Taking policy away from the membership?

Tonight, the Liberal Democrats are sharing their next Party Political Broadcast with the media. The video features Nick Clegg apologising to the British public for breaking the pledge on tuition fees… or does it?

As we’ve heard from the leadership before, the party is adamant that voting for increased tuition fees was not a mistake but that making the pledge in the first place was. This is very contradictory to a lot of Liberal Democrat values and, while I hope the video goes some way to regaining the trust of the British electorate, I’m not sure that the message is going to get a lot of support from party members.

Firstly, the focus is very much on the pledge that all Liberal Democrat PPCs were instructed to sign ahead of the 2010 General Election. Although the pledge was good media for us, it was not a Liberal Democrat campaign. ‘The pledge’ was a campaign run by NUS that we jumped on as a way to broadcast our policy. Nick is saying, quite clearly, that signing the pledge was a mistake but are we also to take from this that he is declaring, as Party Leader, that the policy itself is also an error?

In the video, Clegg says that “we shouldn’t have made a promise we weren’t absolutely sure we could deliver” and he also says that he “shouldn’t have committed to a policy that was so expensive”. It isn’t much of a secret that Nick doesn’t support free tuition fees and this broadcast, along with previous similar statements, shows a huge disregard for the majority of the membership with regards this particular policy.

The Liberal Democrats pride themselves on being the party whose policy is made by its members. How true can that be when a policy that is strongly supported by the membership is disregarded in government and then publically damned by our leader? Forget letting down the voters for just a second (and I do mean ‘just a second’, that is not something to be sniffed at) – what about the members? What about the campaigners and supporters that got the party to where it is today? To keep the policy for free tuition fees after this broadcast would be political suicide! We are now left with two options:

1. Revoke our policy on tuition fees. This won’t be popular with the membership and would probably have to come from ‘on high’, thereby contradicting our value of having policy made by members; or

2. Maintain our existing policy and face further ridicule for a meaningless and disingenuous broadcast.

Those aren’t options that I like very much.

Secondly, the video suggests that the policy was not something that we, as a country, could afford. The DPM then goes on to promise that we won’t make any more policies that we aren’t certain we can uphold. How can he say this when another thing that the party prides itself on is being the only party to have costed policies? We had a 6-step plan for tuition fees. We campaigned on tuition fees by marketing that plan on the doorsteps! If we knew all along that, actually, the plan wasn’t accurate; could we not have changed the policy BEFORE the 2010 campaign? Signs of recession were certainly there before the GE campaign started so there’s no excuse for keeping a policy that we apparently knew was unworkable.

As for the promise that we won’t make new policies that we aren’t certain we can deliver on – how exactly will that work? Policy is made by the members. Are we now to reject any policy debates that don’t make more economic sense than Vince Cable’s 6-step tution fee plan? That is a very big ask and if that’s the case, Brighton Conference is going to be very dull next week when Conference Committee have had to cancel all the debates for lack of workable policy.

It took us two years to ‘hold our hands up’ and finally apologise for what we did in government on tuition fees for promising a policy that the membership had overwhelmingly (and repeatedly) supported. I really think that, as a party, we need to move on from tuition fees and focus on all the good we’ve done in government. I do not support free tuition fees as a policy and I am very pleased with the new system for fees and with everything else that we’ve achieved in government. However, I do believe in democracy and this policy was major enough that we can reasonably assume it played a part in getting some of our seats. I also believe that the best thing about being a Liberal Democrat is the ability to make and vote on all Liberal Democrat policy.

Hopefully this video will help lay to rest the tuition fees fiasco and allow us to move forwards in the eyes of the public. Hopefully this video will fulfil its purpose of regaining some trust from the public and perhaps even some respect from voters who have been waiting for an apology.

I am glad that Nick listened to party members and to the electorate and has stood up to apologise. I do not, however, think that he has apologised for the right thing and I, like many other party members this evening, am disappointed.

Is the Coalition actually coming to an end this time?

It’s something that’s been asked almost daily since this government was formed in 2010 but could we actually be looking at the beginning of the end for the Con-Lib Coalition? Both parties are fully aware that distancing themselves from each other in time for 2015 is in their respective best interests but with nearly three years still to go before the next general election, is now the time to start parting ways?

