7 December 2010

David Davis and his non-role in the tuition fees non-rebellion...

Today's not entirely unexpected news that Lib Dem ministers will all vote in favour of the Browne+ proposals (as they now should be called) means that normal politics is resumed.

The government will win the vote comfortably, a few backbench rebels on all sides will rebel and the debate will move on.

No doubt some mad Tories (and Lib Dems) will blame Tory unguided weapon, David Davis, and his one man campaign to stand up for traditional British values of owning a white van, not paying VAT when doing painting and decorating work and being sniffy about foreigners for concentrating Lib Dem minds. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The Lib Dems now have for many years been far too grown up for their own good. Senior Lib Dems have run major cities and boroughs with multi billion budgets and have understood what makes for successful governance. The one wing of the party that hasn't fully understood this is the parliamentary party - despite their obvious talents and wide experience.

I am now convinced that this sorry saga has taught them a valuable lesson - it's even more important in a hung government to hang together than in opposition, every nuance of disagreement is conflated out of all proportion and realistic and rational liberal debates are seen as earth shattering cleavages that will tear the party assunder.

But the party has been written off wrongly too many times for that to be true. The Lib Dems are an internally democratic and liberal party and how it comes to collective decisions (or not) is always more complex and robust than it is ever given credit for.

The lazy journalistic narrative has been clear - Blair was suppose to destroy the party but it grew stronger, the election of Michael Howard as a grown up Tory leader was supposed to destroy the party, but it grew stronger, the election of David Cameron was bound to see the end of the party, as did the resignation of Kennedy, the knifing of Campbell and the (non) election of Brown (on the ludicrous basis he wasn't Blair) - none of which ever came true (or was likely to).

A significant Lib Dem vote in favour of Browne+ would now signal the parliamentary party has learnt how to deal with honest disagreement in government and show once again the party cannot be written off as a permanent and significant player in UK politics.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the LIberal Democrats are grown up politicians now - they have learned how to lie to the electorate at a national level.