledge was to try to win the student vote which, by definition, was intended to reduce the Labour vote, help win more Lib Dem seats and maybe, just maybe, win an overall majority if the other two parties were hammered because of the expenses scandal.

    As some form of hung Parliament was always the more likely outcome, it certainly does look like a cock-up in the leadership Department.

    Was it Ed Millibland who recently said that he intends to over-achieve and under-promise...?

    If the next election campaign is run on that basis, I hope it will be a very short one. It promises (no pun intended) to be very boring if no politician will commit to anything, through fear of being caught out like this.

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  5. Whatever happened to the St George's Day Festival in Hedge End? It took off like a rocket but has now apparently exited the solar system as I haven't seen anything at all about it.

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