As a party member, I got an email today from Clegg’s office with the subject header: “The contract is broken”. Following the recent announcement that the Conservatives are going to back-out of their commitment to Lords Reform, the email starts by saying:

Reform of the House of Lords is a key commitment in the Coalition Agreement – the contract that keeps the coalition parties working together in the national interest.

The Liberal Democrats have held to that contract even when it meant voting for things that we found difficult.

The Conservative Party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, for the first time part of our contract has now been broken.

When part of a contract is broken, it is normal and necessary to amend that contract in order to then move on. So that is what we are doing.

I have told the Prime Minister that when Parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election Liberal Democrats in Parliament will oppose them.

Coalition is a two-way street. I cannot permit a situation where Conservative rebels can pick and choose the parts of the contract they like while Liberal Democrats are bound to the entire agreement.”

[Read the rest of the message]

So, is this a genuine stumbling block for The Coalition, or is this the beginning of a carefully-rehearsed split designed to serve the best interests of both parties? I sincerely hope that neither party started down the path of Lords Reform intending to play politics but Clegg’s language certainly seems to imply that he intends to use this dispute to drastically renegotiate the terms of our relationship with the Conservative party.

While I find it quite difficult to believe that this was a genuine shock to senior Liberal Democrats who are now having to react quickly, I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle of the two extremes and that both Clegg and Cameron wanted the bill to succeed but, due to Cameron’s lack of control over his MPs, a tactical decision had to be reached quickly.

Of course this is all speculation but it makes sense that the party leaders found themselves in a difficult position that forced them to come up with new tactics. The Liberal Democrat leadership can now use Lords Reform to distance themselves from the Tories while, at the same time, giving Cameron our lack of support for boundary changes to use as his own distancing tool.

So, what now? Well, assuming that this is the start of a long and public fall-out, there are few options for how either party can advance. There’s far too much time between now and 2015 to see a troubled-partnership act through to the bitter end which means that we could end up with a minority Conservative government some time before 2015.

Labour were as guilty as anybody when it came to ‘playing politics’ with Lords Reform and, following two years of their bitter opposition to all things Liberal Democrat, it would make no sense at all for us to turn to them. That said, all parties will be in big trouble if a GE is called early as Labour still don’t have a full policy book ready and I don’t believe that either the LDs or Tories had prepared for a split quite this early.

With just 4 weeks left of Recess, all three parties are no-doubt planning furiously and the next few months will certainly be interesting to watch.

SNP let us down on Equal Marriage… again!

Yesterday we were hoping to hear the SNP announce their support for Equal Marriage following the consultation.

Instead, they let us down by delaying once again.

Willie Rennie has commented on the issue, saying that SNP are risking their credibility, and I agree!

The definition of marriage has evolved over many years and I think it’s up to each couple to definie it for themselves as no two couples will take the same thing from their union. Some people marry for religious reasons and want to feel that they’re doing right in the eyes of their diety. Some people marry for the ceremony, they may consider themselves already married but want to make a statement of commitment in front of their friends and family. Some couples marry so they can share a name (with eachother and/or with their children). Some people marry for the security it offers in terms of property ownership etc.

Whatever the reason for marriage, it boils down to this: it is the union of two people who love eachother.

That should be ANY two people in love.

There’s no reason to delay a decision on such an important issue of Civil Liberties and Human Rights, especially when it seems that most of Scotland are in favour. I wrote to my own MSPs recently about the issue and most of them (including SNP’s Derek Mackay) got back to me to confirm that they are in favour of equal marriage legislation. So come on, First Minister, it’s up to you to make this happen!

The Independence Debate Explained

Yesterday I posted a blog about ‘The Second Question’ and a lot of people told me that they were very confused by the whole thing. The independence debate is likely to get very interesting very quickly; it will be picking up speed for the next two years and it’ll no doubt continue long-past the referendum. I’ve asked around and there are a lot of people, particularly in England, who are interested in the debate but have no idea how to follow it so here’s a guide to what’s going on. I’m not an expert on this but I’ve tried to be concise, informative and unbiased. I hope it’s helpful to anyone struggling to follow the debate and if you’ve any suggestions for something you’d like me to add then please get in touch!

