Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Lib Dem leadership are treading a dangerous path

I'm off down to Brighton on Friday.

I really like the Sussex seaside town and I am sure I will find plenty to do while I am there. There's the pier, the Laines, the beach, the Royal Pavilion and lots of nice restaurants.

While I'm down there I may pop into the Lib Dem conference which is on. That is ostensibly the reason I am actually going to be there to get involved in debates and vote on party policy. Although after last night's vote where the parliamentary Lib Dems were whipped to vote for the Secret Courts bill against the clear expressed will of the party membership in conference votes I am thinking it might well not be worth it. After all if our ministers in government can just completely ignore what its members think despite the fact that we are supposed to be a democratic party then why should I bother?

I suspect plenty of others will be wondering this today. I also suspect in the light of the Eastleigh by-election result that many will be questioning whether it is worth campaigning so hard for the party in future too. Thousands of activists poured into the seat in the last few weeks in order to help us secure the by-election victory. Now as it happens Mike Thornton had not been sworn in in time for the division last night so he couldn't vote. I'll be generous to Mike and assume there is a good reason for this. Although I will say that if I had been elected MP for Eastleigh last week I'd have made damn sure I was sworn in in time and then voted against the bill along with the 7 other Lib Dem "rebels" who actually voted the way the party membership wants. But it is a real kick in the face for all of those activists who fought so hard to deliver the "stunning victory" that has so boosted Clegg in recent days. I was one of them and I have to say that I will not be as keen to go out and fight for our party on the doorsteps in future if we don't see a real change in how our internal democracy is accounted for in government.

What's even more infuriating about this is that it appears the timing of the vote was scheduled precisely to avoid an "embarrassing" vote at conference that would put further pressure on Clegg and our ministers to vote against this bill. So our leadership has connived with the Tories to deny its own membership on this key piece of legislation.

I understand it is difficult for Lib Dem ministers to get their way on things all the time but liberty is a fundamental precept of our party. Secret Courts are diametrically opposite to what we should be doing. We need an urgent review into how to fix our broken democracy. This weekend's conference is the place to do it.

And if we don't then perhaps next time conference is in Brighton all the other attractions may prove too tempting for me. Let's face it, wandering around the Laines and the Pavilion may be time better spent if our votes on key issues like this count for nothing.


Andy Platt said...

They all voted for the Bedroom Tax too or is nobody in the party bothered about the poor these days?

Mark Thompson said...