Friday, 10 December 2010

Motion of No-Confidence in Nick Clegg

Following the result in the House of Commons today, where the increases in tuition fees were passed with a majority of 21 votes, I, as a Lib Dem feel betrayed. I accept that the proposals are marginally better than the current system and that compromise is necessary in a coalition. Indeed, I continue, in general, to actively support the coalition. But our MPs signed pledges that they would vote against any increase in fees - this wasn't a negotiable manifesto promise but a cast iron guarantee to the electorate. I campaigned on this basis and believed our MPs would keep their word. You can see what Nick Clegg said on the matter here.

As a result of this betrayal, I will be submitting the following motion to the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference (anyone interested in sponsoring it can contact me here):

Business Motion of No Confidence in Nick Clegg MP as Federal Party Leader

Conference notes the assessment by the Guardian Datablog that 64% of the party’s manifesto for the 2010 General Election is present in the Coalition Agreement. Conference also notes:
a)      The findings of the Browne Review, that under it tuition fees stand to rise substantially and the report’s role as the basis of the proposals submitted to a Commons vote on the 9th of December.
b)       That in this vote 27 of the party’s 57 MPs broke their pre-election pledge not to vote in favour of an increase in tuition fees.
c)       That the parliamentary party leader, Nick Clegg MP was one of those MPs who broke their pledge.

Conference further notes the constitutional inability of Conference to recall the Federal Party Leader under the Federal Party Constitution.

Conference applauds the presence of 64% of our manifesto in the Coalition Agreement and of the efforts of our MPs and Peers in further advancing Liberal Democrat policy and values in government.

Conference believes that the breaking of the tuition fees pledge runs contrary to the wishes and values of the majority of the party and those who supported us.

Conference further believes that the breaking of the tuition fees pledge discredits and damages trust in the party and its principles.

Conference also believes that the party leader has betrayed the party’s core values on several key issues and that this does no credit to the party as a whole.

Conference therefore:
1.       Expresses its dissatisfaction with the actions of the Liberal Democrat MPs who broke their pledge.
2.       Supports those MPs who kept their pledge.
3.       Criticises the party leader for not doing more to support and publicise Liberal Democrat values and achievements in government.
4.       Expresses its belief that the continuation of Nick Clegg as party leader is damaging to the party’s credibility and electoral prospects.
5.       Calls upon Nick Clegg to resign as party leader.
6.       States that it has no confidence in Nick Clegg as party leader.
I hope this will go some way to showing the general public that not all Lib Dems are lying bastards like our leader.

The important thing to remember is that leaving the party, for social liberals like myself, would solve nothing. We are the party. What the leadership is doing is not representative of the Liberal Democrats or are policies - in my eyes Clegg and co have left the party, ideologically speaking. Now we must work to make that a reality. We are fortunate that, unlike the two other major parties, we are a democratic party and independent minded so those who have double crossed our members should expect to pay for it and this motion should be a taster to them of things to come.

23 comments:

  1. Whilst I agree that leaving the party would solve nothing, this motion is frankly as ridiculous as the idea that Nick is a "lying bastard". Lying about what exactly? Unless you haven't noticed, the reason fees are going up is because that's what both Labour and the Tories support. F*ckwit.

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  2. Whislt I appreciate the ad hominem attack, I should point out that Clegg promised to vote against any increase in fees. As he broke that promise it makes him a liar.

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  3. I sympathise but I think there are two more constructive moves you could take:

    1. A motion to change the Federal Constitution. Normally there has to be a leadership election within a year of each general election, but this doesn't happen if the leader is a government minister. The motion could propose removal of this clause from the constitution, thus forcing a leadership election.

    2. A leadership election can also be forced if 75 local parties or organisations (eg Liberal Youth?) vote in quorate general meeting to requisition a leadership election. Once a few parties have voted for this, there will in effect be a bandwagon effect and the leader will probably have to resign.

    The advantage of a leadership election is that it picks up those who feel betrayed, but also those who still support the leader but feel he needs to reconnect with the membership in order to retain their support, and in effect earn their forgiveness.