A Very Brief History: In 1707, The Acts of Union brought Scotland and England together to form the Government of Great Britain at Westminster. Since then there have been arguments for devolution or independence but it wasn’t until 1979 that the Scottish electorate were given a chance to vote on the matter. The referendum resulted in a very narrow victory for the ‘yes’ side but it had previously been decided that the Scottish Parliament would not be established without support from at least 40% of the electorate. The ‘yes’ votes accounted for only 32.9% and, as such, devolution was not introduced to Scotland.

In 1997, Labour came to power and upheld their manifesto promise to hold another referendum. This time the referendum was won by the ‘yes’ side and resulted in the Scotland Act 1998, following which the Scottish Parliament was established at Holyrood in Edinburgh and first met in 1999.

The establishment of the Scottish Parliament was not independence for Scotland, it was a devolution of powers from Westminster to Scotland. This meant that Westminster was still in charge of ‘reserved’ issues for the whole of the UK (constitutional matters, foreign policy, defence, immigration and social security amongst others) while Scotland now had power over devolved issues (health, education, local government and the environment amongst others).

This year, The Scotland Bill passed into law and became The Scotland Act 2012 which transferred even more powers to Scotland but not enough for those who support independence over further devolution. The Scottish National Party (SNP) got enough votes to form a minority government in 2007 but at last year’s election they gained even more support and became the first party to form a majority government since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. The SNP’s main priority has always been independence for Scotland and they now plan to hold a referendum in 2014. This time Scotland will be asked to decide whether or not they want independence from the UK, rather than devolution of powers.

The Referendum: In January of this year, Alex Salmond (leader of the SNP and Scotland’s First Minister) announced that the referendum would take place in autumn of 2014. The Scottish Government ran a public consultation between January and May of this year, the results of which will be used to draft a Referendum Bill which will be debated at Holyrood in 2013 ahead of the 2014 vote. Included in the consultation were questions about the format of the ballot (including the controversial ‘Second Question’) and who should be allowed to vote. Since constitutional matters are reserved to Westminster, the Scottish and Westminster Parliaments will have to agree on the terms of Independence before it happens.

For and Against: I’m quite strongly against Scottish independence so I don’t think I could explain the arguments on each side without being a little bit biased but Liberal Youth’s blog, The Libertine, recently published posts for and against which are worth reading if you’ve yet to make up your mind.

Terms: Below is a list of potentially unfamiliar terms that are frequently used throughout the independence debate. If you know of any others that you want me to add, please get in touch.

Devolution: Devolution is moving power from central government (in this case, Westminster) to subnational government.

Unionism: Belief in ‘the union’. In this case, Unionists believe that Scotland and England are better off as part of the UK.

Devo+: A proposed alternative to independence and a form of increased devolution. It is a system proposed by some that involves both Westminster and Holyrood raising what they spend in Scotland themselves. It would hand more tax powers to Scotland.

Devo Max: Another proposed alternative to independence. This system would involve Holyrood raising its entire budget itself but passing a grant back to Westminster for spending on reserved matters.

Indy Lite: This is the term given to what most people consider to be independence. With Indy Lite, Scotland would be a constitutionally separate state but would keep the Queen as head of state and other unions may be maintained (for example, Scotland may keep the pound under Indy Lite).

‘Full’ Independence: This is independence ‘to the extreme’, if you will. This isn’t what the SNP seem to be proposing. If Scotland became fully independent it would be a completely separate state and would not share a currency or head of state with the UK.

The West Lothian Question: This question points to some holes in the current system of devolved government. There is a town called Blackburn in West Lothian, Scotland and there’s another town called Blackburn (where I was born, if anyone’s interested!) in Lancashire, England. The MP for West Lothian can vote on all issues relating to the Blackburn in England (because it is governed by the UK Parliament) but is unable to vote on some issues for the Blackburn in his own constituency because some of the matters are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

A Case Against The Second Question

I’m English. I thought I was European until I spent a few years at an International College in Spain where I had classmates from all over Europe and where I learnt a lot about cultural differences. I thought I was British for a while but then I moved to Scotland and found that the histories and cultures of England and Scotland were so different that I had to conclude that I am, in fact, English.

