Sunday, 22 December 2013

Paddy Ashdown - lessons for the Lib Dems

Re-reading Paddy Ashdown's auto-biography, I am struck by the lessons for the Lib Dems.

Paddy was rightly keen on taking the Lib Dems into Government - but he made a number of decisions that the Lib Dems now would do well to ponder.
Firstly, he predicted that the smaller party in a coalition almost always comes off worse - hence a change in the voting system to proportional representation was essential to protect the Liberal Democrats.  On this I think even Paddy underestimates the problem with First Past the Post - which is one of mind set - there is always the desire amongst many in a party for one more election where the random effect of FPTP will throw up a single party Government of a party getting little more than 1 in three votes  - under PR, parties know the go it alone Government is much more unlikely.

Secondly Paddy decided that in the event of a coalition he would not take a cabinet post for himself - leaving himself free to promote the Liberal Democrats.

Thirdly Paddy lists Tony Blairs own view in 1997 of what would make him a Prime Minister of lasting impact like Margaret Thatcher.  1. Ending the schism between Labour and the Liberals 2. Changing the relationship with the EU with  the UK engaging constructively with the EU  3. Narrowing the gap between rich and poor.  On all three areas Tony Blair must be judged a failure.  The co-operation with the liberal was soon blocked by Blair, Brown and Prescott. The people of Britain have become more euro-phobe rather than euro enthusiasts and the gap between rich and poor widened to record levels.  Constitutional reform, the one area that bored Blair and in which he had no interest has been his lasting legacy - along with the disaster of war in Iraq. 

Lib Dems need to ponder what policy concessions they have secured that will truly be of any significance in 5 years, let alone 20. On constitutional reform - Nick Cleggs special responsibility, nothing has been achieved - unless you really want to count police and crime commissioners.

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