Sunday 11 March 2012

A letter to Nick Clegg from an ex Liberal Democrat

Dear Nick Clegg
Yesterday I tweeted to see if anyone following #LDConf could tell me what the party stood for. It was a serious question, but so far no response.

I've voted Lib Dem for many years. My leanings are to the left but Labour’s perpetual internal wrangling was off-putting and the Iraq War an appalling mistake. I liked a lot of the LD policies and a few years ago joined the party. I’ve always had enormous respect for Evan Harris, who was my local MP until he was ousted at the last election.

I was initially sympathetic to the idea of working in Coalition and anticipated that the Lib Dems would act as a moderating force on the excesses of the Tories. In the early months, we saw precious little of that. I started to worry when tuition fees came and went with little sign of any Lib Dem protest. Changes to disability benefits were the next thing. I’d hoped Vince Cable would be able to tackle regulation of the banks and he’s shown willing but appears ultimately toothless. While all this was going on, I found myself wondering whether there would come a point when the Lib Dems might say “No, enough”, and would pull out of the Coalition and force an election. I thought that maybe they’d be holding themselves back so that they could be really effective when something major cropped up. Something that, if not tackled, would be disastrous for Britain. Something that would be difficult to reverse once change had been made. Something like destruction of the NHS.
Well, it didn’t happen. I resigned from the party some months ago when it was clear how things were going, but I retained a vestige of hope that Lib Dems would, at the eleventh hour, find the changes too hard to swallow. I was encouraged by Evan Harris coming out strongly to say the things that needed saying. But no.
But if you didn’t resist on the basis of conscience and principle, I had thought you might have the sense to resist on more pragmatic grounds. Yesterday, a poll showed that 8% of the population would vote Lib Dem. I predict that will fall further after this weekend. Think ahead to the next election. If you were the party who stood up to the Conservatives and prevented them from wrecking the NHS, you’d gain a lot of kudos with your traditional supporters. But instead, you are the party who helped the Conservatives push through marketisation of the NHS. Well, there are many voters who may want marketisation, but they’re not going to vote for you at the next election, they’re going to vote Conservative. Your traditional voters didn’t want any of that, and will abandon you, as many, like me, already have. Baroness Williams argued that the Lib Dems have watered down the bill to make it more palatable. I’m sorry, people just aren’t going to vote for a party whose only role seems to be to help the Conservatives achieve their aims while not really believing in those aims. If you can’t see that, you’re not fit to be party leader.


  1. Spot on, my feelings (and position) exactly.

  2. I agree with much or even most of what you write. But - what do we do now? Who do we vote for, if we agree with the principles you give as examples in your post? I don't hear a clear message about any of these from Labour, either, just more woffle.

  3. Ditto. I joined the party when Labour went to the Dark Side, left when the LibDems followed them. I voted LibDems at the last election and have been utterly betrayed.
    Now I'm stuck with a choice of three flavours of Tory. I am left inthe position of having to vote Labour, out of utter contempt for the options.

  4. I'm a former Lib Dem in Scotland. I left after the 2007 Holyrood elections, when the party behaved horrifically undemocratically in refusing to countenance allowing the nation a say in its own future via an independence referendum. I have since joined the SNP: a truly social democratic party which, as the Scottish government, is ensuring that our NHS remains intact and is becoming more and more popular.

  5. As I tweeted, it's tempting to comment with a simple 'me too!' but that's just lazy. I find myself agreeing with Buck, above. As long as I want to vote at all - which I see as my responsibility in payment for my right to vote - I will have to vote for a labour party I detest. And what about local council elections? Will voting LD be used by the parliamentary party to claim 'grassroots' support? I'm now regretting never joining the party itself, just because I can't send a 'resigning in disgust' letter.

  6. Thank you for mentioning disability benefits, as a disabled person working with disabled people the silence on those issues from many is very saddening and depressing. This post sums up my feelings about being a lib dem voter entirely.

  7. Giselle Williams21 March 2012 at 01:21

    Professor Bishop, you've said it all for me.

    Will the next Government,hopefully not involving Tories or LibDems, be able to rescue the English NATIONAL Health SERVICE? Genuine question.