Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Telegraph fundamentally misunderstands how the Lib Dems work

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

The Daily Telegraph had a rather forthright leading article yesterday entitled "Political failure has scuppered NHS reform". In it they took both David Cameron and Nick Clegg to task for having given in to pressure on the NHS reforms and regretted how in their view the essence of the original bill now "lies in ruins".

But the bit that leapt out at me was the section where they specifically criticise the Lib Dem leader:

Mr Clegg has pulled the plug on a set of proposals he was happy to go along with until his activists told him otherwise. That was a failure of leadership.

This is how a healthy political party is traditionally supposed to work isn't it!? The members who make up the grass-roots footsoldiers vote on and decide the policies. That's how Labour used to work. The Tories have always been much more top-down but I know many Tory activists who lament the fact that they are unable to decide on their own policy.

Irrespective of the other parties that is always how the Lib Dems have worked. It is one of the things that attracted me to the party in the first place, that I could have a real say in policy. And in this case it was a vital part of the way government policy has been altered. The coalition agreement was sketchy on the detail for the NHS and the recent Lib Dem conference made it very clear what the party in government needed to do to satisfy the party at large.

To attempt to characterise this as a "failure of leadership" by Nick Clegg is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the party that he leads. Other parties may impose policies from the top. The Lib Dems do not.

I think many people will start to realise this following the changes to this bill and perhaps some will consider it to be a much more democratic way of deciding a party's policy than it being cooked up by a cabal in Westminster.

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