Lib Dem conference: What have they done with power?

 

A look back at Nick Clegg's good - and bad - bits from the past 12 months

The Liberal Democrats have made painful sacrifices for a shot at being in government - including several long-cherished policies - so has it been worth it? What have they actually achieved?

Leader Nick Clegg is expected to reel off a list of alleged accomplishments when he addresses the party faithful at their annual conference in Birmingham later.

And there are plenty on the Conservative benches who believe Mr Clegg's party has got far too much of its own way - that David Cameron listens to his Lib Dem partners more than them.

Some research even suggests 75% of the Lib Dem manifesto has been put into action by the coalition government or is in the pipeline.

Yet Lib Dem MPs - casting a gloomy eye over the polls - fear the only policy the public associate with them is their broken pledge on tuition fees.

We decided to find out what Lib Dem members themselves - the people who will have the job of saving the party from electoral oblivion on the doorstep at the next election - think.

In a highly unscientific, but hopefully revealing exercise, we asked a string of Lib Dem members to name the one coalition policy they can point to as unmistakably theirs.

Few need prompting to answer.

Tax theme

One activist did admit to being "caught on the hop" by the question and asks whether they can "phone a friend" but no-one seems fazed or defensive about the opportunity to talk about the issue.

Pretty quickly a trend emerged.

Start Quote

To an awful lot of families it makes a big difference”

End Quote Margaret Joachim on tax reform

They regard raising the level at which people pay income tax, which will take hundreds of thousands of the lowest-paid out of tax altogether, as their most solid achievement.

The threshold will rise to £8,105 next Spring as part of a "long-term" aspiration to lift it to £10,000.

"It is the simplest and clearest (achievement)," said Richard Balmer, from Solihull.

"Although we have not got to £10,000 yet, we are moving there. It is a big plus."

While some readily admitted they do not know when this target will be fulfilled, the £10,000 ceiling seems totemic and was mentioned by almost everyone canvassed.

"It may not seem much to you and me," said Margaret Joachim, from Ealing. "But to an awful lot of families it makes a big difference."

Bank progress

Other policies chalked up as successes included the party's commitment to get extra funding for the most disadvantaged school kids in England, an initiative known as the pupil premium.

Earlier this week, schools minister Sarah Teather announced funding will double to £1.25bn next year.

There was also a strong feeling among members that the Lib Dems have stood up for the environment in the face of the austerity drive and scepticism elsewhere in ministerial ranks.

WHAT DO LIB DEMS THINK THEIR PARTY HAS ACHIEVED?

  • Raising income tax threshold
  • Pupil premium
  • Green Investment Bank funds
  • Abolition of ID cards
  • Getting AV referendum
  • Bank reform signalled

"I would home in on green policy and the support for the Green Investment Bank," said one.

No-one should be surprised to hear the abolition of ID cards is also seen as a notable success, albeit one the Lib Dems did not have to push too hard to get on the statute book as their Conservative partners were equally committed to getting rid of them.

However, it did raise eyebrows to hear one activist cite the referendum on changing the electoral system, in which the party was on the wrong end of an overwhelming defeat, as a success.

"The result of the referendum is different from getting the referendum," they say rather optimistically.

Several delegates were keen to talk up the party's tough stance on breaking up the banks, although there seemed to be an acceptance that this will take time to materialise.

"The legislation will not be implemented until the next Parliament which is disappointing but the process has started," said Sean Brennan, from Sutton. "There is a clear direction of travel."

'Under the radar'

There has been a lot of talk of the Lib Dems being a "restraining" or "moderating" influence on their partners, with president Tim Farron saying the coalition would be a "nightmare" without them there.

Sally Hooker Party members believe Lib Dem ministers are getting things done behind the scenes

One delegate admitted it is difficult to "differentiate" between who has influenced whom but several were happy to count far-reaching changes to the planned NHS restructuring as a Lib Dem victory.

"I think on issues like the NHS, the Lib Dems have managed to move the goalposts," said Mark Packard, from Chippenham.

A recurring theme of this conference is the sense that the public are simply unaware of what the Lib Dems are doing in government and the party needs to get its message across much more clearly.

Nick Clegg has acknowledged that the party needs to communicate its impact much better.

One delegate believed good work is being done in many areas, such as early years education and the equalities agenda, but much of it was happening "behind the scenes" and not attracting media attention.

"A list was published six months ago of what the Lib Dems had achieved. It surprised people," said Sally Hooker, from Greenwich.

"So much stuff is going on under the radar," she added.

"There is a lot of stuff which is really important but you don't see it in the newspapers unless Vince Cable is involved."

