Yesterday saw the worst results that my Party has seen in Liverpool for more than 40 years. We didn’t manage to get a single Lib Dem elected including in my own ward.
As the Leader in Liverpool I must take some responsibility for that. However these elections were not fought about Liverpool or local politics. They were fought on national politics with a bit of European politics thrown in. So what happened here was not particularly a reflection of me or my local campaigners.
It would be easy then to avoid collective responsibility and do what a small collection of numpties were doing on election day whilst I was trying to get Lib Dems elected. These numpties have decided that the answer to our problems is to ditch the Leader. Well that might make make a ha’porth of difference electorally but morally it is a totally repugnant idea.
Let’s just remember 2010 and the scenarios that were available after the election:
- Allowing a minority Tory Government. They would have tried to move some nasty things and lose. They would then have held an October election and won it. Goodness knows what nasties they would have done given what the Lib Dems in government have stopped them from doing.
This would have been bad for the Country but good for the Lib Dems. We would have been able to parade all those things which we did not like in public and have parliamentary votes where we registered our distaste but didn’t win.
- Allowing a minority Labour Government. Well the second party never has the right to form a government but perhaps ways could have been found. That Government would have had to do most of what the current government has done. Never let us forget that they created the mess in the first place. Let us never forget that for every £8 the current government has cut Labour were going to cut £7. In practice the Government may well have gone further than that but so would Labour. No-one foresaw the Eurozone crisis which has so badly affected our economy.
This would have been bad for the Country but good for the Lib Dems. We would now be witnessing the decimation of Labour Councillors as people reacted to their cuts.
- Supporting a Lib/Lab coalition. The trouble with that scenario is two-fold. One they didn’t want one and two it would not have formed a majority. This would have spooked the market and our economy which was already in retreat would have nosedived.
This would have been bad for the Country but given us the same problems with haemorrhaging support. In this case it would have been the rural areas where we lost ground.
- Supporting a Tory/Lib Dem coalition. This is, of course, what happened. In reality it was the only way that a parliamentary majority could be found and in which some necessary stability could be given whilst the financial problems of gross debt in the public, commercial and personal sectors could be addressed.
This was, ultimately good for the Country as we can see from the growth in the economy but terrible for the Lib Dems.
I believe that Nick Clegg is a thoroughly decent man who has made the best of a bad deal for our Country’s sake. So many people have benefitted and will benefit from the uniquely liberal things that Nick and his excellent team of Ministers has achieved. Things like:
The triple lock for pensioners which has stopped pensioners falling behind wage earners as they did for 25 years under Tory and Labour governments.
The first £11,000 of our earning being tax free which has removed many people from benefits.
A larger public sector house building programme than under Labour when during their period of Government the number of social homes was reduced by no less than 430,000.
Free school meals for aged 7 and under.
The building of new Hospitals at the Royal and Alder Hey which had been talked about for years but delivered by us.
We know what has happened and we also know a little of what hasn’t happened. A few rows have become public but I suspect that Nick and his colleagues spend more time stopping the Tories doing things than actually making other things happen.
This is not an apology for our actions and in fact I have been highly and publicly critical of some of the things that the Government have done – especially in the field of local government. Our budgets have been cut too much given the critical services that we provide. The former Laurel and Hardy duo of Pickles and Sharps were an unedifying pair of clowns whose hypocrisy when talking about localism knew no bounds.
But I am a critical friend! When I was approached by the numpties I Impolitely told them to B++++r Off! Ironically, as Nick knows, I did not vote for him as Leader so I have always been a critical friend!
What am I going to do? Well in my small way replicate what Nick is doing. He still works to promote, liberalism, environmentalism, internationalism and localism. He will do it in the media and in Parliament. I will do it in Church Ward.
This weekend I am having off. Erica has gone away for the week to prepare for her gruelling year as Lord Mayor. But next weekend I will be out in Church Ward delivering my Focus, talking to people and still trying to persuade them that liberalism, environmentalism, internationalism and localism are the only real ways forward.
Will you be out on the streets with me? Or will you be in a back room muttering and plotting?