UK Politics

Lib Dem views: Punching above their weight?

Nick Clegg says the Lib Dems have been "punching above their weight" in the coalition government.

Do party members debating the issues at their autumn conference agree with him?


I don't think we are punching above our weight. I think we are playing the role of junior partner which makes sense as we are a minority party in government. I think it will always be the Conservatives in front with the Lib Dems being a check and balance and moderating influence. The Lib Dems have been diluting some typically and traditionally right-wing policies in areas such as the NHS, education reform and civil liberties. If the economy picks up, I think both parties will reap the benefits.


I think the coalition is a good thing but we do need to make our views clear and differentiate ourselves. I was particularly concerned we did not press harder on our opposition to free schools which I think will be quite divisive. We are having to compromise in some areas and we need to explain that. We need to make it clear to the public what we are as a party and what we are not.

We are making a really good impact. On NHS reform we have made a really big difference. But we only have 57 or so MPs compared to the Conservatives who have hundreds.


We had a honeymoon period but we have had a difficult year. The message needs to go out that it would have been much worse without us. The NHS would have been different, student loans would have been different. The cuts are not as severe as they would have been under the Conservatives or Labour and that is a signal that the Lib Dems have been substantially involved. The problem is that floating voters are not realising what would have been without us. It will take time for people to realise.


If we had had a Conservative or Labour government, we would have had a return to Thatcher-style cuts and further erosion of civil liberties. We have stopped that. If Evan Harris stands up in conference and says we are not being listened to, people will believe it. We need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot, rally round and trumpet our achievements. It is our job to go back to our constituencies and tell people what we have actually achieved. That is going to make much more difference than Nick Clegg talking to a few newspapers.


We have got more policies introduced in government than we ever did sitting on the sidelines. Lib Dem policy is reflected well in the coalition but the problem is communication, getting this out.

We have kept David Cameron honest on green issues, with £3bn for the Green Investment Bank rather than £1bn. But as a 'dark green', the planning reforms are a worry. Nick Clegg is an easy target for the media and he has suffered for it. But I cannot see him leaving before the next election.