A letter to Nick Clegg from an ex Liberal Democrat

Dear Nick Clegg

Yesterday I tweeted to see if anyone following #LDConf could
tell me what the party stood for. It was a serious question, but so far no

I've voted Lib Dem for many years. My leanings are to the
left but Labour’s perpetual internal wrangling was off-putting and the Iraq War an
appalling mistake. I liked a lot of the LD policies and a few years ago joined
the party. I’ve always had enormous respect for Evan Harris, who was my local
MP until he was ousted at the last election.

I was initially sympathetic to the idea of working in
Coalition and anticipated that the Lib Dems would act as a moderating force on
the excesses of the Tories. In the early months, we saw precious little of
that. I started to worry when tuition fees came and went with little sign of
any Lib Dem protest. Changes to disability benefits were the next thing. I’d
hoped Vince Cable would be able to tackle regulation of the banks and he’s shown willing but appears ultimately toothless.
While all this was going on, I found myself wondering whether there would come
a point when the Lib Dems might say “No, enough”, and would pull out of the
Coalition and force an election. I thought that maybe they’d be holding
themselves back so that they could be really effective when something major
cropped up. Something that, if not tackled, would be disastrous for Britain.
Something that would be difficult to reverse once change had been made.
Something like destruction of the NHS.

Well, it didn’t happen. I resigned from the party some
months ago when it was clear how things were going, but I retained a vestige of
hope that Lib Dems would, at the eleventh hour, find the bhanges too hard to
swallow. I was encouraged by Evan Harris coming out strongly to say the things
that needed saying. But no.

But if you didn’t resist on the basis of conscience and
principle, I had thought you might have the sense to resist on more pragmatic
grounds. Yesterday, a
showed that 8% of the population would vote Lib Dem. I predict that will
fall further after this weekend. Think ahead to the next election. If you were
the party who stood up to the Conservatives and prevented them from wrecking
the NHS, you’d gain a lot of kudos with your traditional supporters. But
instead, you are the party who helped the Conservatives push through
marketisation of the NHS. Well, there are many voters who may want marketisation,
but they’re not going to vote for you at the next election, they’re going to
vote Conservative. Your traditional voters didn’t want any of that, and will
abandon you, as many, like me, already have. Baroness Williams argued that the
Lib Dems have watered down the bill to make it more palatable. I’m sorry,
people just aren’t going to vote for a party whose only role seems to be to
help the Conservatives achieve their aims while not really believing in those
aims. If you can’t see that, you’re not fit to be party leader.