Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Relentless Realism

With a strong yellow thread of idealism peeking through - that was the tone of the Liberal Democrat conference for me.  Last year in Liverpool there was a sense of unreality about being in government after so many long years.  This year there was an acceptance that we're in government and it's hard.  There are many, many things we'd like to do.  Our Liberal Democrat heart wants to spend money to help people who are suffering in the recession.  It's hard knowing that the money isn't there.  And it really, really hurts when the money that is there is being badly administered in some areas, causing more misery.  Stories of people having to have food parcels because benefits have been cut against the rules are doubly harrowing when you have ministers in that department.  We know that ministers don't oversee everyone who works on everything to do with their responsibility across the country, but it still feels wrong that it happens on our watch and many people worked hard over the course of the conference to get that message across.
Fringe meetings were busy, with people from many organisations lobbying ministers as well as Lib Dem activists like me, reminding them that Stockton and the Tees Valley needs time and support to nurture private sector jobs to rebalance our economy.
There were also lots of opportunities to pick up ideas for good, cost-effective ways of engaging with people and doing things differently which we'll be exploring more in the future. 
So yes, it's going to be tough for some time yet.  A combination of Labour profligate spending promises and a global downturn left the national purse well and truly empty.  It's hurting, and it's worse for some than for others.  I want the rich and the investment banks to pay their fair share to put things right.  I want the cushions that exist for the poorest to be properly implemented, not the mess they are at the moment.  But I don't want us to take out a new mortgage on the future, on top of what we're paying already. 

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