It’s been a pretty good week for the Liberal Democrats and their leader, Nick Clegg. Many on the Labour side and among anti-Coalition Conservatives were predicting a bloodbath dominated by defections and discontent from activists.
That hasn’t happened.
Nick Clegg gave an extraordinary speech to Conference on Monday afternoon. Gone was the rhetoric, the empty points scoring and the aspiration. This wasn’t a speech attacking the Government and saying what it SHOULD be doing. For the first time, I heard a Liberal Democrat defending a Government’s record and saying what it WOULD be doing over the next five years. The reality of being in Government hit home for me during that speech. At last, we have the opportunity to get things we want done – not everything, that’s the nature of Coalition but as Simon Hughes offered, it’s better being on the pitch and playing the game than sitting on the touchline powerless.
Simon Hughes was excellent in support and other Ministers have spoken powerfully. Of course, the anti-Coalition media has tried to exploit the slightest anti-Government comment and this morning Vince Cable is in the spotlight. Vince has always been a thorn in the side of the Conservatives because he comprehensively outshone George Osborne during the worst of the recession. The attacks on Vince have become more vitriolic since the coming of the Coalition as Cable, who is ex-Labour and ex-SDP, is identified as a weak link.
Nonetheless, Cable has effectively verbalised the anger many have felt toward the banks and bankers and while there’s no doubt Government policy played a large part in the recession, there’s little doubt practices within banks played a role too and the behaviour of banks since the recession – not lending and accumulating large profits which, in some instances, have been paid out in bonuses to staff some of whom at least have been embarrassed by the largesse and the excess.
To be opposed to the excesses of the system is NOT to be opposed to business or capitalism or banks. However, those supporting the status quo have tried to portray the former Chief Economist of Shell as somehow being anti-capitalist.
It’s this kind of ridiculous distorted misrepresentation that passes for debate and analysis in parts of the anti-Coalition right-wing media.
It’s been a good week for the Liberal Democrats overall – elements of the party may be struggling with the transition from Opposition to Government but there is a real energy and passion in the party and a renewed desire to see the opportunity of enacting legislation taken up.