by Stephen Tall on September 20, 2010
Never say Mike Hancock doesn’t have a sense of timing… On the morning of Nick Clegg’s leader’s speech to the party conference, Mike has delivered what might be considered a stark warning:
I would be grateful if you could confirm in your speech on Monday that you will in the future bring any fundamental policy changes to the agreement without going through the triple lock democratic arrangements of the party. Or if that is not going to be the case that you will bring forward changes to the party constitution to change the triple lock. As I say that was not the case with the VAT rise and the Academies Bill. We are, I believe above all, a democratic party relying on the work and goodwill (more than the other parties) of our volunteers, activists and councillors. This cannot be a party of a dictatorship of 20 Lib Dem ministers.
However, before Labour activists get too excited that — like, erm, Charles Kennedy — Mike might be about to defect, he makes plain his continuing loyalty to the Lib Dems, and indeed to Nick:
Let me also be clear where I am as regards Labour. If Dennis Skinner can remain a member of Labour throughout the past twenty years of new Labour, I as a founding member of the SDP with over 25 years membership of the Lib Dems can certainly remain a member of the Lib Dems.
We should remind people of the actions of new Labour and the Labour ministers who are now going around trying to be their leader did. In fact there is such amnesia amongst them that I fear they have may have had a complete lobotomy! They supported things that you and I campaigned and voted against. Attacks on the poor through the abolition of the 10p tax rate. Attacks on students introducing tuition fees. Attacks on pensioners with the miserly 75p increase in the pension. Attacks on civil liberties with ID Cards and increasing the big brother state. The decimation of the local post office network. And just the down-right mean spirited with not allowing Ghurkhas to settle here. And you are rightly to be congratulated on the campaign that you ran on this.
I know that I and my constituents will not forget these things.
And Mike goes on to acknowledge the democratic strengths of the Lib Dems:
It probably remains one of your frustrations that leading the Lib Dems is a bit like herding cats! However it remains one of the strengths of this party that we can have a proper grown up discussion.