Although I see myself as an English person, I think of Scotland as my home. I’ve lived here for about 3 years (longer than I’ve spent in England since I was 11 years old) and I spend Scottish banknotes, study at Scottish institutions and live with a Scottish man (he says ‘the noo’, and everything). Along with the many other English people in Scotland and Scottish people in England, I love the freedom that the Union brings and when it comes to the question of independence, I can go through the pros and cons, the economics, the logistics and the legalities all day long but in the end, for me, it boils down to this: I’m not ready to be an expat in the country that I see as home.

Following the launch of the Yes to Independence and the Better Together campaigns, there’s a lot of talk about the independence debate and about the vote itself; ‘should 16-18 year olds be allowed to vote?’, ‘Should Westminster allow a referendum at all?’ and, most interestingly to me, ‘should there be a second question?’

I hadn’t given an awful lot of thought to the issue of the The Second Question until I went to a fringe at the Scottish Liberal Democrat Spring Conference this year in Inverness. The discussion was about the alternatives to independence and I got very interested in the comparisons between The Scotland Act, Devo+ and independence, amongst others. I won’t go into these different options now but I found myself completely convinced that there must be a 3rd option in the referendum. I was determined that the Liberal Democrats must jump at this opportunity to campaign hard for a second question and not to let this chance for home rule fly by after so many years of fighting for it. As Nicola Prigg said when addressing the conference floor; with a two question ballot, “a vote against independence is a vote for the status quo” and, again, I was excited to join the campaign against a Yes/No ballot.

I completely changed my mind later that weekend and after reading Graeme Cowies’s criticism of Willie Rennie’s stance against The Second Question today, I thought I had better explain why.

Graeme’s post on The Libertine is an excellent argument against the status quo and is well worth a read for anybody who hasn’t yet understood the reasoning behind the appetite for change but it hasn’t convinced me that independence is the answer or, indeed, that having a second question is something we should support.

Firstly, those of us that are interested in politics are likely to have strong opinions on Home Rule, Federalism, Unionism and Devolution but the general public are significantly less interested, on the whole. I don’t know many people outside of the ‘activism bubble’ who understand or care about the difference between Devo+ and DevoMax, for example, and therefore there would need to be a consensus on what the 3rd option would be, a scenario that I don’t believe is very likely. If it was decided that several alternatives should be offered, where would we draw the line? There are far too many and trying to explain them all would detract attention from the overall debate.

A popular argument against a second question is the 51% / 98% scenario in which 51% of the electorate vote for independence and 98% of the electorate indicate a preference for one of the alternatives. In this scenario it would be up to Holyrood to decide which would ‘win’ and, unfortunately, our SNP-majority government is likely to be slightly bias towards independence in that instance. It would be very bad for a new nation to start off with that level of confusion over the legitimacy of the referendum result.

Finally, the SNP love the argument we’re having about introducing a second question; they would love us to split the No vote and they’ve already made attempts to confuse the debate by focusing on other issues (including votes for 16 and 17 year olds). This debate needs to be completely focused on whether or not independence from the UK is the best option for Scotland. We need to challenge the SNP to be completely open with their definition of independence and everything that it would entail. The No campaign needs to unite against the Nationalists in the fight for the Union and, when the referendum is won in our favour, it will then be time to continue the pursuit for further powers to Scotland.

Thoughts on the Prohibition of Prostitution

[Disclaimer: normally when I write a blog post I like to research what I’m writing about and, ideally, link to some evidence to back up what I’m saying. Today, however, I’m stuck without internet and I’m writing this while I wait for someone to come and fix it so this post is based purely on my own opinions and I won’t be linking to any studies or sources.]

There’s a lot of talk today about a Private Member’s Bill in the Scottish Parliament that seeks to criminalise prostitution. Firstly, I want to point out that I have no problem with prostitution in itself; if one person wishes to pay another for sex and the other person is happy to fulfill that request then that’s fine by me. There’s a reason that prostitution is known as the ‘oldest profession in the world’ and that’s because no matter what the law says, people will always sell sex and people will always pay for it.

Sadly, I’m aware that there is a lot more to the issue than whether or not it’s morally ok to sell or pay for sex. Human trafficking and the treatment of those involved in prostitution are real and serious issues that need addressing. The safety of those involved is very important but I return to my earlier point; prostitution will always happen.

If prostitution is made illegal, the practice will move underground and the associated problems will only get worse. Without any form of regulation, those involved in the practice will not be protected from ill-treatment and those who are being trafficked or forced into the role will find it even more difficult to get help.

