David Rendel on opposing the Coalition’s formation: “I felt very lonely indeed”

by Stephen Tall on May 16, 2011

David Rendel, former Lib Dem MP for Newbury and one-time candidate for the party leadership, has broken his silence about being the sole member of the party’s ruling Federal Executive to vote against the formation of the Coalition with the Conservatives one year ago. Speaking to the BBC, David recalls:

“It was very lonely being on my own. I was with a group of about 250 people – all of whom I liked and respected. But I said in my speech that I felt this was a short-term government and all we would get would be short-term gains. Come the next election there was every chance we would go back to a minority government and any gains would be wiped out.

“I felt very lonely indeed. You can feel lonelier, I think, when you are standing up amongst colleagues and friends and opposing what they want to do, than you would if you were among enemies and opposing what they want to do. I felt I was not exactly betraying my friends but clearly I was doing something they would rather I didn’t do – and it is never fun to oppose people who you believe in and agree with for the most part, and trust and respect.”

However, the decision made, David does not believe the party should now pull out of the Coalition:

“I don’t think there’s any point now in ending the coalition at this stage. If we did we would simply lose all the quicker all the short-term gains we have made. I think the coalition’s got to face up to the fact that the depth, strength and speed at which these cuts have been made is, I think, damaging the recovery.”

Though I disagreed with David’s view a year ago (and still do), there can be no doubting his immense integrity; or indeed his courage for holding to a view that, certainly at the time, was in a very small minority. I voted for David in the 1999 leadership election, and the loss of Newbury to the Tories in 2005 was a real shame.