Today, I was amongst a number of Liberal Democrat party members who attended by virtue of the internet what was dubbed a #Clegginar. In fact so many were tweeting about it that it became the second highest trend in the UK for the duration of the session. I will be posting in another post about my views but here is a summary of the questions and answers at the Clegginar and some related links to other areas of the liberal blogosphere:
- Lib Dems ought not to be seen as transactional with regards to policy getting into the Queens Speech – we should be pursuing policy because it needs pursuing and for that reason first and foremost; Nick agreed but pointed out that it was necessary for some negotiation and transactional attitude to it as the priorities of the two parties are not the same
- Reform of Housing absent from the Queens Speech when it is a growing problem – Nick; just because it isn’t in the Queens Speech doesn’t mean we aren’t concerned about it and going to look into it
- Question about how shared leave would operate in practice – Nick said that they were ‘not reinventing the wheel’ and there was already parental leave but the coalition is just making it more flexible for parents to share between them
- Can there be a recognition in the Queens Speech in future of regional differences – eg, the Education and Legal system in Scotland is different from that in England and Wales – Nick said the Queens Speech was primarily about setting out the legislation for the parliament; those aspects would be addressed in the legislation and during the session of parliament
- How to deal with anti-Lib Dem media image – Nick said we need to be patient, grown-up and argue ‘our side of the corner’
- Can we have more spiciness and flamboyance from the party?
- Nicola – Why don’t we go out write history and get the papers to write about it? – Nick didn’t really understand the question… see link for Nicola’s analysis of the answer
- Stuck at 10% in polls – will we get back to 20% – Nick said media always use lowest figures – the important one was local elections were we were on 16%
- There was also a question of re-engaging at a local level – Nick highlighted key areas where the Lib Dems are making a difference: raising point at which people pay tax – effectively a tax cut; triple lock guarantee on pensions; apprenticeships; youth contract…
- Harry Matthews – Asked whether Lib Dems vetoed any Conservative proposals for the Queens Speech – Nick dodged the question – saying that there were lots of things both parties suggested which didn’t make it in… However, some have argued that the Queens Speech held a disproportionately liberal agenda…
- What are we going to do about the poor communication of age related measures such as pension reform when everyone knows that life expectancy is increasing – Nick said these are controversial issues and they are quite complex too so difficult
- How to be a Spad – Nick says apply!
- Question about Councillors and local elections – Nick made a point of saying how upsetting it was to him for so many colleagues and strong party members lose their seats due to no fault of their own
- Nick said his favourite measure in the Queens Speech was the shared parental leave measure
- Question about snooping laws – Nick says they are necessary to help police etc – long complicated explanation
- Was it a mistake to sel the coalition as being that of cuts and austerity when in fact borrowing and public expenditure is higher than previous government – Nick said it was important to make it clear to the electorate but yes he agrees that the cuts aren’t nearly as savage as Labour and the media would have us believe
- Stephen Tall – Question on continuing focus on Education and the pupil premium – change won’t just occur overnight – Nick agreed, emphasised how this area was particularly important for him, Stephen’s Analysis of Answer
- Time LDs are more vocal about disagreements in government with Tories? – Nick said we already are and not sure how we can go any further; clear disagreements on NHS, AV, EU, etc and plenty more
- How far can the Tories be trusted to help with ensuring a green agenda – Nick said look at the policies of the government: – green investment bank, energy efficiency, insulation
- Comments about Labour party trying to smear Liberal Democrats – Nick said they were liars…
[At this point I stopped note-taking however I believe we were near the end of the webinar by this point]
- Right at the end, Nick was asked one of my questions which I had asked on behalf of a twitter friend @RebelRevell – Many party members have asked why the webinar is held in the day when many of them are at work, school, University etc… – Nick /Helen answered this – they have held some before with other ministers and plan to hold more in future at a range of different times – this one was at 1.30pm as there was a slot in Nick’s diary for it to fit into.
I also asked a number of other questions which weren’t asked/answered:
Q: What in the Queens Speech can we point to in our discussions with others that this Queens Speech shows the government staying in touch with people’s core concern… I’m happy with stuff like HoL being there but where were the key policies for economic growth?
Q: Would also like to know what the party intends to do about instances of members leaving the party – How can we re-engage them with the party?
Q: What’s next with getting Students on side? We need to tackle this to avoid this stagnant image that the Lib Dems aren’t on the side of students…?
Hopefully that gives an idea of what occurred to those unable to make it! – Disclaimer – I have tried to represent it as fairly as possible based on notes I made during the webinar, let me know of any inaccuracies and I will try and correct them