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 72.

    There was a moment when the Lib Dems first entered coalition when they could squeeze a prime, high profile concession out of the Tories. They could have held out for tuition fees argueing that it was an election pledge. They didn’t but went instead for a referendum on electoral reform. It proved to be politically naive and has tainted them forever with a lack of integrity.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 71.

    If Clegg & co were in any way serious about "moderating the worst excesses of the tories", they would have refrained from joining either of the main parties. That way they would have been in a stronger position to actually do so without losing their independence, nor their dignity.
    Jamie01

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 70.

    49. Stephen

    The only thing I'll remember them for is the only reason I voted for them - Tuition fees. And I have a long memory.

    --

    It's all "me me me" with some people isn't it?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 69.

    Taking the lowest paid out of paying income tax altogether is a great achievement and is a policy that differentiates them from the other two main parties. It is something that the Liberal Democrats should be proud of achieving in coalition with the Conservatives.

    Why didn't New Labour do this? Probably too busy ingratiating themselves with their new found friends in the City.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 68.

    Matters not what Party gets in, we all know we are going to end up in the same state, if not even a worse one than the last one going out left us with.

    If this 'running the country' was a business venture they would have gone bankrupt within weeks!

    I am NEVER voting again and I have de registered my self from the electoral register.

    Politician v Clown - hard to tell them both apart.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 67.

    you've got tory &lib dem ,on the other side is labour. IfF YOU DON'T LIKE WHAT YOU GOT WHEN YOU STUCK YOUR "X" IN THE AFOREMENTIONED BOX . What about an english gov'mt for england ? there will only be these unaccustomed bed fellows if you keep voting for them . LOOK PAST YOUR NOSE

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 66.

    8.
    BMT
    11 Hours ago
    "Labour need to get their act together pdq or we'll have a full tory govt next time."

    A full Tory government is what we need, and probably (hopefully) what we'll get. Labour are finished for a decade at least, hopefully. They may have stood some sort of chance with David Milliband, but never with Ed.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 65.

    "Every day I am so glad that we do not have an unmitigated Tory Government. Keep on in there, Lib Dems, save us from the rabid right!"

    Do you not understand that without the Libdem support there would be no tory government ?

    Its the Libdems that allowed this to happen they protect us from nothing

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 64.

    Every day I am so glad that we do not have an unmitigated Tory Government. Keep on in there, Lib Dems, save us from the rabid right!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 63.

    I'd much rather have the Coalition than a tory government.
    Even if the levels to which the LibDems can provide damage control is nowhere near as high as it should be thanks to the flawed election system (libdems: 6.8million votes 57 seats, Conservatives: 10.7million votes 307 seats, what a farce.) they have got some concessions.
    It's a shame they're going to lose votes thanks to the media.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 62.

    what about JOBS, what about GROWTH,bring back PFI new schools & hospitals not Rail Links & Roads I'm a former Liberal but never again

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 61.

    Two little words... student fees.

    Liars and chancers like their Tory bedfellows.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 60.

    Increasing tax allowances to benefit less well off is a plus, that Tory's & Lab would not have done!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 59.

    I'm afraid they are finished.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 58.

    Lib dem says that the coalition would be a nightmare without them being there. sorry there would be no tory government without your support!!!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 57.

    I can't wait for the coalition to implode. I hope that at some point we will turn on the BBC and hear a leader who listens to a question, considers it and provides a good and honest answer. Instead we get interruptions to questions and public schoolboy enthusiasm to promise a lot, shift the blame for the mess we are in, and drive me to despair. Bring on the next election before we all emigrate.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 56.

    53.benbowlane

    What have the LibDems achieved?

    As Paul Daniels would say

    NOT A LOT

    As a well known comedian would say, 'You can't see the join'.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 55.

    Lib Dems have acted as a small counterbalance to the Tory's, as they would have done had they gone with Labour. Half their support voted to keep the Tories out, and are now appalled, the other half to keep Labour out...that's 'first past the post' and 'coalition' politics for you.
    This time Labour were not a realistic choice, largely as they didn't fix the roof whilst the sun shone, next time?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 54.

    Nick Clegg needs to take a long hard look at what happened to John Major and his Tory Government when they promised tax cuts, no VAT on heating fuel etc. Look what happened to him in the 1997 Labour landslide. The Fib Dems will be lucky if they have any MPs left come the next election. Living in a safe Tory seat I voted for them to keep the Tories out, NOT TO ELECT THEM. They can forget my vot.e

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 53.

    What have the LibDems achieved?

    As Paul Daniels would say

    NOT A LOT

 

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