Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The World at One - What I Would Have Said

At lunchtime I picked up an e-mail from a reporter at Radio 4's World at One looking to call me re a Lib Dem related item on the programme. This piqued my interest but work commitments would have made any contact next to impossible. C'est la Vie...

My instinct was that the report would be on activist reaction to the four Lib Dem MPs who voted against the third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act and the rather high-profile abstentions of Party President Tim Farron and Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party, Simon Hughes. Just as with Secret Courts, many activists will have cause to think twice when it comes to campaigning for these MPs.

It transpires, though, that the piece was in response to Clegg's speech this morning in which he defended the coalition and reinforced his intention it should continue to polling day in 2015. Wouldn't it be better to exit now?

I'm aware this blog has had it's disgruntled moments, but they were barking up the wrong tree if they thought my response would have suited their story. Indeed, my response would have been similar to a Bristol Lib Dem colleague - who was told they had had a number of similar replies and his contribution wouldn't be required!

Whilst there's no denying that coalition hasn't worked out as planned - we've failed over various Constitutional Reform and we're still suffering the fall out from the Student Fees debacle (despite the implantation of a far more progressive system) - the country has had stable Government in a period of economic uncertainty.

Whilst a full-blown recovery has remained elusive - and there is more that could be done on the economy - implementing Labour's (post-election) alternative in 2010 would have left us with much higher public spending and debt, higher borrowing costs, a shrinking private sector and any illusion of growth generated through public spending would probably be wearing thin by now.

True, the economy has stagnated and there are many issues to fix - infrastructure investment and capital expenditure should be increased, for example - but when the Eurozone is in it's sixth quarter of recession, Socialist France has entered it's second quarter of recession in four years and economic indicators remain weak around the world, then the government deserves more credit for progress made towards a rebalanced economy than it is getting.

Meanwhile the coalition has made important progress in other areas: reforming the tax system by increasing Capital Gains Tax Rates, reducing Tax Relief allowable through pensions and other schemes, increasing the Personal Allowance, extending Stamp Duty to punitive levels for those using companies to avoid it. Introducing a Single Tier Pension, the legislation for which was in the recent Queen's Speech, will simplify State Pension Provision and erase many of the biases inherent in the current one.

In social areas, too, the Government has made some important decisions - the pupil premium which targets additional spending at schools with pupils in most need of it, extending parental rights by allowing parents to split Maternity/Paternity leave in a way that suits them not tradition. Another key area - and a vital lasting legacy for this Government is Equal Marriage - another step change in moving society forward to a new level of acceptance, tolerance and understanding.

So, whilst the Lib Dems may not have achieved the "Big Wins" of coalition government - we have played our part in ensuring the country had a stable government with progressive input at a time of international economic crisis for which the previous government was ill prepared. We should continue that work right up until polling day.

In the end, the World at One didn't run a feature on the Lib Dem attitude to the coalition... perhaps everyone approached said much the same as I would have done...


1 comment:

Raybeard said...

Since they extended that 'World at One' to 45 mins it's become more like a magazine programme than one whose priority is the current news of the day - something that also happened to 'P.M.' some time ago. Often they'll fill up their time with inconsequential items, or bulletins having nothing to do with that particular day, when they'd do better by giving more time to interviews. (TV News on BBC1 at 6 p.m., just after the half-way point, has fallen into the same lazy pattern - and sometimes makes me want to scream!). One more example of BBC's 'dumbing down', I fear - though they'll deny it, of course.