Thursday, April 26, 2007

It's about more than just management

It's things like Sajjad Karim's fight for human rights which remind me that party politics is about principle, and why I am in the right party.

Then news arrives from England of Sir Menzies Campbell's address to party workers in the build-up to the local elections there. He said:

"What we need is the dominance of principle over fashion.

"We've got two parties - two conservative parties - who agreed about
Iraq, agree about civil nuclear power, agree about the replacement of
Trident."

(One might add: a similar belief that government was only about cost-effectiveness and centralisation in the name of efficiency.)

Sir Menzies said the environment was an example of an issue that had
become "fashionable" with other parties pushing it up the political
agenda, but the Lib Dems had been talking about it "for a long time".

Instead of photo opportunities, he said, "what we need is real, tough
decision-making about how we are going to deal with the problem of
climate change".

He also said the Lib Dems had once been "derided" for championing gay
rights, but had been shown to be right.

We are still derided for supporting victims of oppression abroad, because sometimes it means giving them a home here. Nevertheless, unpopular though it is for the Sun and the Mail, we will persist, because it is part of our philosophy. (Actually, their readers may be more liberal than the journalists give them credit for. There have been several occasions when communities have defended families from Africa or Asia, who have set down roots, against forced deportation by the Home Office.)

Commentators complain that "all parties are the same", because we appear to concentrate on which of us is better at managing the economy, the health service, civil order, education, the environment and the rest. I happen to think that we really would do better in England and Wales* than the other parties, because so many of our members are practical people - working professionals, small business people and middle managers - but that's not really the point.

Our approach stems from the party philosophy, expressed on page one of the constitution, and unchanged since the party was set up.

Our opposition to the invasion of Iraq stems from our belief in the rule of law, internationally as well as locally.

Our support for devolution is based not so much on assuaging pride in a native country or language, noble though these things are, but from the philosophy that government is best when it is closest to the governed.

(That is why I personally regretted siting the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. It does not bring government closer, in practical terms. to north and mid Wales than leaving decision-making in Westminster. Lest people should accuse me of hypocrisy, I should add that I voiced these opinions when I contested the Vale of Glamorgan in the first Assembly elections. They cannot have helped my chances!)

Our support for keeping open and, indeed, enhancing, local post offices stems from a belief in local communities, not just courting local opinion for electoral reasons, then ignoring it when in power.

We believe in open government, even if it means that pressure groups with which we do not totally sympathise may make use of the results.

One could go on. There are others. The point is that because vital promises are rooted in the philosophy of the party, they will be kept if we get into a position of power.

- Frank Little

*We have already shown what we can do in Scotland.
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