In today's Times newspaper, the recently dismissed Liberal Democrat minister Jeremy Browne, has called on his Party to abandon its traditional radical and progressive stance, despite this being the very rationale of its foundation and its major appeal for most members.
There's a plethora of problems with his thesis that the Lib Dems need to get credit for "deficit reduction, curbing immigration and education reforms". On the economy, it's credit for growth and jobs that Lib Dems should be striving for, rather than deficit reduction per se. Vince Cable's long ignored calls for the Government to increase infrastructure spending, lending to businesses and to boost the supply of housing, would, if implemented go a long way to helping us gain kudos for growth and rebalancing the economy.
On the issue of curbing immigration, Jeremy once again sits at odds with liberals of all persuasions, who fear that (as businesses and Universities keep reminding us) stricter immigration controls will damage our fragile recovery still further. Indeed, we learned from the last few years of Labour that the best way to curb immigration is to fuel recession, so at least Jeremy can take some solace from the UK's recent years of flat line growth.
While Liberal Democrats can take pride in protecting education spending, many of the Government's education reforms are an anathema to Party members. Rather than greater competition between schools, they favour greater collaboration between state funded schools, rejecting the cherry picking and segregation that is so well illustrated by the Free Schools agenda.
Jeremy Browne, like Nick Clegg so many times before him, poses a false dichotomy when he says the Party must choose whether to be a party of protest or of Government. Liberal Democrats want the Party to be an effective Party Government, which upholds the principles it says it stands for, not to be hijacked by those seeking a mid-career boost, before moving onto lobbying or the City. Nick wants to fight 2015 asking electors to "vote for continuing Coalition" which is a version of Browne's "protest/government" question. The point is, it's the outcome of the Election that will determine this: it's not an option on the ballot paper.
If the Lib Dems are a shopping trolley that defaults to the left, then Jeremy Browne is the spare wheel on the right: at least shopping trolley's have a mind of their own.
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