Still together... still in the national interest.

The Conservatives have proved themselves to be a party that the Lib Dems can do proper business with.

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David Cameron and Nick Clegg share their thoughts.
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Charlotte Henry
On 17 October 2011 09:39

By now you probably know how the narrative goes - my party, the Liberal Democrats, sold out, lied to the electorate for the pretence of power, and left their principles in the Downing Street rose garden.

A prime example of this came on the Sunday night of Labour conference, when Angela Eagle, trying to defend the fact that Labour still have no policy, declared on 5Live that "the Lib Dems did the opposite of what they said in their manifesto."

Now, I am going to resist turning the rest of this piece into a list that proves such statements are nonsense (10k income tax relief, pupil premium, civil liberties, moves towards equal marriage, environment policy, European policy...) but really, enough is enough.

How could we have sat on our hands and skulked back to opposition? How could we have propped up a Labour party so roundly rejected by the British electorate? How could we have pretended that not taking tough action to deal with Labour's reckless economic legacy was a credible option?

The argument then continues that, deep down, the Lib Dems are ideologically closer to Labour than the Conservatives.

Really? The last Labour government presided over a demolition job on our civil liberties, a welfare policy that kept the poor dependent on the state, and made little progress on political reform for years on end.

Oh, and they introduced tuition fees. Then raised them.

It is unquestionably true, that we have genuine and serious disagreements with the Conservatives, as shown by their recent outbursts over the Human Rights Act. After all, we are two different parties, from two very different traditions.

However, the Conservatives proved themselves to be a party that the Lib Dems could do proper business with.

According to David Laws’ recollection of the coalition negotiations, Harriet Harman didn't even know who the Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman was, despite the fact she was in discussions with him, and Eds Balls and Miliband couldn't wait to jump back into opposition.

The Liberal Democrats are formed from both economic and social liberal traditions, and we should take equal pride in both. We are not there simply to help out Labour when they can't get themselves a majority, and we are not there simply to pave the way for Conservative policy to be implemented unchecked.

In Government, our economic liberalism is helping provide socially liberal outcomes, just look at the recent figures released on the pupil premium. Labour think the value of a public service is shown by how much you spend on it. The Liberal Democrats know it is shown by what the public get out of it.

The recent Liberal Democrat conference was noticeable for the positive mood, and pride at government achievements, displayed by the delegates. Members are highly aware that with only 57 MPs the party can't do everything it would like, but what we can do will make Britain a fairer, freer, and more prosperous place.

Ultimately the decision to go into coalition, and stick it out through difficult electoral times boils down to this - not every piece of legislation passed by the government will please Liberal Democrats, but a lot more of it will than if we were sitting in opposition.

Charlotte Henry blogs at http://www.digitalpolitico.net. You can follow her on twitter at @charlotteahenry 

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