    Either we will get another leader, or at least he will have to say sorry and submit to greater party discipline.

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  4. Hmmm... Let's see a leader of a party gets 64% of his manifesto included in a programme for government despite having fewer than a fifth of the seats of his coalition partner, and you have no confidence in him? What are these several unspecified 'key issues' that Clegg has betrayed? Why is Clegg is exempt from the applause that other MPs and Peers get for advancing Liberal Democrat values? What more do you want the leader to do to promote Lib Dem values? And on what grounds would anyone else do better (some of us remember changing Kennedy for Campbell)?

    This motion is so full of holes it's laughable.

    And what's even funnier is your lack of self awareness of highlighting the ad hominem attack on you when you have called the party leader a 'bastard'. Bringing the party into disrepute anyone?

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  5. Your blog has an excellent design. I don't think you are helping your cause by calling the party leader a "lying bastard". Nick Clegg is a thoughtful liberal. The reasons for this government proposal are understandable. There is a difference of opinion. We should be respectful of those in the party with whom we diasgree.

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  6. The issue as I see it isn't with a lack of respect for differing opinions, it is a cold, hard fact that a direct pledge was made by many of our MPs who then broke it and along with it the trust in our party that we've been so confidently selling to voters.

    I also support the coalition and have remained supportive through every compromise thus far (albeit while wishing we could distinguish ourselves better from our coalition partners). I want the coalition to succeed, both for the country and to further the cause for electoral reform so that people see coalitions as good things.

    The main reason I am a Liberal Democrat is to see real, measurable improvements to politics (such as electoral reform) and it is the same reason why I find things like broken promises to the electorate unacceptable.

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  7. you might want to mention some more quantative facts
    1. he lost us seats as the GE
    2. Has sent got us very low polling numbers
    3. Is more popular with tory voters than LD.

    whilst I dont support Cleggs leadership i think it is to early to get rid, replacement leader would be to tarnished by time of GE best leave Clegg to take bullets.

    A motion that would get much better support would be something along the lines of protesting this "full ownership" in for a penny in for a pound stuff. And ruling out a electoral pact of any sorts at the next GE.

    in terms of Constitution would be up for a elected or at least part elected negotiating team.

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  8. I don't think this motion would be constitionally binding anyway, whether it passed or not. What it would do however, is send a clear message to the public that we're still a democratic party, and would distance the party from some of the taint that this whole spectacle has brought.

    I agree that to get rid of him too soon would be a liability.

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  9. constituitionally* sorry

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  10. Natasha is spot on.

    Anonymous 2: I'm aware of the requisition but I don't intend to attempt that until 2015. I agree that getting rid of Clegg now would be premature. I don't expect this motion to pass and that's not the purpose of it. The point of it is to send a message. Actually ditching Clegg needs to wait.

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  11. I don't agree, if we ditch him now we still have time to repair before the next general election.

    It's really a choice of whether you want Lib Dem representation in the next parliament or not - if we keep him we don't have a chance of getting more than a handful of MP's elected.

    He is toxic and by association so are we, nothing will change this apart from a new leader.

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  12. More ad hominem: f*ckwit, you should look up the meaning of the word "lie". Breaking a promise isn't lying. Indeed, it's not a lie unless the pledge was made with no intention to follow through. This is a u-turn.
    Calling our leadership a "lying bastard" (ad hominem) just helps out the narrative Labour are pushing. Seconding Paul Walter's comment.

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  13. The decisions about student fees were made by Cable, NOT by Clegg; his defence of his decisions in last Thursday’s debate is at http://www.twickenhamlibdems.co.uk/news/003158/cable_on_higher_education_fees.html from which comes:

    ‘ . . There were various options for cutting the university budget [by the 25 % required]. We could have reduced radically the number of university students by 200,000, but all the evidence suggests, as the previous Government used to argue, that increasing university participation is the best avenue to social mobility. We therefore rejected that option and did not cut large numbers of university students.

