Sunday 14 November 2010


Liberal Democrat candidates who want the party to distance itself from Tory policies have enjoyed success in internal elections for its ruling bodies this weekend.

Nick Clegg has said that the Lib Dem leadership supports all coalition government policies, but ex-MP Evan Harris topped the poll, asking the party to "distance ourselves from Conservative policies that have been imposed on our ministers".

Mr Harris said that if the Liberals went into another coalition in the future, it didn’t have to be with the Tories. He pointed out that it was a question of arithmetic and of policy overlap. Policy should remain, however, an individual party matter and not be developed in partnership. He made the point that his election showed that the party wanted Nick Clegg to resist those Tory policies which go against Liberal policies.

David Rendel who was the only person to vote against the formation of the coalition was also returned, coming second in the election to the federal executive, which deals with management and strategy for the party.

Bad news for the leadership then.

But there is more to come. The National Union of Students (NUS) are about to launch a “get rid of the Liberals” campaign. The strategy aims to unseat Nick Clegg and other top Lib Dems in protest at the party's U-turn on student fees.

It will mobilise students to campaign against any Lib Dem MP who votes for the rise in tuition fees, against which they campaigned so ferociously round the campuses to buy student votes in the run up to the election.

Efforts will be concentrated on four seats: Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam, Simon Wright in Norwich South, Stephen Williams in Bristol West and Don Foster in Bath.

What they hope to do is use the "right to recall" idea which Clegg pledged to make a policy. The idea is that a by-election would be called if 10% of constituents believed their MP had done something so bad as to warrant being removed.

The NUS hopes to get enough of Clegg's constituents to sign a petition for his removal if the idea actually becomes policy. It won’t work of course, because you can’t remove an MP for going back on his word even doing a 180 degree turn, or you’d have to remove a hell of a lot of them, however it will be very bad publicity for Clegg.

Well, Nick has to learn that there are consequences for going into coalition and leaving most of your policies at the cloakroom on the way in. The up side is that people call you ‘Minister’ and defer to you; you get a car and a driver on the taxpayer, you get noticed and you may even feel important. The downside is that you earn the disrespect of your party and its supporters, and end up being ditched.

Can you just imagine being a Liberal Democrat activist and going out and knocking on doors at the next election...? No, nor me.


  1. Lib Dems often count on student votes as well so it is proving a disaster for them. And will do at every level. Here in Dundee the leader of the Lib Dems on the City Council. Fraser Macpherson (he has a blog in the top Lib Dem Scottish blogs, but that’s not difficult, but rather undemocratically you can’t comment on it so I don’t recommend looking at it) relies, I understand, on the votes of students who preponderate in his West End ward (where Dundee University is mostly based) a lot of whom of course are English. Why should they lumber Dundee with someone whose sole claim to fame seems to be a surprising ability to flag up every minor and trivial issue concerning one or two of his constituents and inflicting it on the rest of the population in the pages of the local rag. And not forgetting his whinging blog (comments not allowed). This should make the re-election of these Lib Dem student chasers rather more a difficult prospect now!

  2. It's called democracy Munguin. There are thousands of them in that ward, but I admit he seems to be a man who is better at getting his name in the paper than anything else.

    I agree though, I doubt if there will be many students voting Liberal, even in Scotland where it was them who forced the current situation where the government pays students' fees.

    The impression is that you can't trust them; that they will go into coalition with whomsoever offers them a seat at Cabinet, and agree to whatsoever they want, regardless of what was in the manifesto.