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The Liberal Democrat Code

October 17, 2011

I’ve written before, and it’s been written by others, that Labour and the Conservatives are parties of interest. By which I mean that they exist to support and advantage the interests that support them.

In contrast, the Liberal Democrats exist for the whole population, in terms of aspiration, or of opportunity, or of freedom. The Lib Dem interest favours the disadvantaged, it favours the sweeping away of barriers that block aspiration, it favours fairness. Our two great successes of this coalition government, the pupil premium and raising the tax threshold both demonstrate this philosophy.

So what should Liberal Democrats do when we are in a coalition with a party that takes a very different attitude to lobbying and decision making?

The great danger for Lib Dems is that our ministers are viewed just the same by a sceptical public. Today Dr Fox, tomorrow a Lib Dem minister? The mud sticks on all politicians, irrespective of party.

It is galling for Lib Dems to be tarred with the same brush as other parties on this issue. What’s the solution? Do we work forcibly within government to introduce changes? Yes, of course. But doing that won’t alter the Conservative Party. They will always remain a party of interests.

The option for the Lib Dems is to establish our own Code. To bring recommendations to our party conference that are tighter and more transparent than any other party, and to thereby demonstrate that Lib Dems are different.

We’ve done that unofficially on expenses. The argument now is whether we take that one step further and introduce our own Code, a best practice for our Ministers that other parties ignore at their peril.

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