Those of us who are supportive of the coalition still recognise the need for our own identity and there are some in the Liberal Democrats who are concerned that this is being lost – and for good reason.
In Swale we are planning to take on the almighty iron grip of the Conservative party but of course some voters may think we are now on their side. Labour’s strategy has been to concentrate their fire on the Lib Dems, presumably hoping to bring down the coalition, although another general election may not be favourable to the Labour party.
Liberal Democrat members are as unhappy as anyone with the VAT rise – but we could either (i) ensure that measures are there to protect those on lower incomes or (ii) break up the coalition and force a general election. I think the public would expect the first option and find the second option, of cutting and running at the first disagreement, irresponsible.
We need to make two lists.
1. Which of the coalition’s policies is uniquely Liberal Democrat?
2. Which Liberal Democrat policies are not in the coalition agreement which we want to see?
To list 1 we can point out:
-The raise of the threshold to take nearly a million people out of tax
-The rise of the capital gains tax rate to reduce tax avoidance and ensure the burden shifts more to those who can afford it
-A series of measures to protect our civil liberties and freedoms
-The referendum on a fairer votes system
-Reform of the House of Lords
Can you imagine a Conservative government doing any of this? Of course not. These are all ours. They wouldn’t be there without us.
And, to coin a phrase, what do we want?
-The replacement of council tax with a local income tax
-The abolition of university tuition fees
-No like-for-like replacement of Trident to save £100bn
-Proportional representation in parliamentary and council elections
-Ensure the programme of cuts does not harm the most vulnerable in society
Above all we must continue to campaign for good liberal democratic values of decentralisation and bringing powers back to local levels.