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Lib Dem human shield is helping Cameron- Labour needs to get more focus on the Tories

Posted on 10 December 2010 | 8:12am

So … Prince Charles and Camilla will be rueing going to the theatre in black tie, with the car all lit up. Their security advisors will be going over how it happened and, as ever when it comes to the policing of protests, the police will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

David Cameron will be wondering how a relatively tame environment for his government has suddenly turned so nasty, with so many people – even if it is true that only a minority were hellbent on violence – feeling so passionately opposed that they take to the streets in this way.

And Nick Clegg will be left wondering how he has gone from hero to zero amongst the younger voters of Britain quite so quickly.

One word of warning to him – once an MP rebels for the first time, it becomes easier to do it a second time, and the pressures always to rebel become stronger. Likewise, once people think a protest is only a protest if there is violence attached to it, that risks becoming a habit too, and the new coalition government, so comfortable with itself, comes to see the country is not at ease with ITself.

But for Labour, there are risks too, and one is the extent to which the Lib Dems have become ideological human shields for the Tories. You may remember the other day I asked when was the last time David Cameron, George Osborne, Michael Gove or David Willetts were out there really having to defend their policies? Even today, it is still the Lib Dems who are feeling the greatest heat, and the media seem to find divisions within the minority coalition partner more interesting than the actions of the big boys.

The tuition fees issue has particular potency for the Lib Dems because of the specific pledges they made. But it is helping the Tories that so much of the heat is deflected onto the junior member of the coalition. The Tories have managed the politics of this too well, and when it comes to the cuts, they not the Lib Dems need to feel more of the heat.

Labour have known for a long ime at local level what irritants Lib Dems can be, and many in our ranks will be enjoying the sight of Clegg, Cable, Alexander et al squirming all  over the place, and suddenly finding that government is a lot tougher than opposition.

But we should never lose sight of the fact that this is a Tory government driving a Tory agenda in the hope of recreating a Tory Britain. So the Lib Dem human shield is more useful to the Tories than it is to Labour, and it is the Tory ministers we need to see more of as the public make a judgement on what is going on.

  • Nicky

    You’re right, AC – it’s understandable how the protesters feel so angry about the LibDems’s duplicity, but the real villains of the piece are effectively hiding behind that.

    Lord Sugar made the same shrewd observation yesterday, when he tweeted that ‘Gov won by a few votes today. Uni fees going up to max of £9k. Notice how Cameron is silent and letting Clegg and Cable take all the stick.’

    Michael Portillo admitted on This Week that it looks very bad that as soon as a Tory government gets in, there’s violence on the street.

    Cameron was bleating on a lot about ‘Broken Britain’ before the election – gone quiet on that now, as well. Strange that – it was his lot who broke Britain the last time. And now they’re doing it again.

  • Very true – it can seem at times that the senior tories are defying political gravity.

    However I think there is a huge element of the coalition which appeals to the wider public but that those on the inside of politics miss – that we actually respect the parties working together, having internal policvy disputes and compomising.

    At work the rest of us have to work onprojects we don’t like and with people who’s views we don’t share, we have to pick our battles carefully.

    I think Labour needs to recognise this and work out how it can benefit, supporting the government when it is possible and taking it to task only when it has a clear alternative that it can explain to the people. They need to prove they are ready for the more subtle world of coalition politics

  • NickSmeggHead

    The general public do not realise and Labour has not push hard enough the message that it was Osborne who cut the University teaching grants by 80% and hence hike in university fees.

    One thing David “condom head” Cameron was right about Clegg was that he is a joke and Cameron treats him like one.

  • While I agree that we need to defeat the Tories (and the Lib Dems are doing a fine job of defeating themselves) we can’t make the mistake again of forgetting that we are up against two opponent parties, not one.

    Keeping the focus on the Lib Dems until the May elections will maximise our wins while vastly reducing and demoralising their activist base. It will be at this time when the effect of the cuts start to kick in and once we have neutralised the Lib Dem threat, we can then turn our fire on the Tories at a time when it will be most beneficial to do so.

