Tuesday, 24 April 2012

For the avoidance of doubt

My inactivity in the local election campaign has drawn questions from friends and activists in all parties regarding my current political status, which I’d like to clarify.

Since the Coalition was formed in 2010, the Liberal Democrats have very little to show for their involvement. On every substantive measure like welfare reform, university tuition fees, public spending, social justi
ce and constitutional reform Nick Clegg has failed to deliver liberalism in government.

Political parties are traditionally ‘broad churches’ and have some room for dissenting voices. To that end, friends persuaded me to renew my party membership last year to lobby from within. However, the lack of challenge to the leadership, and the slavish adherence to the party line, especially by the Welsh Liberal Democrats, has been disappointing.

Coalitions should be a coming together of political parties in the common interest of the country to form a stable government. That invariably involves compromise, but such compromises should never require one or other party to set aside the principles that underline the very reason that they exist.

Through their actions in Government, Liberal Democrat ministers have betrayed the core principles on which the Liberal Democrats is supposed to be founded. They have proved to be Tory stooges rather than equal partners. The voice of liberalism has been stifled, if not silenced, by a programme of government that is actively undermining communities, promoting poverty and making UK society more unjust.

All they have to show for it is three seats at the Cabinet Table to lend support to a right wing Conservative Government. Liberal Democrat voters and the social liberals who have campaigned hard for liberal principles and values have been short-changed.

I am first and foremost a liberal, and this transcends any loyalty or allegiance to one political party or another. My liberal leanings make it near impossible for me to do anything other than criticise the actions of this Government.

Whilst my commitment to campaigning as a liberal on the local and national issues that I feel strongly about remains solid, I can no longer do this as a Liberal Democrat. Consequently, I’m no longer a member of the party.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Labour's non-local election campaign

Ed Milliband was in our area on Friday. He, at least, acknowledged that there was a local element to May's election, before going on to tell people to send the Coalition a message, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

By contrast, Peter Hain got straight to the point when launching Welsh Labour's 'local' election campaign last week: ''make 3 May a referendum on this unfair and disastrous budget".

The Shadow Welsh Secretary asserts that these elections should be used to pass judgement on the UK Coalition Government: not exactly a primary factor when asking the electorate who should be delivering their local services and providing direct support to local communities, is it? First Minister Carwyn Jones even let slip that Welsh Labour hadn't bothered to pull together any form of manifesto that their local teams could use in their campaigns.

They have long viewed local government as an inconvenience, an obstacle to their centralist policy agenda rather than a vehicle for empowering communities to shape decisions locally. Rather than give them the freedom they need to design and deliver responsive support to their residents, successive Labour-led Welsh governments have presided over rafts of legislation requiring local authorities to do more of their bidding, without necessarily giving them the resources to deliver their requirements.

Welsh Labour's disdain and contempt for local government is laid bare for all to see.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The end of the road

My Liberal Democrat membership expired on 31st March. I have no intention of renewing it.

This is the second time I’ve made such a promise to myself in as many years. After the first, in a moment of weakness, I was persuaded by friends to give it another year ‘to see how things went’.

Well I’ve done just that; I’ve given it another year and things have gone from bad to worse. This time, I mean it.

The Lib Dems have very little to show for their involvement in the Coalition Government. I haven’t seen a government as illiberal as this one since the days of Thatcher, and Clegg is guilty by association. On every substantive measure like welfare reform, university tuition fees, NHS reform, public services, social justice and electoral reform Clegg and his MPs have short-changed both the electorate and the social liberals who have campaigned hard for liberal principles and values, only to see those principles and values undermined and betrayed by Clegg’s actions in government.

It is with regret and sadness that I am calling time on 17 years of Liberal Democrat activism, but I feel that I have little choice if I’m to remain true to the liberal beliefs that I hold dear. How can I espouse the cause of liberalism when the party to which I belong undermines those core beliefs through its actions?

For the sake of my conscience, walking away is the right thing to do.