LIBERAL LEFT STATEMENT FOLLOWING LOCAL AND EURO ELECTIONS
The electoral consequences of joining the Coalition in 2010 have now become clear even to its cheerleaders. Liberal Left has argued since its inception that the party’s decision to sign the Coalition Agreement marked a political capitulation which would cause the collapse in the party’s credibility, membership and support; and so it has proved.
But we believe the calls for Nick Clegg’s removal are premised on the claim that the Coalition is fine but that Nick Clegg cannot present its achievements effectively; this is misguided. It is political decisions that have taken us to the brink of electoral extinction, not personalities, and it is only a redefinition of our politics that will enable us to rebuild post 2015.
Having accepted a mix of spending cuts and tax rises which reflected Tory values rather than ours, having accepted Tory economic policy and having reneged on our Tuition fee pledge, voters see the Liberal Democrats as willing to compromise on anything. The party’s support for secret courts, the bedroom tax and NHS reforms suggests that any and every principle is up for barter. Women and young people have been the especial victims of the Coalition’s decisions; precisely those groups for whom our appeal was strongest in 2010, to say nothing of the impact on those with disabilities or from BAME communities.
And what has the Coalition produced for Liberal Democrats? Electoral reform is further away than ever, our relationship with Europe is imperiled, the gap between north and south grows ever wider, we have an even more punitive benefits system than we inherited, we have an energy policy which combines unacceptable risk with inordinate cost, we could well lose Scotland from the Union and our economic recovery is based on another unsustainable asset boom.
The first condition for electoral success is that voters understand what you stand for. They no longer do. It is this that is the fundamental cause of our electoral woes. Redefining the party as being in the centre, as the leadership has attempted, positions us entirely in relation to other political traditions and turns us into a cipher. This reinforces the confusion about who we are and what we stand for.
And yet in a profoundly unequal country with an overbearing and centralised state the demand for liberalism, for a politics which empowers citizens remains. The Liberal Democrats are the only party that can promote this politics. New leadership will be required after 2015 but unless this leadership acknowledges the error of our political capitulation to the Tories in 2010, it will fare little better than the leadership we have now.
This week we lost many hard working, dedicated councillors and MEPs. Many of whom have dedicated most of their lives to the promotion of a liberal society “in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. The sooner we can collectively return to promoting those values the sooner we can rebuild the party we love