So there was one line in Nick’s speech that raised my hackles a little bit:
We have four years and seven months before the next election. 1690 days.
You might, duckie, but quite a sizeable chunk of the party’s councillors do not. For many elected Liberal Democrat representatives, the goal is next May.
So a chunk of Clegg’s speech was dedicated to the long term. Stick with us. Hold your nerve. By 2015 we will have achieved:
- restored civil liberties
- scrapped ID cards
- got innocent people’s DNA off the police database
- action to cut reoffending, and cut crime
- stopped mass incarceration of children
- withdrawn our combat troops from Afghanistan, our brave servicemen and women having completed the difficult job we asked them to do
- achieved a fair tax system where the rich pay their share, and the lowest earners pay no income tax at all
- raised £10bn from our banking levy
- home after home made warm and affordable to heat by our Green Deal
- a new right to sack MPs who do wrong
- party funding scandals are history.
- elections for the house of Lords
- Alternative Vote election with FPTP abolished
Wow! What a list. I can’t wait for 2015.
This long-term, hold your nerve, stick the distance rhetoric is all very well, but there are vital local elections every year before then, with the largest tranche in a difficult set of clashes. We’ll be up in 2011 battling at the same time as the AV referendum, uncertain of whether to target our council elections or spread our effort more widely so that people hear about the benefits of voting reform. Then any Lib Dem councillors that remain after that onslaught will see elections at the same time as the next General Election. History shows that it’s quite tough for Lib Dems to hold onto their seats and make gains at a council level when we’re also fighting a general election.
There was a paragraph that gave us some crumbs of hope: in the opening part of his speech Clegg was talking about the bits that already been achieved and the timetable for further changes due in the next year:
Just think what we’ve done already. We’ve ended the injustice of the richest paying less tax on investments than the poorest do on their wages. We’ve guaranteed older people a decent increase in their pension. In November, we will publish a Freedom Bill to roll back a generation of illiberal and intrusive legislation. By Christmas, Identity Card laws will be consigned to the history books. From New Year’s Day, the banks will pay a new levy that will help fill the black hole they helped create. On 1 April, 900,000 low earners will stop paying income tax altogether. In May, the people of Britain will get to choose their own voting system. And this time next year, there will be a pupil premium so the children who need the most help, get the most help.
Will it be enough, in a year when Labour have an easy, but false narrative to sell?