On Sunday, 16th May 2010 the Liberal Party released a press statement:
‘Liberal Democrat Special Conference in Birmingham today overwhelmingly approved the party’s Coalition Agreement with the Conservative Party.’
Nick Clegg was very pleased with himself. He thought that the failure of any party to achieve an overall majority at the 2010 general provided the Lib Dems with, ‘The chance to transform politics, the chance to hardwire fairness into our society, the chance to change Britain for good.’
To be fair, transforming politics had been a key part of the Lib Dems election manifesto.
It promised the electorate, ‘a fair deal by cleaning up politics.’ Specifically it promised to:
1. ‘Put trust back into politics by giving you the right to sack corrupt MPs.
2. ‘Restore and protect hard-won British civil liberties with a Freedom Bill.
3. ‘Overhaul Westminster completely: fair votes, an elected House of Lords, all politicians to pay full British taxes.’
So, his triumphant press statement returned to these promises. Addressing the nation in Blair-speak he trumpeted a ‘New politics’ – all the things we the voters could expect, which would be happening:
• Fixed term parliaments – happening.
• The power of recall to get rid of corrupt MPs – happening.
• A clean up of party funding, a clamp down on lobbying in Parliament, an elected House of Lords – all happening.
• Our Freedom Bill is going to come off our leaflets and go onto the statute book, ending gross state intrusion into people’s every day lives.
• And voting reform is going to be put to the British people, in a referendum in which Liberal Democrats will fight to deliver real change.
Three years and three months is a long time in politics so let’s see whether or not the Lib Dems have kept their promises.
• Fixed term parliaments. HAPPENED – Cameron insisted.
• The power of recall to get rid of corrupt MPs. HAS NOT HAPPENED.
• A clean up of party funding, a clamp down on lobbying in Parliament, an elected House of Lords. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
• Our Freedom Bill is going to come off our leaflets and go onto the statute book, ending gross state intrusion into people’s ever day lives. HAS NOT HAPPENED.
• And voting reform is going to be put to the British people, in a referendum in which Liberal Democrats will fight to deliver real change. – ELECTORATE REJECTED CHANGE IN VOTING SYSTEM. Cameron campaigned against it.
In short, there is no sign yet of a Freedom Bill or of a bill to enable voters to ‘sack corrupt MPs’ and no elected House of Lords. The dream of the Lib Dems’ new politics has been flushed down the pan and, given the failed green credentials of the Coalition government, probably been deposited on a Blue Flag beach near you.
And, no matter how they try, the Lib Dems have no one to blame but themselves – it was THEIR agreement.
And, it seems, that things have now gone from bad to worse.
The difference between the way the Lib Dems actually do business and the squeaky clean image they try to create has been starkly revealed again this week. (12/08/13) It has been widely reported that Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, did not look carefully enough at a bequest by an elderly woman who wanted to leave £500,000 to ‘whichever government is in office…to use as they may think fit.’ The Tories and Lib Dems conveniently interpreted the woman’s bequest in such a way as to substitute governing party(ies) for Government; the Government gave the money to the Lib Dems and Tories. Nick Clegg trousered £99,423 as his party’s share. Thank you and goodnight.
Speaking for most decent and sensible people, Zac Goldsmith, a backbench Tory MP, put the point very well:
‘No one can truly believe this lady wanted her money squandered on electioneering.’
Quite! Criticism from all sectors of the press followed and Mr Clegg has been shamed into ‘returning’ the money to the Treasury.
However, students of Lib Dem financial management will not have been surprised at their iffy approach to party funding. They will remember the case of Michael Brown who was convicted of fraud in 2008 and who donated £2.4 million to the Lib Dems In 2005. In 2012, when Brown was finally sent down after being on the run, Nick Clegg refused to repay the donation which came exclusively from stolen funds.
Far from being the ‘honest Joe’ of the political marketplace the Lib Dems, or Tory-lites, as they are becoming known, have revealed themselves to be hypocritical rogue traders.
New Politics? We don’t think so.