  • Olli Issakainen

    The ideology of the coalition is based on small-state liberalism. Both the Tories and the market liberal wing of the Lib Dems share this view. So the Lib Dems are not being used as a cover.
    Labour´s alternative to the coalition must be higher taxes (especially for the banks and the rich) and more state involvement in the economy for economic security. After the financial crisis state activism and industrial policy is the only way to avoid even bigger crisis which will come if we continue with “centre ground” neoliberalism.
    Ed Miliband is doing fine. Labour is now more popular than under Tony Blair in 2005. But it is important that Ed will not peak too early as David Cameron did. Only the result on polling day matters!
    Will there be a merger or electoral pact between the Tories and the Lib Dems? Or was yesterday the beginning of the end?

  • Nicky

    Very good article by Ed Balls on this topic:

    Ed also puts the record straight on what actually happened regarding post-election negotiations. (The LibDem version of events is, it seems, very economical with the truth.)

  • Kate

    Only six months of Tory govt and already we see a recreation of those iconic Tory-associated images of British Police vs British Citizens on our streets…truly scary.

  • George Parker183

    Aren’t the Media just doing what they love best: exposing lies and broken promises?

    Nick is more guilty at present and so is getting more attention, although Dave’s not far behind.

    But what I don’t understand is, how do they think they can get away with it?

    And don’t they realize that it’s a red rag to a bull to the Media?

    And what’s wrong with telling the truth?

  • Sarah Dodds

    It was interesting being on FB last night (really, honest) as events unfolded in London. Not one person posting was critical of the Tories, everyone was on Clegg’s back, and it is totally justified. The Liberals have always reminded me of Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy. They were able to promise everything because they did not expect to have to deliver. And maybe that has left liberal voting students feeling like my daughter did when she realised that Santa is a lie (sorry if I have just ruined it for anyone!)

    In contrast, the Tories have always been a team akin to Satan, and everyone just knows what to expect. Hard to critiscise the dark side for being dark. You just don’t expect Santa to join them.

  • alienfromzog

    They think they can get away with it because they think they can convince everyone that it’s Labour’s fault.

    “We don’t want to do this but, there is no alternative because we inherited such a huge economic mess from the previous government…”
    [any member of the ConDem coalition]

    If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard a version of that, I think I could probably pay-off the deficit single handed…


  • Richard

    Does Balls write your blog or you write his, Al? Er um!

  • Richard

    Not a word of condemnation for the violence, Al?

    “Prince Charles and Camilla will be rueing going to the theatre in black tie, with the car all lit up. ” Are you ruing their choice of dress, destination or that further damage was not caused to them or their car?

    No comment necessary: What happened suits the purpose of some anti coalition activists who want power at any price. A few words of scorn would choke them.

  • Dave Simons

    When I was a student in Higher Education I got a grant, and I regarded Higher Education as a right, not a privilege. I was hitching down the M1 in late 1970 when I was offered a lift by the Principal of a Higher Education College in the North of England. He asked me what I thought about proposals to introduce student loans instead of grants. Ted Heath’s government was in office and Margaret Thatcher was Education Minister. I said it seemed unfair for graduates to be starting their working lives burdened by debts, at the optimum point when they might be wanting to set up home and start a family. With that history in mind I cannot possibly support the present and future funding of Higher Education. Yes, there are more students now than then, but that’s because the colleges and some politicians have had a deliberate expansionist policy – and because a lot of intermediate courses like HNC and HND have vanished and there has been a return to high unemployment, on and off, since 1970. I suggest that if politicians like David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Vince Cable seriously support the current proposals for Higher Education they should put their money where their mouth’s are and offer to pay back – in inflation-adjusted values – the grants they received when they went to college.

  • Quinney

    1300 skilled technicians to lose their jobs at BAE announced yesterday due to £4 billion worth of Nimrod being scrapped and the Harriers being sold off. Nothing said.
    We now have no aircraft left to detect submarines, no fast search and rescue aircraft and no major airborne communications platform for our troops. Nothing said.
    According to the unions there is now a very real danger that aircraft manufacture in Britain is nearing the begiining of the end if the last tranche of Typhoon isn’t ordered with the E-Scan radar and the UAV programme is abandoned.