    We could have made a decision radically to reduce student maintenance, which would have been easier, less visible and less provocative in the short run. We could have done that, but the effect of that would have been to reduce the support that low-income students receive when they are at university now. We rejected that option.

    We could have taken what I would call the Scottish option. We could have cut funding to universities without giving them the means to raise additional income through a graduate contribution. The certain consequence of that would have been that in five to 10 years, the great English universities-Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and the rest-would still be great, world-class universities, whereas universities such as Glasgow, which I used to teach at, and Edinburgh would be in a state of decline. We rejected-and rejected consciously-all those unacceptable option

    . . The only practical alternative was to retrieve income for universities from high-earning graduates once they have left. That is the policy that we are pursuing, and today, 50 university vice-chancellors have come forward and endorsed this approach to the strengthening of university funding in the long term . . Of course increasing the graduate contribution is bound to have an effect-it is an additional cost-to graduates. I therefore want to summarise the steps we are taking to make sure that this happens in a fair and equitable way.

    First of all, no full-time students will pay upfront tuition fees and part-time students doing their first degree will for the first time-unlike under the last Government-have the opportunity to obtain concessional finance under the student loan scheme arrangements.

    Yesterday, after discussing the issue with the Open university and others, I made a further announcement that we will increase the range of that access from students spending a third of their time in education, as originally proposed, to those spending a quarter of their time in it. That will widen enormously the number of part-time students who will have access to supporting finance in order to pursue their education.

    Thirdly, we will introduce a threshold for graduate repayment of a £21,000 salary-a significantly higher level than before-and it will be uprated annually in line with earnings.

    . . As well as the measures we have taken to improve access for low-income families, as opposed to the separate problem of low-income graduates, we have made it clear that additional grant provision will be made, as I said in response to an earlier intervention. In addition, universities wishing to move to a higher threshold will have demanding tests applied to their offer requirements in respect of access.

    It is worth recalling the situation that we have inherited. There are a lot of crocodile tears from Labour Members, so let me remind them that social mobility, judged by the number of people from disadvantaged backgrounds getting into Russell group universities, has deteriorated over the last decade. There are currently 80,000 free school meal pupils, of whom only 40 made it to Oxbridge -40 out of 80,000. That is fewer than from some of the leading independent schools. That is a shameful inheritance from people who claim to be concerned about disadvantaged backgrounds-and we intend to rectify it.’

    GP: what would you have done different?

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  14. Why does the student tuition fees issue matter so much? All LD MPs made a personal pledge to the electorate. Many of the party's supporters believed those pledges were intended to be honoured. If there is one thing that defines why people support this party rather than another it is because of our values of fairness, trust, anti-authoritarianism and decency - and they should apply just as much to politics as to our policies. Not honouring those personal pledges has shocked so many of us - words like 'betrayal' and vilification of individuals are indicative of the depth of anger felt. Why? Because in one simple act, all the good that has been done - yes the 64% of the manifesto etc etc - has been swept aside by an extraordinary and serious error of judgement. Serious because it is having a profound affect upon our support; extraordinary because it has vapourised the one simple thing that defined us: hope. Hope that one party would be different from the others. Hope that one party actually stood for something beyond maintaining itself in power. Hope for Britain, not politicians. And in that one simple act of voting, all that has gone before has been turned to dust.

    So we must now work out how this situation can be put right. There will, inevitably be a blame game. And rightly so. How can any party leader lose roughly 50% of the part's support over a single issue and not have his judgement questioned. I for one appluad Nick and the other Ministers for many of the things they have done. But as the German saying goes, 'a fish stinks from its head'. And with such a misjudgement, Nick should do the honourable thing and resign as Leader of the Party. Although this would be no more than a gesture it would indicate to our supporters that the leadership recognises the gravity of the situation that they have brought the LD movement into and the damage that their 'leadership' has caused. We cannot afford for all the YES voters to resign (although morally they ought to) and therefore the leader should take responsibility for this fatal error. Nick, this is the true test of whether you are a good leader who has made a very bad error or a poor leader!