Prohibition doesn’t work with drugs or alcohol and it certainly won’t work with prostitution. I feel that this bill is well-meant and I hope that it will highlight some of the issues that surround prostitution. I hope that it will prompt more discussion about human trafficking and I hope that this will result in some effective action to tackle that problem and the others associated with the sex trade but I really hope that this doesn’t become law and have the unintended effect of worsening the situation.

Why should my taxes pay for benefits claimants to receive over £26,000 a year?

Firstly, I’m an Economic Liberal. I’m not a big advocate of welfare being much more than a vital safety net and a lot of people who know much about my political beliefs might cheekily assume that I’d support David Cameron’s proposed £26K benefits cap. I know that we’re in hard economic times and that cuts need to be made and I know that we can ill afford to dish out cash to all and sundry that request it. That said, I’m afraid that I am strongly opposed to the cap and, given the chance to seriously consider its implications, I imagine that all but the most hard-core Daily Mail readers would be as well.

Firstly, let’s have a look at what £26K actually is. Paxo explained tonight that £26K is the equivalent of a £35,000 wage after tax. That’s a fair amount of money and I’d be quite happy on that kind of wage! However, my partner and I have a combined wage that doesn’t fall too much short of that figure and I know how much disposable income we have after the bills have been paid (not a lot!) and we have the luxury of being a two-person household with no children to feed and a fairly modest mortgage to pay. We also live in a very affordable part of the UK where we pay a fairly low council tax (in which our water rates are included) and get free prescriptions and cheap dental care from the Scottish Government. On top of that we have our travel costs covered by our employers so, overall, we’ve got it quite easy up here.

If you were to put us in, say, Manchester for example, I think we’d then start to struggle on our income. And if we did decide to procreate we’d certainly fall into financial crisis quite quickly. I can’t even imagine trying to afford a family somewhere further south on the kind of money that we have at the moment.

So, maybe that’s the answer then: don’t have children if you can’t afford them and don’t live anywhere that’s a bit too posh for your budget. That seems simple enough. But what if we were earning £40K between us? What if we had our debts paid off and had stable careers that we knew would see us through? Would it be ok for us to have children then? Yes, I imagine that would be acceptable in the eyes of most people. After all, what are the chances of a global economic crisis hitting, causing both of us to lose our jobs and be forced to claim benefits? Furthermore, exactly how likely is it that the cost of heating our home would rise 110% in just a decade and council tax would rise by almost 70%? Sadly, that’s the reality of the situation as it stands. Many hardworking families are in a position where they need to claim benefits and, as I’ve already explained, £26K might not be quite enough, especially for those with children.

Even if you don’t care about the circumstances that lead to somebody needing to claim benefits and simply agree with Mr. Cameron that we can’t afford to pay £26,000 a year to a single household, do you really think that capping benefits will save all that much money? There’s genuine concern amongst local authorities that this cap could force a lot of families to become homeless and if you’re purely economically minded then perhaps you might consider the bill we’ll be faced with once these people become homeless and need emergency housing. Not to mention the strain on the NHS of a sudden increase in homeless, cold families living well below the breadline.

What happens to the worst affected families once the economy starts to improve? It’s one thing to expect an unemployed couple to get back into the work place but exactly how easy do you imagine it is to get a homeless family contributing to the economy? The result is simply a prolongation of the original problem as people find it even more difficult to get back into work and get stuck in benefits cycles.

The Guardian predicts that some families will be left to survive on just 64p each per day under the proposals. In 2012, should we really be forcing that kind of poverty on anybody? There are already people that have to choose between being cold and being hungry and that’s not a kind of world that I want to live in. Surely we, as a society, have come on further than to allow people to end up in that position. Surely the whole idea of the benefits system is to make sure that those who need help will be given a roof, warmth and food. If we can’t even do that for people then I really despair.

So, why should my taxes pay for benefits claimants to receive over £26,000 a year? Because some people need that. Some people, through no fault of their own, need more money than Mr. Cameron deems necessary for them to live on. Because, one day, I might be in a position where I need the state to provide for me and I would hope that, if that day comes, they wouldn’t help out so begrudgingly.

I’m happy for my taxes to provide support for those that need it.

Leave my pants alone!

