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Time for families of Lib Dem MPs to stand up for what they used to believe in

Posted on 7 November 2010 | 7:11pm

I would love to be a fly on the wall of kitchens and living rooms at weekends in the homes of Lib Dem MPs now helping the Tories do things they always wanted to but never dared to try.

Politicians by and large come from political families. So as well as the MP having played a part in getting them elected, so have wives, husbands, partners, mums, dads, kids, friends and neighbours. And I bet they aren’t half getting some grief when they go back to their constituencies and prepare to defend the indefensible.

Indeed, in some ways the wives, husbands etc get it worse than the MP. There he is, wandering around Westminster, rubbing shoulders with giants ahem like Nick Clegg and Michael Gove, being nodded at by men in tights who have remembered who he is, voting and speaking and going to meetings and generally just loving the whole thing of being a Lib Dem MP … and back home the missus is having to take the kids to school and meet parents at the schoolgates who are either subtly turning their backs or saying ‘excuse me, but why is your old man going back on the things he said he would do if I voted for him like you persuaded me to?’

Even when you’re doing things you believe in, you can end up having a lot of grief in a political household … tell me about it. But I reckon there will be some right old shindigs going on chez Lib Dems of a weekend, and some really good Monday morning barneys as MPs prepare to head back to Westminster.

Just take the thing dominating the news today, the idea of compulsory community work for the unemployed. Is there a single Lib Dem, prior to the May 6 election, who would have said it was anything other than a cruel and stupid idea of appeal only to hard right-wingers?

Yet there was Danny Alexander today, out defending the idea, saying it was all about giving the unemployed a taste of what work was like. What utter bilge, and whatever came out of his mouth, there was nothing in his heart that agreed with it.

Far from getting people into the habit of work, it will be used to minimise the political imperative to help revive the jobs market and fill it with real work.

Coming to a TV near you soon … a Lib Dem defending the idea that we include the numbers of people on unpaid work among the officially employed, because they are active.

If the Lib Dem MPs won’t start to stand up for what they believe in, maybe their families will.

  • Jemfmurphy

    I suspect the backlash they get in a year or two will be even more interesting: when redundant public sector staff, having spent six months or so on the dole, are ‘encouraged’ to take exciting unpaid work opportunities in libraries, social services and schools.

  • toni

    Danny’s heart isn’t in it? Oh my Alastair, now that’s a huge spin!
    Danny is loving every minute of it, and as my other half would say..every picture tells a story.. and that story was written on the front bench as they all cheered, waved and patted GO’s back after the spending review, and that picture is the one to take with you to the ballot box.

    I’m sure you’re right about including the ‘active’ on the officially employed register, and if weasel words and bandying figures around follows the last Tory pattern, even if the economy collapses and all those private businesses just don’t begin to materialise, by this time next year according to the optimists on various Tory websites, there’ll barely be any unemployed left to register as everyone’ll be out working along the motorways bonsai-ing trees with nail scissors, or scrubbing the pavements with nailbrushes, which could potentially be described as a full time job and earning just above jobseekers rate. Simples. ;0)

  • Sarah-dodds

    And so real form “The Big Society” is starting to be revealed.

  • Richard Brittain

    I quite like the idea of forcing the unemployed to work, but mainly because it appeals to Stalinist tendencies in me. I’m unemployed myself, and the idea of being forced to toil under the sun, digging trenches and planting bulwarks around London appeals to me. I suppose the actual nature of the work would be a lot more bland than this. In any case, it certainly goes against what the Liberal Democrats are supposed to stand for.

  • Robert Jackson

    In the far outer reaches of many family trees there will be relatives who experienced the workhouse and children who died in poverty. Even kids being taken into care then shipped overseas.

    In my family it was my great uncle’s mother-in-law who went through hell in 1883 losing a 1 year old through effects of starvation then later having her two youngest children taken into the John T Middlemore home in Birmingham. That summer they were shipped to Canada on board the “Circassian”, separated and put to work on farms – a girl aged 9 and boy about 13. In fact they went to a better life.

    The Middlemore admission records show for the one child he was found eating dirty potatoes off the floor. The other noted that her mother had spent two years in the workhouse.

    It would have been in the workhouse that mom learnt how to make nuts and bolts – that was her occupation reported to the Coroner investigating the death of the one year-old – she could earn about 8 shillings a week when she was able to get work making bolts.

    But there was little work available after she came out of the workhouse and so her family starved. There was only a sofa in the house when the child died – nothing else. The two smallest slept at the foot of it with mom – the older children (there were more!) slept on the floor in another room.

    Her husband had deserted her over six years before.

    It’s all there in the coroners report and in the press reports and in the Middlemore records. All freely available to read and cry over in Birmingham central library archives. Which I did last Tuesday.

    Frankly – it’s all very well for IDS to be all compassionate wanting to get people litterpicking for work experience.

    But it shows the Tories have learnt nothing about tackling poverty in the past 127 years – especially as we don’t make nuts and bolts in Britain any more and we don’t have charitable organisations to ship children in abject grinding poverty off to a new life in Canada or Australia.

    For heaven’s sake – Britain needs JOBS.

    The last thing we need is a Tory government led by minor aristocrats wittering that unemployed people don’t have a job because they can’t get out of bed in the mornings.

