Party winning policy despite frustrations
IT IS now almost three years ago that we had a general election, when no single party won an overall majority. Since then Liberal Democrats have been in government as part of the Coalition Government for the first time in peacetime in 80 years.
This has taken considerable getting used to, not only for ourselves as it was not something that we were expecting, but also for the reporters, journalists and political commentators. They found it very hard to get out of the habits of a lifetime and stop seeing everything in terms of the traditional Tory/Labour bun fight.
Effectively, the coalition government has three heads. David Cameron is leader of the Conservative Party and does his best to push forward the Tory agenda. Nick Clegg is leader of the Liberal Democrats and does the same for Liberalism. And Cameron/Clegg, as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, have the shared responsibility for advancing and defending policies that have been agreed between the two parties in Cabinet.
This last is the easiest to understand, because it comes closest to the form of government we are used to.
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The key commitment is to cut back the deficit the last Labour Government left us with and this will continue to be the priority over the next two years to make the economy sound again, while being fair to all parts of the community. But what we need to remember is that any agreed policy is a compromise, and not necessarily precisely what Lib Dems would want to see. People do need to bear in mind that all Government policies are hammered out and modified to meet the demands of the Conservatives as well, and are not what a purely Lib Dem Government would have proposed.
Recently, Nick Clegg has taken to speaking up rather more in the role of Leader of the Liberal Democrats and making it clear where we have differences with David Cameron (when he is speaking just as Leader of the Conservatives).
The first instance of this was in their reactions to the Leveson Enquiry, where Nick accepted the recommendations, as did Ed Miliband for Labour, while Cameron preferred to leave responsibility for self control in the hands of the press barons, who have already shown how incapable they are of exercising it.
This is fair enough, since there is no agreed government policy and Cameron is speaking as the Conservative party leader.
But returning to agreed government policy, there are many good policies coming into play. These are all agreed Coalition Government policies. But which party was responsible for bringing them forward? Clue it wasn't the Tories. So, all in all, being part of a Coalition Government has meant some frustration for Liberal Democrats, some disappointments, but also some considerable successes.
President, Plymouth Liberal Democrats