One year on, what have we done ?

Twelve months of Lib Dems in government, and what has been achieved in the areas of policy that really matter to the public ?

Many senior Lib Dems and those who are regularly wheeled out to defend the party like Evan Harris and Simon Hughes, together with the uber loyal blogs and websites that defend the party at all costs, read out a long list of achievements which are, in truth, utterly unimportant to the man on the street or the voter on the doorstep.

Having just gone through a local election campaign as a sitting councillor, I thought it a good idea to summarise the arguments and issues that people wanted to talk about on the doorstep.

Forget arguments of presentation, style and spin. The fundamentals are that we have failed to deliver anything concrete ourselves that people can genuinely say will make them vote Lib Dem.

Free schools (a Tory policy), a pupil premium (again Tory policy) with little in the way of new cash, and the pointless bashing of schools with thee arbitrary raising of floor targets for Key Stage 2 SATs, with no rational reason given to schools why targets would be raised JUST 8 weeks before the SATs tests. the cuts in school sports funding, which were ill thought out, are already biting deep.

Further Education
Budgets for 6th Form colleges under pressure. Less places available, EMA scrapped, no Lib Dem achievements.

University Education
Tuition Fees raised (Tory Policy). No acheivements for the Lib Dems to crow about.

Reforms announced that are neither supported by the Lib Dems or the medical profession. Hardly looks good to suddenly notice you have a policy that is hated by everyone except the Tory Party.

Local Government
Extremely difficult cuts for many council, rather easier cuts for many Tory councils.

Although left a legacy of stupid purchases by the Labour government, it seems odd to be cutting conventional forces like aircraft carriers when there is a real need for them at the moment, whilst keeping the option of a Trident replacement on the table (again, a Tory policy).

Whilst some of the poorest have been taken out of taxation (the only Lib Dem success that anyone told me about on the doorstep), this is balanced against the rise in VAT which the Lib Dems campaigned against last year. Are those shouts of hypocrisy I hear ?

Deficit Reduction
We argued last year that if we cut too fast and too deep, it would damage the economy and might cause a double dip recession. The fact that we have abandoned this view and backed the Tories deeper faster cuts cuts no ice with voters. Those who support this policy give credit to the Tories. Those who oppose it blame the Lib Dems.

Voting Reform
We got a referendum on a system we didn't want, looked silly for backing AV which we didn't like, then lost anyway. Stupid, hapless and incompetent.

We treat politics like a debate at the Oxford Union and in doing so treat the electorate like fools. The party cannot keep blaming style or bad publicity for the public's failure to give us a pat on the back for our role in the coalition. The public GET what we have done, we should not take them as fools. The truth is, voters in the main, don't like it. The only ones who do like what we are doing, which in essence is to be a Tory Party lite, are Tories, and why should they go for the lite version when the normal full version of the Tories is available ?


Red Rag said...

As ever direct and straight to the point. The problem for you is you seem to be talking to a brick wall. The leaders of your party are so enthralled with power it seems there is no Tory policy they wont drag themselves in front of a camera to defend. Politically Cameron is playing a blinder, in government and killing off the Lib Dems whilst holding them close.

Chris Lovell said...

Unfortunately I think I am beggining to agree with you Nich.

Alan said...

A very good summary.

But just think - you could have named changes to one or more of these as your price for power, but instead you chose a referendum on AV.

The LDs are rightly proud that they are the most democratic of all parties (the Tories, for whom I voted, didn't hold a conference on the coalition agreement). The flip side of this democracy, is that YOU elected your leaders, who unanimously agreed the coalition, and then YOUR party activists overwhelmingly approved the coalition at a conference.

I am afraid that you have no-one to blame but yourselves.

Nich Starling said...


I said all this last year, I predicted it, and I was called all sorts of names at meetings in Norfolk, slagged off by people who I thought were friends, and told to leave the Lib Dems by those who were so seduced by the coalition that they forgot what they had campaigned for just days before.

I stayed within the party in order to be one of those who can rebuild the party after Clegg and Co have long gone.

I'm convinced it is time for a leadership election. We just need 75 constituency parties who will call for it.

Alan said...


You have been very consistent indeed (unlike your MPs), and your blog is evidence of this.

You're clearly either (a) in the wrong party; or (b) ahead of your time.

I suspect the latter!

Manfarang said...

So what role for the Liberal Democrats? A permanent opposition.That might suit those who want to be councillors.

Nich Starling said...

Better opposition instead of being in government, but introducing policies that our not our own.

Dale said...

Absolutely agree. As someone who helped out and did literature for a couple of campaigns in May I couldn't bring myself to do anything other than agree with many of the issues raised on the doorstep (regarding our role in government) - to say that we've made it marginally less bad doesn't really cut the mustard I'm afraid. Where I'm based a long-standing Councillor with a frankly outstanding track record, especially compared with her ward colleagues (who never lasted more than a term), lost her seat and finished third (with less than half the votes of the winner), which is hard to take, but shows that in places where people were previously sympathetic (though not our voters at General Elections) we have slid back, by more than half in the case of my borough.

I can't help wishing the Conservatives had done the decent thing and won a majority... Yes, the government would probably be even further from what I want, but I/we wouldn't be seen as culpable for it!

I also believe that the tuition fees fiasco has done more damage than any other policy so far as the party is concerned, as before the election people could probably name two unique Lib Dem policies: fees & tax thresholds. We look like we've lost our soul.

Robert said...

Love Red Rag on here, it's back blogging after crying about Blair leaving.