by Stephen Tall on September 21, 2010
I was a guest, together with Richard Grayson (vice-chair of the Lib Dem federal policy committee), on BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour on Sunday evening. In the highly unlikely event that you missed listening to it live, gathered with your nearest and dearest around the wireless, then the following link should take you directly there:
Richard is a serious Coalition-sceptic… both someone who has a serious analysis of the Lib Dems from a social liberal (liberal-left, if you must) — his Compass publication, The Liberal Democrat Journey to a Lib/Con Coalition, is a must-read — and someone who has serious problems with the Coalition.
I felt almost sorry for Richard as we chatted beforehand, a loyal liberal and Lib Dem who finds it baffling to be almost a lone voice making the case against Coalition within the party. As a mover-and-shaker within the progressive Social Liberal Forum, Richard (along with others, like Evan Harris and Duncan Brack) has made a concerted effort to ensure social liberals within the party are well-represented on key policy committees.
That work has made a significant difference within the party, for example ensuring the Lib Dems didn’t drop the party’s commitment to scrap tuition fees (a mistake in my view, but it’s the democratic will of the membership).
Yet the Coalition — if not always the Coalition policies — is broadly popular across the membership, and across the different sections of the party. True, there is more concern on the liberal-left of the party than there is in the centre, or among those who are economic liberals.
But for the moment at least there is large degree of unity. Of course this is the ‘easy’ conference: next year’s, and especially the year’s after, will be the tough ones. By then Richard might not find himself quite such a lone voice.