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Are the Lib Dems Giving Up More Than the Tories in Government?

Posted: 18/02/2012 14:32

Having reasonably successfully given up drinking for January, I've been considering repeating the experiment for Lent. However, having recently got engaged, and with lots of celebratory drinks in the diary, I can foresee this not panning out exactly as I planned (apparently the chap had planned to ask on our upcoming holiday but blurted it out last week. And yes I am wondering if upcoming nuptials are still worthy of an upgrade on Virgin Atlantic).

Wedding bore over, it has made me think about giving things up. Coalition by its nature means that a party needs to give up some of its log held policies and compromise. I genuinely think that this is making for a better Government in the UK, but it has undeniably hurt the Lib Dems very deeply in the polls and on the doorstep.

There is an interesting dichotomy with the current political situation. Tories on the backbenches are seething at the amount of power the Lib Dems have in government. Not a week goes by without one of them expressing their discontent to one national newspaper or another. Tax, Europe, human rights, justice, the health bill - the influence the Lib Dems have is being decried by Conservatives across the board. On the flip side, the opinion of the general public couldn't be more different. Daniel Radcliffe has publicly withdrawn his support for the party, accusing them of being Tory whipping boys. (I am genuinely upset at the loss of Harry Potter - he was my favourite celeb supporter after Brian Eno) .

All this really boils down to giving things up. Are the Lib Dems giving up too much to be in power? Are the Tories being forced to give up too much to keep the coalition together? Is Cameron secretly happy that he can temper the right wing of his party by using the excuse that the Liberals won't stand for it?

There have been a lot of sacrifices from the Liberal Democrats in the past two years. Tuition fees (obviously); mansion tax; free schools. But, and this is the argument I make in the pub whenever someone finds out I used to work for the party, the Tories are giving up more. They have sacrificed long held beliefs on taxation to allow the Lib Dems to raise the tax threshold to £10,000, putting money back into the pocket of most working people in the country. This is no small matter. This is putting money back into the pockets of ordinary people - and it comes at the cost of not letting the Tories scrap the 50p tax rate for the richest, or cutting inheritance tax for millionaires or giving married couples tax breaks. Making the Conservatives give up their tax priorities for Liberal Democrat ones is no small thing.

So, as I scrabble to find an alternative to giving up the booze until Easter, my old colleagues in Parliament will continue to make sacrifices on policies. What they need to start communicating is that the Tories are doing the same. And it's making the policies that affect real people in this country fairer. Getting the man on the street (and Daniel Radcliffe) to understand that is going to be hard, but it's a message that needs to get across before 2015. And it's going to be one of the hardest things Nick Clegg has to do.

 

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