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  15. Robert Orr, that brilliantly sums up the entire reason why I am putting this motion forward. Would you be interested in taking a more active role in helping us get this motion through conference?

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  16. I have just left the party in protest as what I (and I would point out, most other people in the country) see as lying to the electorate.

    There are also several other verbs in the dictionary which could be used, if you wish to argue the semantics pointlessly; fabricate for instance.

    Unfortunately, although the word 'rationalise' can be used to describe Nick Clegg's excuse about why he didn't keep his pledge, it is the incorrect verb to use for the falsehood which he initially made.

    Betrayal, disloyalty, and dishonesty are all appropriate descriptions, if one were to ignore the most obvious, and appropriate verb: lie.

    If you were to say to your wife, and write it down on a piece of paper with a signature (calling it a marriage vow) "I promise to be faithful to you". Then subsequently, you cheated on her, you would have been dishonest, and would therefore have lied in your initial pledge. It doesn't matter how attractive the woman was which you cheated with, or how bad your sex life had become with your wife, it would still be dishonesty, and therefore, a lie.

    Similarly, if you wrote down on a piece of paper, and signed it "I promise to vote against any rise in tuition fees in the next parliament" and then voted FOR a rise in fees, you have been dishonest, and have therefore lied.

    There were no get out clauses, there was no asterisk saying (*unless we decide to form a coalition government and so on...etc). You can't argue a pointless argument with it - just admit it was in fact a lie, and move on.

    What makes it worse is that it was a lie to a particular group of people, specifically to win their votes. Once their votes were taken, they cannot be withdrawn (unlike, say a marriage in which you can always divorce your partner should things become bad). Unfortunately, lying to the electorate is not considered a breach of contract, unlike in almost any other field of work.

    If I were to start a job, saying, and signing up to saying I would perform a particular action, and then did not perform the action, I could be perfectly legally, sacked for my failure to perform my duties.

    The public finances were open to Nick and Vince before the election, and nothing has changed since then, other than their opinion.

    I'd like to change my mind about paying back my credit card, but unfortunately, once I've signed the agreement, I am bound to it, even if I lose my job, or get sick.

    So stop pretending he has not lied - he meets everyone's, (except a Lib Dem politician's) definition of lying. He said he would do something, without any caveats, and he did the opposite. This is what is known as a lie. And I quote:

    "used with reference to a situation involving deception or founded on a mistaken impression "

    The mistaken impression, by voters, was that he would vote against any rise in tuition fees, and his action was to vote in favour of such fees. Therefore, he is, unequivocally, certainly, completely, and extremely plainly, a liar.

    Let's stop arguing about that, from now on, shall we?

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  17. @Chris Gilbert - I'm afraid you (and George Potter) are just wrong here: to lie is to make a statement that you know to be false, while representing that you believe it to be true. A lie, to give the most relevant part of the OED definition, is "a false statement made with intent to deceive". You really can't claim as uncontroversial fact that Clegg, or any of the others, never intended to keep their promise, which is the only way it could be categorised as lying.
    The fault of which they stand accused is not what they did six months ago (supposedly but unprovably lying when they made their pledge) but what they did last week: breaking their promise to the voters. Frankly it's irrelevant whether they meant it or not at the time they made their pledge - they should have considered themselves bound by it (as 21 of their fellows did) and voted in the way they promised to do.

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  18. @Malcolm

    There was nothing that physically prevented him from voting against - would you agree? Whether he thought it was the right thing to do or not is a matter of him changing his mind, not whether it was actually possible for him to vote against. I, and many others, think that his promise to the electorate was more important, and will always be more important than anything else. It is indeed, the essence of democracy, that you should know what you are voting for.

    He did not like the tuition fees policy long ago, and this has always been evident for the party. It's not as if he suddenly decided he disliked the policy.

