It's time for the Lib Dems to shout a lot more

Clegg is right to say that our priorities are not the Conservatives'.

I suspect George Eaton was right when he described the tax transparency proposals outlined in the Budget as a political masterstroke. But credit where it's due - and that credit isn't the Chancellor's. Nor, funnily enough, is it all the good work of Tory MP Ben Gummer, who Osborne credited in his Budget speech. For this policy was part of the 1997 General Election manifesto - of the Lib Dems. So excuse me while I reclaim it for our good selves.

Why am I bothering? Because from now on, we're going to be a lot more territorial about policy.

As I blogged earlier this week, something of a Rubicon has been crossed in the last few days. Who can guess what the last straw was (though I'd lay odds it's the ongoing grassroots fury over the Health Bill). But anyway, Nick inserted an important line in his letter to members, post Budget. It said:

Of course, this is a Coalition Budget and we did not get our own way on everything. Conservative priorities are not ours.

And talking to people in the centre, going forward it seems that finally, finally, finally we're going to start telling people which policies are Lib Dem policies - and just as importantly, which are Conservative ones. Taking two million people out of income tax - the Lib Dems. Cutting the 50p rate - Tories.

The grassroots have been doing it on their own for some time - this infographic, now updated post-Budget, of Lib Dem wins in government is proving a popular crib sheet for Lib Dem activists all over the country.

And now it looks like the party in government are doing the same thing.

Restoring the link between pensions and earnings? Lib Dem policy. The biggest rise in the weekly state pension in a generation? Lib Dem win. Freezing of Age Allowance - all your own work, George.

I've been here before. And been wrong. We've hinted at this approach - and then screwed it up royally. Telling people that '"It is not a Liberal Democrat health bill but it is a better bill because of the Liberal Democrats" is a sound bite in which the words that stick are "Liberal Democrat Health Bill". With that and tuition fees we've got a lot of rowing back to do.

But this time, talking to people at the heart of government, they really seem to mean it. We're drawing a line in the sand, marking our own policies, and letting the electorate decide whether we're right or wrong.

Let's see if we pull it off.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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Watch Ian Paisley Jr thank Martin McGuinness for partnership that "saved lives"

The son of Ian Paisley said he "humbly" thanked the man who was both his father's enemy, and then friend. 

Northern Irish politics started 2017 at a low point. The First Minister, the Democratic Unionist Arlene Foster, is embroiled in scandal - so much so that her deputy, Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness, resigned. Then McGuinness confirmed speculation that he was suffering from a serious illness, and would be resigning from frontline politics altogether. 

But as Ian Paisley Jr, the son of the Democratic Unionist founder Ian Paisley and a DUP politician himself, made clear, it is still possible to rise above the fray.

Paisley Sr, a firebrand Protestant preacher, opposed the Good Friday Agreement, but subsequently worked in partnership with his old nemesis, McGuinness, who himself was a former member of the IRA. Amazingly, they got on so well they were nicknamed "The Chuckle Brothers". When Paisley Sr died, McGuinness wrote that he had "lost a friend".

Speaking after McGuinness announced his retirement, Paisley Jr wished him good health, and then continued: 

"The second thing I'm going to say is thank you. I think it's important that we actually do reflect on the fact we would not be where we are in Northern Ireland in terms of having stability, peace and the opportunity to rebuild our country, if it hadn't been for the work he did put in, especially with my father at the beginning of this long journey.

"And I'm going to acknowledge the fact perhaps if we got back to some of that foundation work of building a proper relationship and recognising what partnership actually means, then we can get out of the mess we're currently in."

Questioned on whether other unionists "dont really get it", Paisley Jr retorted that it was time to move on: "Can we please get over that. Everyone out there has got over it. We as the political leaders have to demonstrate by our actions, by our words, and by our talk that we're over that."

He said he was thanking McGuinness "humbly" in recognition of "the remarkable journey" he had been on. The partnership government had "not only saved lives, but has made lives of countless people in Northern Ireland better", he said. 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.