Thursday, 7 April 2016

What we stand for

When Charles Kennedy, who tragically died  just over ten months ago, was leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, he issued a recruiting leaflet. Its message summed up what Charles believed the Liberal Democrats to be about. It is a fair distillation of the preamble to our constitution, a constitution which has not changed in its essentials since the founding of the party in the 1980s.

I believe that our then leaders in Westminster in some respects compromised themselves in coalition and tarnished the reputation of the party. (I am proud to say that the Welsh Liberal Democrats in Westminster to a man and woman were honest and kept the promises they made before the 2010 election.) Overall, though, LibDems should be given credit for restoring credibility to the UK economy by going into coalition, while implementing many important manifesto aspirations such as the triple-lock for pensioners and the Green Investment Bank. Our ministers also held back the attacks on the social support system and on our civil rights which the Conservatives ruling alone now feel free to implement.

The party in the country never forgot our basic principles. What we did neglect to do was project our unique qualities to the wider public; it was justifiably claimed that the ordinary citizen "didn't know what we stood for".

In 2015, our national campaign, deferring too much to the opinion polls, departed from our traditional message of stating what we would do in government, at a time when we were better equipped than at any time in our history. In lowering our sights, we also lowered the public expectation of us with inevitable results.

We can be in government in Wales again. We can also bring fairness back to the administration, because we are not in hock to special interest groups as Labour, Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and even UKIP are.

As Liberal Democrat candidate for Neath, I will stand on the principles outlined by Charles Kennedy as well as an aspect of the constitution which did not feature in the leaflet: community. Decisions should be made as close to the people as possible. Administrators should listen to people with knowledge, base decisions on evidence and be transparent in coming to those decisions.

How our principles inform detailed policy I hope to show here during the campaign. There will be more on our Facebook pages , , and  blogs at and



Anonymous said...

Sorry Ffranc, but ALL credibility went out of the window with the coalition.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Ffranc, but the LDs will NEVER be forgiven for going into coalition with the Conservatives. All that stuff about defending the UK from the worst of Tory excesses honestly sounds like an attempt at rationalization/justification. The reputation of the party is forever tarnished; and that comes from a former supporter.

Frank Little said...

People forget how much the United Kingdom had lost the trust of international finance after 2008. It was essential to demonstrate that a stable government was in place after the general election.

The crash in 2008 was not a global economic crisis as Labour continues to pretend. It was a plunge in confidence in banks and financial institutions in the UK (Labour's loose oversight of the City was a major contribution) and the USA (the loosening which started under Clinton coming to a head). Other European countries which had a high debt to GDP ratio were caught in the backwash. In 2010, Italy (with an economy similar to ours), Spain and Portugal were having difficulty financing their government debt at less than 7& interest and the instability of their governments did not help. At the same time, nations which were not tied into transatlantic banking particularly Brazil, India, China and Canada motored on regardless.

After the 2010 election, I was initially one of those in favour of a "supply and maintenance" arrangement with a minority Conservative government. The failure of Greece could be seen as an out-lier. It was the crises in Italy and Spain which convinced me that the Liberal Democrat special conference had taken the right decision in voting overwhelmingly for a binding coalition agreement.

I still believe that the UK as a whole is better off now as a result than it would have been after a shaky minority government or (more likely) a swift dissolution and an early election in which the Conservatives would have achieved their desired majority - and applied the extra £15bn of cuts they promised in their manifesto.

The major reason we still have a deficit is because Cameron and Osborne have consistently avoided tackling the income side of the government profit-and-loss account, in particular tax avoidance and fraud. This is symptomatic:

Oh, and I believe Nick Clegg should not have renewed the coalition agreement when its first four years came to an end.

Anonymous said...

Rationalization/justification. Unforgivable.

Anonymous said...

BOLLOCKS. A lot of people let down and suffered because of that vanity project.

Frank Little said...

It was hardly a vanity project. We knew when we went into it that we would suffer at the polls as a result. Unlike Labour and the Conservatives, we do not blindly follow the directives of the leadership, so the final decision rested with the party in the country. Most of us know our history of coalitions, including the fate of the Free Democrats in Germany, but nevertheless voted about 50 to 1 in favour of the coalition.

As to rationalisation, only a few of the most extreme things we stopped the Tories doing were reported at the time. I can add forcing the Treasury to permit 1% pay rises in the public sector when Osborne wanted to freeze them.

The more positive aspects, most of which marked us out from the Labour government which went before, are here.