Saturday 6 April 2013

'Sickened' Sarah Teather and Brent Lib Dems should disown the Coalition

Sarah Teather has said that is is 'appalled and sickened' by George Osborne's statement on the Philpott case and welfare benefits and today's papers report 'deep unease' amongst senior Lib Dems.

Sarah Teather MP, when in opposition and before she joined the Coalition government, had great respect among leftwingers in Brent but forfeited that by her actions and statements when in government. Since her sacking she has distanced herself from some of the Coalition policies, some would say she has rediscovered her conscience, others, more cynical, claim she is worried about losing her Brent Central seat. Whichever is the case the Coalition's policies are now so extreme and damaging that if she is really to stand up for her constituents she should be arguing for Lib Dem withdrawal from the Coalition.

So what of our local Lib Dem councillors? Where do they stand? There have been rumours that a Lib Dem councillor was preparing to defect to Labour but I have been unable to get any confirmation. Despite my political disagreements with Brent Lib Dems I do think that they include people of principle who must be sickened by their party's role in the Coalition.

I cannot deny that Paul Lorber has shown real commitment to the libraries campaign in the Save Barham Library group where he has been unstinting of his time and energy. Similarly I have respect for Ann Hunter's decision to leave the Labour Party over the war in Iraq. Recently Barry Cheese has been a passionate campaigner for keeping Central Middlesex A&E open and opposing privatisation of the NHS. Alison Hopkins has impeccable credentials a s a community campaigner.

So far Brent Lib Dems locally have been remarkably untainted by the party's role in the Coalition and they have been helped by Brent Labour's supine approach to making council cuts. The Lib Dems have been able to oppose cuts at the local level but avoid the electorate making a link with the Coalition's austerity measures. Although they have entered local government ostensibly with a view to making life better for people  Brent they have failed to challenge the Coalition's attack on local government.

 However as Teather increasingly distances herself from the government positioning herself for the fight of her political life at the General Election, chickens will start to come home to roost.

Brent Lib Dems though should go beyond electoral manoeuvrings and consider the principles and practicalities involved. Can they, as liberals, standby while major sectors of the population are stereotyped, maligned and scapegoated? Can they remain silent while families are disrupted, pulled up by their roots and made to move outside of Brent away from their family and friends. Are they going  to tolerate more children falling into poverty? Can they tolerate the poor being made to pay for the economic crisis while the rich get richer?

 Does the argument that by participating in the Coalition the Lib Dems are restraining the more extreme elements of the Conservatives hold water any more when anyone can see the extremism of current policies?

Surely Sarah Teather and her colleagues in the local party must now call on their party to leave the Coalition.

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