Monday, 15 August 2011


And so the riots cease and the politics begins. The two old tribes climb cheerfully into their respective trenches and pick up their armouries, one side calling for stronger families and communities, the other blaming society and the example of others, including bankers and the same politicians. There's no need to distinguish between them - it's business as usual and, frankly, it doesn't matter.

Dave wants to rebuild our broken society, Ed wants an enquiry - a favourite 'New' Labour tactic to spend a few tens of millions, kick a subject into the long grass and avoid any hint at a serious consideration of the issue. Don't believe me? Consider Iraq and the Labour enquiries on that gaping wound in their collective principles and the record of the Labour governments from 2001-2010. What, precisely, did they achieve, when the chief culprit remains unchallenged, unpunished and - stretching absurdity to its limit - touring the Middle East as a 'peace' envoy?!

Today we got a hint - just a hint - of what the Lib Dems could do to enliven this debate. The doughty Simon Hughes joined the fray to warn against the usual kneejerk policies that, once again, 'New' Labour loved so much. Someone dropped a crisp packet? Ban crisp packets.

Nick Clegg will speak tomorrow and he has a choice. He can either be a good Deputy Prime Minister and bemoan the problems we saw last week, condemn the rioters, compliment the police and call for 'unity', 'rebuilding', a 'greater sense of purpose' [I'm putting anything down because it would all be froth that no one will listen to]. Or he can choose to speak as a Liberal Democrat leader and an independent member of a coalition government, not just a supporter of the government.

He can decry the knee-jerk calls for repression which members of both the old parties came out with over the past week, which the police did not want and which would not have worked. He can acknowledge that the police did a good job and that instead of criticising them, politicians might show a bit more understanding and even contrition. He can damn the looters as criminals and he can recognise - as Lib Dems have done for years - that there are deep-seated problems, none of which excuse the violence and crime but all of which must be addressed to help to avoid a repeat of the trouble. He can raise the battered flag of liberty and give us all something to cheer about: the kind of independence of thought and voice that the Lib Dems have been known for for years and which membership of a coalition does NOT stop him declaring loudly and without apology.

We are better than them and our leader should state that loud and clear and damn the consequences. That is what being the leader of an independent party means and that, I would humbly submit, is what our members and supporters want and expect.

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