    I cannot prove what he intended, or what he didn't. No one can. The only person that can tell if someone is truly lying, is themselves (you can always claim not to know something you actually knew, regardless of the circumstances, or claim to have honestly believed something, even when you didn't). You can even lie to yourself again, and convince yourself that you weren't lying, when in reality, you were.

    It's interesting that you trust him implicitly when he says 'I intended to follow through on it at the time I made the pledge.' Why in particular do you trust his word?

    I, and many other people, just believe this to be another lie, based on his past history. So he has either lied twice, or he hasn't lied at all. I'm pretty sure most people see it as the former.

    In any case, there are several definitions of lie, all which seek to deceive as you rightly point out.

    And he did seek to deceive - I don't believe, and I don't think many people now believe, judging by his enthusiasm for the new policy, and his past history, that he ever intended to vote against rises in the first place. He can say that all he likes, but it isn't going to convince a single student who voted for him because of the pledge.

    Since he hasn't "lied" and so on, perhaps he would be happy to hold a by-election in his constituency, since if his statement did not deceive anyone, I'm sure they'd be happy to vote for him again.

    Never underestimate the power of denial, I guess is the useful phrase for Nick here.

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  19. http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/5003

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  20. I totally agree with the motion although I would remove the bastard bit - I like it but it may wind some people up. We have 64% of our manifesto in - hummmm. Are you counting things like the pupil preminum in this ? The PP which is now being proposed is nothing at all to do with what we sold to the public. Also what about all of the stuff outside of the coalition agreement. Surely if it isn't in the coalition agreement we should be be fighting for what is in our manifesto. At the moment Nick is supporting most things tory and this is counter to what is good for our party and the country as a whole. Nick has sold us down the river. He isn't showing any liberalness at all but in reality has shown he is a Tory infiltrator.
    I agree that Nick is a lying bastard by the way but as I said I think you should remove this.
    I do like the notion of changing the federal rules so that Nick needs to be voted in again - this will give us the chance to remove him

    I disagree with the notion that leaving is not an option. I refuse to pay money to support Nicks agenda. If I wanted to support Tory policy I would join the con party .There are other options which run a liberal agenda such as the Greens and the Liberal Party. The green's policy is far more liberal than ours. If Nick manages to stay in power and continues to trash our party the Greens may well be more electable than the right of centre Tory patsy party which Nick has made us into.

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  21. As far as I can see above the writer hasn't included the swear word in the actual motion, this is a comment at the end.
    I totally support the motion.
    I am opposed to the neoliberal far-right consensus in westminster which is selling primary schools off to companies to run at profit and turning our meritocratic systems into a global industry serving lucrative overseas interests. I am opposed to the ongoing starving of capital in the UK economy, with lending crippled and Zero inward investment into enterprise and innovation, compared with sterling work in this area in the devolved regions.
    The LibDems were offered a pact with the real progressive devolved parties and instead sided with the Lab-Con neoliberal wreckers.
    20 odd years of progess as a new progressive party is going to be lost unless something can be done about Clegg and his neolib pals on the cabinet.

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  22. @Anonymous on the 5th of Jan

    Please see here as to why I think a coalition with Labour wouldn't have worked:

    http://thepotterblogger.blogspot.com/2010/12/what-ifs-and-coalition.html

    Overall I think the coalition was the best deal on offer but Clegg has made an utter mess of handling it. The most serious failing of his was not making fees a red line issue in the negotiations.

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I'm indebted to Birkdale Focus for the following choice of words:

I am happy to address most contributions, even the drunken ones if they are coherent, but I am not going to engage with negative sniping from those who do not have the guts to add their names or a consistent on-line identity to their comments. Such postings will not be published.

Anonymous comments with a constructive contribution to make to the discussion, even if it is critical will continue to be posted. Libellous comments or remarks I think may be libellous will not be published.

I will also not tolerate personation so please do not add comments in the name of real people unless you are that person. If you do not like these rules then start your own blog.

Oh, and if you persist in repeating yourself despite the fact I have addressed your point I may get bored and reject your comment.

The views expressed in comments are those of the poster, not me.