  • marymot

    What worries me is I won’t know which litter pickerupper is on community service for a little trivial bulglary and who is just learning how to get out of bed in the morning.

  • I wonder if the Tories or Lib Dems will have the cheek to arrange for the long-term unemployed constituents to go out delivering leaflets in the next election campaign…

  • Alexander

    I live in Moray. 7000 people were on the streets yesterday in support of the air bases Kinloss and Lossiemouth. This morning the media coverage is poor. Danny Alexander is our next door constituency and he is keeping well out of the debate.The local Moray Firth Radio had 3 hours of coverage Mr Alexander has been on TV this morning and yesterday, answering questions on a variety of OTHER matters. Just heard him comment on giving people the opportunity to have their say. I wrote to him recently with my concerns about too severe cuts in services and still awaiting his reply.

  • Anonymous

    Your biggest recurring mistake is to think and speak too well of the Liberal Democrat MP’s. There’s no evidence at all that Clegg and Alexander are being forced to be hard-hearted against their will. These people are Yellow Tories. The sooner everyone understands that the better.

  • Teresa

    I agree with you so much, with the lack of jobs and some of the reforms the Coalition are bringing to welfare, so many peoples living standards are going to get worse, at a time when people need more help it seems they are going to get less, as if somehow it’s peoples fault there is no work. They were born in to wealth, so I’m sure they wouldn’t know what it’s like to struggle financially, and Robert the story of your relatives made me cry too.

  • Simonb

    And if the Libs had gone into coalition with Labour ? No complaints from anyone in that instance, I suppose ?

  • Jose

    What exactly is wrong with having to do some sort of community work in return for the State giving you benefits? Ok, it will probably not lead to a fulltime job but it won’t do any harm to get particularly the workshy to do some work for a change. Not every unemployed person is workshy but then again why shouldn’t they earn their benefits?

  • Pam

    I read the article yesterday about you bullying Adam Boulton.

    You kept sending horrible threatening e-mails to Sky news re having him apologise or sacked or you would sue.

    Don’t bad mouth the Lib/dems. You and your cohorts are bullies of the worst kind.

  • Richard

    You all want to “appease” the deficit and it’s causes, not confront it. In the pocket of the Unions (again), with Moribund in command chanting “The Red Flag” you dare not speak a word against those who are long term unemployed, workshy or who do not want to work, eg The Jeremy Kyle Show guests. Often a vicious circle of drugs, no work, multiple breeding and hopelessness.
    You failed completely to address the problem when in power: now it is a matter of necessity. The country is broke. You appease, others confront and have to solve the problems. Geddit?

    The made up, supposed confrontations you envisage in the blog are your wishes because you (and your Deputy Red Leader) are now resorting only to personal abuse as you have no valid policies.

    Off to the Dessert with you, for that is where you are headed. The reduction in the £200 billion social security budget is a priority for 70% of us. Your supporters representing those who want the bill to be even higher.

  • alienfromzog

    The economic forces that are not even understood by most people cause the unemployment levels to go up.
    Yet somehow it’s the fault of the unemployed.

    Government policies will further increase unemployment.
    Yet somehow it’s the fault of the unemployed.

    You’ve got to love those Tories… coz remember, we’re all in it together…

    It’s a sick joke really.


  • alienfromzog

    I don’t think Alastair really needs me to speak for him but two points.

    1. Said article was in the Daily Mail and thus deserves very little credence.
    2. If you watch the interview (it’s a big hit on youtube) you see Adam really loose it. Even if you could argue that AC was wrong in what he said (a view I do not hold btw), Boulton is alledgedly an unbiased political commentator and so was unbelievably unprofessional in his response.

  • ‘What utter bilge, and whatever came out of his mouth, there was nothing in his heart that agreed with it.’

    This is the bit I don’t get: I think they really *do* agree with it. And that’s much harder to make sense of. Have they genuinely been converted by the Tories’ dark arts? Were they putting on a show when they were campaigning against such things for all those years?

    I’d be interested to know what you’d advise if you were Director of Comms for Clegg. 9% in the polls the other day . . . Unbelievable how badly the Coalition’s backfired on them!

  • There’s a Labour election slogan in there somewhere:

    RED ED (not a Tory)’

  • Sarah-dodds

    Not from me. Because I would still have my job. I’m a teacher. Soon to be ex-teacher.

  • Teresa

    But Jose if there’s work to be done in the community don’t you think that people should be given a decent living wage to do the work and pay tax, instead of working for 62 quid a week,so much lower than the minimum wage.

  • Quinney

    It’s scandalous to throw £4 billion of Nimrods in the skip and then use this as an excuse to close the bases in Scotland. As usual this is all about casting the North adrift whilst the South East is looked after.
    The new Nimrod MRA4 (to bea based at Kinloss) is a fantastic aircraft, it performs above and beyond what the RAF expected, we now have a gaping hole in our anti submarine capability thanks to the tories. We also now don’t have a rapid response to a maritime disaster like a ship sinking in the Atlantic or god forbid another Piper Alpha.

  • Off to the Dessert indeed you should go. To a big, creamy flan, or perhaps a sponge pudding.

    Thanks for this insight.

  • s chapman

    diddums….get on your bike and look for another one – its what we have all had to do luv