  • Higher education is an entitlement,. not a privilege, I studied Drama and theatre arts at Guildford from 74- 77 and auditioned for the grant at a small office in Oxford for a respected ‘county drama advisor’. This is the right of all kids in a modern age. shame on this recidivist tory government, forget the lib dems, because their 15 minutes of fame has been squandered already by incompetence and hypocrisy as never seen before. Labour must get a coherent argument and defend its record and not ‘Buy into’ this nonsense about deficit reduction being paramount over the lives of the people ‘now’,.for the imagined quality of the lives of people as yet unborn. We need this Labour opposition as never before and very urgently to re-group and remove this inhumane and destructive administration before its alloted span is any where near completion, for the sake of the people.

  • Higher education is an entitlement,. not a privilege, I studied Drama and theatre arts at Guildford from 74- 77 and auditioned for the grant at a small office ib

  • Bar Bar of Oz

    Spoilt. Privileged. Middleclass. Nouveau riche. Acid. Charlie Gilmour. It was ever thus. True Labour would be recommending doubling the fees.

  • Janete

    It is galling to hear the ‘Labour’s mess’ mantra repeated at every possible opportunity, and to start with it had some impact. But I think it’s wearing thin.

    Watching Question Time in recent weeks, I’ve noticed that the audience has started to groan with contempt when this is trotted out as a standard excuse. Osborne’s enthusiasm for loaning money to Ireland blew a large hole in their argument. How on earth could we afford it, if we’re in such dire straits? And why is it right to help bail out a neighbouring economy but Labour was wrong to bail out our own?

    Now would be a good time for the Labour Party to launch an attack on this deception. Especially as they are also using the stock excuse for the tuition fees fiasco, despite the fact that within this parliament, the policy will cost far more than will be collected in fees repayments. As such it will contribute nothing to deficit reduction.

    The biggest problem for Labour is getting our people on TV and radio to refute these arguments at source. The media preference for using their own journalists to (supposedly) challenge government ministers, rather than allowing opposition spokesmen to question them directly, is preventing any real criticism from being heard.

  • Janete

    ‘…power at any price.’

    That is how the LibDems have disgraced themselves and why students are so angry.

  • George Parker183

    Dave and Nick are overlooking the fact that it is the floating voter, like I, who determines the election results.

    I was a working-class Tory NUT rep until Thatcher went anti-working class, and then I turned to Tony.

    We floaters are not stupid. We know a lie when we see it and lies are what puts us off most.

    For Nick and Dave to say that the UK Labour government caused the world financial crisis is not only a lie but a particularly stupid and incompetent one.

    For Nick and Dave to say they have to force students to pay triple university fees because of the financial crisis is also a lie, because, obviously they don’t have to force them to do it, at all.

    Dave has chosen to force them to do it, because he knows that his rich upper class Tory supporters can afford it and that his poor working class Labour opponents supporters can’t.

    I’ve always thought, as a sociology teacher that pupils and students who have to go to school, college and university to train to fill their role in the State’s labour-market, shouldn’t only be supported by the State, but should be paid by the State by their results, to provide them with an incentive to do their best.

    Then the UK might have the best educated students in the world, instead of China.

    I cannot imagine how badly it is going to affect our country’s pool of expertise.

    It is slavery to force people to work for the State for nothing, but the Tories are treating students worse than slaves. They are robbing them into the bargain.

    It’s unbelievable. No wonder they are protesting.

    As a result it would seem to me that the Labour Party is bound to win the next election, by miles.

    I can’t wait to see what happens at the Oldham East by-election !!

    Nick’s Party might wish they’d kept their mouth shut on that one.

  • Been saying this for yonks. Labour has been too indignant, too tribalist. To use your distinction, Alastair, there’s been too much tactics and not enough strategy.

    More seriously: if there’s an election round the corner (which isn’t that crazy a proposition), Labour might need the Lib Dems if they want to get back into government. There’s still no sign in the polls of an overall majority.

  • Bar Bar of Oz

    Doesn’t make sense. Tuition fees are the mechanism by which middle and upper class income graduates are taxed in order to increase lower-income access to universities, firstly by increasing the number of places available to them and secondly by helping pay for subsidies/grants to offset part of the lower incomes fees.

    That is why they were introduced by a LABOR govt in Australia 20 years (!) ago, and why they were introduced by your Labour govt 8 years after we did. Labour should be looking after its constituency on this issue, not the Lib Dem upper middle classes who are the ones demonstrating against what is effectively a re-distribution of taxes in favor of the less well off.

  • Then focus on the mounting evidence against ‘I see no signal’ Andy Coulson