I’ve had muffs on my mind recently. That’s not a statement that I often come out with but, in this instance, it’s both true and relevant. A friend of mine recently thrust a copy of Caitlin Moran’s book in my direction to convince me that I was, in fact, a feminist (it worked by the way and I highly recommend you read it if you haven’t already, but that’s a different story). In her book, Caitlin talks about the pressure on women to keep their body hair in check and this is a topic that we have since discussed thoroughly over tea and biscuits.

On Friday I read about UK Feminista’s Muff March which looked to be a great, fun way to protest against ‘designer vaginas’ and to highlight the worries many women have about how they look ‘down there’ and how they compare to other women. The porn industry depicts the norm to be hair-free, vaginoplastied and unrealistic. Even women who realise that that isn’t normal can be concerned that their men do not. So, hurrah to UK Feminista for bringing that taboo body-confidence issue into the spotlight this weekend.

So, where do pants come in to it? Well, I turned on my TV this morning and saw Gok Wan cutting up a poor woman’s cotton pants and exclaiming that she needed to be more adventurous with her underwear – WHAT? I’m not ashamed to announce that I wear cotton pants. That’s right, everyone, I wear plain, simple, comfortable knickers and I’m proud of it! The thrush-inducing lacy synthetics that Gok was waving about later in the show looked horribly uncomfortable and they certainly wouldn’t have any place in my top drawer!

Was this supposed to be some sort of public service announcement from E4 to all the wearers of cotton pants? “LADIES, CUT UP YOUR PANTS! Because you know what you need on that shaving rash? Some sequins.”

It’s bad enough that women have already been convinced that they need flat tummies, round breasts and a cellulite-free bum before they can even consider leaving the house in a morning. With all this focus on muffs and pants at the moment, isn’t it about time we take a step back and get our hands off each other’s bits? Let’s pop our cotton pants back on and give our privates some privacy!

A Tough Time to be a Liberal Democrat

“If my defeat tonight is part payment so that no child will spend another night in a detention centre then I accept it, with all my heart.”Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Central)

As a Liberal Democrat I’ve had to deal with a lot of abuse recently from members of other parties. At the local count on Thursday night I had to cope with jeers & heckles from Labour & Tory supporters (including my own councilors and MP who are supposed to represent me!) – We were less welcome in that room than the BNP and the EDL.

As an economic liberal, I’m even getting abuse from the social democrats (for those who don’t know, the Liberal Democrats are comprised of classic liberals [who subscribe to the Orange Book] and Social Democrats [who sit more to the left of the party]).

Essentially, it’s a difficult time for anybody who is an ‘out’ Liberal Democrat. So, why am I not leaving? Many have and many are threatening too. A lot of members are disillusioned now that times are difficult and lots of voters feel the same (as we saw with Thursday’s results) and even the YES campaign’s cross-party mechanism shattered a short time after the referendum was lost and the blame game began. The leadership & sitting MPs are hated by the public and the press for being part of the Government and Clegg (however you feel about him) is being unfairly and personally victimised.

I’ve campaigned up and down the country since I joined the party & I know people who work themselves half to death for the sake of the party. I’ve seen nervous breakdowns, sleep-deprivation & rifts in personal relationships. I know people who have given up their jobs, spent their savings, left their homes & given blood, sweat and tears to the Liberal Democrats when there’s a tough fight to be had.

Why do we do it?

It’s all well and good to say (as I hear all too often) that we’re all after power and fortune and that we’re only in it for ourselves, but if we were after power we could defect to a party that’s more likely to get into Government & who’s taking over the councils (Labour) and if we wanted money we could obviously sign ourselves up to a party that would be more likely to pay us highly (Conservatives). Perhaps we want a soap box to rant from? Surely we’d be better in a loud fringe party like the SWP or the Trade Unionists Against Cuts. I won’t deny that some of our members signed up during Cleggmania and are now disappointed to find that politics isn’t always as fun as that and I imagine they will leave now that the glory has passed, but the grassroots will stay no matter how we’re perceived by the media.

“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”


If I wanted money or power there’d be a much easier way to get it than to tirelessly campaign for a party that’s having to make some very unpopular decisions & is nationally disliked. As Alex Cole-Hamilton says, if this period of difficulty and heartache is just part payment for some of the fantastic things we’ve achieved (and still are achieving) in government, in line with our key principals as a political party, then I’ll take it. Happily.