Friday, 24 December 2010


I don't have a problem with the indiscrete things that Liberal Democrat ministers have said about their Conservative opposite numbers within the Coalition. I expect most Liberal Democrat party members will be reassured to learn that their ministers have not been subsumed into Conservative culture, and despite an amicable working relationship the two parties within the government remain very definitely distinct.

In fact the indiscrete comments will help us in all sorts of situations: "You think we LIKE having to work with the Conservatives? Well now you know, we don't, but it's the price that has to be paid for having Liberal Democrat influence within the government of Britain."

I DO have a problem with Vince Cable losing himself influence over the decision as to whether Murdoch and News International should gain control of BSkyB. Not because I disagree with Vince's views one iota, but because the consequence of their expression is that the Murdoch bid has been given a massive step up. That can only be bad. If I had my way Americans/Australians would not be allowed any control whatsoever over the British media.

I am very familiar after 11 years in the European Parliament with working across parties to try and build consensus for particular changes. It doesn't mean I have suddenly embraced another party's philosophy that I am able to do a deal with opponents as individuals with a different approach to my own; I think it's an honest and healthy demonstration of democracy in a open society. Coalition governments are the same, only with knobs on.

But I DO have a problem with our insular and immature media that presents all this as somehow revelational, when it is in fact just 'normal'. I don't expect a majority of the public to understand this; too many people appear to think that the artificial public expression of unity is 'good' and honestly expressed differences ultimately resolved through negotiation are somehow 'bad'.

And I have a really BIG problem with what people too often appear to think of as 'proper' government, viz. the elected dictatorship of one party that has formed a government despite having secured a minority of votes - in the case of Tony Blair just 35% of the total cast.

Britain has been ruled by governments that have not commanded a majority of votes for decade after decade, Tory after Labour after Tory. An electoral system that would be worthy only of a Banana Republic may have given them a huge majority in the House of Commons, but in truth they have never represented the country.

The Coalition Government is formed of parties that secured 60% of the votes last May. It is the first true majority government that Britain has had since 1945 (ok - Labour then only won 49.7% of votes, but it was near enough).

It has the potential still to be one of the great reforming governments of all time, and I believe that Liberal Democrat influence will ensure that those reforms steer us towards a society that is more fair, more free, more democratic and more green.

It continues to have my strong support.

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