by Stephen Tall on July 11, 2010
The Independent this week reported that Nick Clegg is holding an “away day” for all 57 Liberal Democrat MPs when he will urge them to hold their nerve and show discipline when faced with public anger over the coalition government’s austerity measures:
They have all been called to next Thursday’s away day at the Local Government Association headquarters in Westminster, where they will be joined by Liberal Democrat peers, council leaders and party officials.
Mr Clegg’s aim to reassure them the party is achieving concrete results from the power-sharing deal, citing the commitment to hold a referendum on electoral reform next year, the increase in income tax thresholds and the creation of a judge-led inquiry into accusations the security forces colluded with torture. He will urge his MPs to sell the achievements during the summer recess to activists ahead of their annual conference in Liverpool in September.
The Deputy Prime Minister will insist that the party is retaining its separate identity in the coalition and ask for suggestions on how the Liberal Democrats can continue to carve out a distinctive political niche.
Party activists involved in coalition arrangements in councils such as Birmingham will spell out how they operated in practice.
Mr Clegg will also deliver a tough message that the party needs to maintain its resolve as the cuts bite. He will argue that to pull out of the coalition mid-way through its five-year term would spell political disaster for the Liberal Democrats.
“We will be toast as a party if we collapse the coalition half-way through. We have to see this through,” one ally said.
The paper then produces eight questions summarising some of the current key issues for the party:
Those Liberal Democrat worries
1. What will happen if the country rejects electoral reform in the referendum planned for 5 May? Where are we left then?
2. The impact of spending cuts: will the worst-off be heaviest hit by the squeeze in the public sector?
3. How can rises in VAT – regarded by many as a regressive tax – be justified?
4. Is our party being used as political cover by David Cameron for even more swingeing cuts than the Tories would have contemplated?
5. As junior members of the coalition, how do we prevent our identity from becoming submerged?
6. How do we develop a distinctive policy platform for the 2012 general election?
7. How do we prevent Left-leaning voters from returning to the Labour fold?
8. What is the party’s exit strategy from the coalition?
So what would Voice readers answer to these key worries?