When the Lib Dems meet in Brighton this weekend for their autumn conference, the party leadership is likely to get a few reminders that their supporters are not very pleased with them. One such reminder came this month from two local Lib Dem supporters Terry and Neville Cooper.
They got an e-mail from Nick Clegg (via party headquarters) that opened: “As you may have seen on the news, I’ve announced an ambitious package to get growth and housing (sic) building going…When Jo Swinson asked for input from you on growth, house building was one of the top responses. Today’s announcement shows the kind of impact Liberal Democrats are having in the Coalition Government, thanks to our members, on this key issue.”
That did not go down at all well with veteran Lib Dem supporters Terry and Neville Cooper of Bottlesford. So they wrote a stiff rejoinder to Clegg – copying it to David Cameron and Claire Perry.
Their letter was headed “Good news for growth? We think NOT” and began: “Dear Nick, Sorry, but I cannot agree with you LESS.” They argued that the new package would lead to stagnation in the housing market – “allowing the property ‘ladder’ to clog up. As individual families grow they will just ‘extend’ instead of moving up.” And this they said will in turn undermine the government’s pledges to make things easier for first time buyers.
They cited a nearby house which had already been extended to twice its size and had recently sold for twice its previous price – at £400,000 “Well outside any younger family’s pocket.”
The Coopers were also concerned that the new ‘growth’ package Nick Clegg was lauding would lead to “the wonderful rural ‘Street Scene’ being ruined for many generations to come, if control is removed on this type of ad hoc development. You and your Conservative colleagues never seem to consider the very long term consequences of your actions anymore.”
Neville retired from the R.A.F. many years ago – he was one of the last pilots to fly operational Lancasters and was a pilot with the R.A.F.’s long range transport. Having served overseas for many years, they settled in Cornwall where Neville used his computer expertise to help Lib Dems in their successful election campaigns – especially those of North Cornwall MP Paul Tyler, now the Lib Dem peer Lord Tyler.
Neville thinks the coalition was wrong to try to pay off the deficit within one Parliament: “It was asking for trouble.” And he’s worried also about the restructuring of the NHS. First it seems to promote fragmentation rather than integration. And secondly:
“I worry that if a GP who’s controlling the budget is faced with two people needing expensive surgery he’ll say ‘Am I really going to allocate the money for a 79 year-old when the other person is thirty-five or forty years old?’”
Neville is also very cross about Nick Clegg’s handling of the alternative vote referendum: “I’m mainly a Lib Dem supporter because I don’t believe in the first past the post system. How can we say we live in a democracy if we have first past the post? These Lib Dems made such a botch of the referendum – they were completely overshadowed by the Conservatives. They lost the opportunity of a lifetime to change the system. First past the post is a ridiculous system.”
Terry Cooper first supported the Lib Dems when Mrs Thatcher’s policies destroyed so many industries and businesses. She doesn’t know who she’ll vote for at the next election – it certainly will not be the sitting MP.
Neville says he doesn’t really believe in tactical voting, but he might vote tactically next time and vote Labour. “Vote Lib Dem and you’re wasting your vote.”