There has been a slightly worrying tendency of late for my party, the Lib Dems to say one thing in terms of policy campaigns but then on the ground in practise to do something else.
The two examples that have reared their heads in the last few weeks are the situation regarding interns and most recently the security measures for Lib Dem conference. In both cases the party at the highest level is campaigning for something, in the case of interns it is to ensure they are paid a fair wage, in the case of security measures such as ID cards it is to scrap them and only have things that are absolutely necessary and proportionate in place and yet in both cases the party has very much been found wanting when it comes to practising what they preach.
The interns campaign is something I have been behind for a long time. It is terrible for social mobility in this country that some of the best and most coveted positions are only available to people who can afford to live without a wage for months on end and hence only end up going to those with wealthy parents. I was delighted when Nick Clegg threw his weight behind the campaign as Deputy PM. However more than two months later, not only have some individual Lib Dem MPs been advertising for unpaid interns but the party centrally has even been doing it. I am afraid this is just not on. It is simply not credible for us as a party to campaign on this issue if we are not willing to put our money where our mouth is.
The security arrangements at conference issue is a bit more nuanced in that there does have to be some security. But the way in which the party has gone about imposing the new measures does not leave me (and many other Lib Dems from what I have picked up) with a good taste in my mouth. I think the worst aspect of it is that what appears to have happened is that the police have asked for something (to have all sorts of information about putative attendees which they can then use as a reason to ban them from conference if their vetting processes say so) and the party has simply given it to them. This might be an unfair characterisation and I stand to be corrected in the comments but this is the way it is coming across. This party has campaigned for decades for civil liberties and was particularly vociferous in its opposition to ID cards. I remember one of Tony Blair's main arguments for ID cards at one stage (the arguments changed regularly as I recall) was that "the police want them". The security arrangements for conference seem to have exactly the same argument underpinning them and this does not sit easily with me. I am not saying there need be no security measures but aspects of this such as the data being stored "indefinitely" and the inconvenience and cost especially for younger members should be being challenged by the party.
I hope that the party can learn from these two different but related issues that if they are going to campaign on something, they need to be willing and able to put the principles being espoused into practise. That way the party will be leading the way rather than effectively saying "Do as I say, not as I do".