Much has been made this week of the unhappiness rank-and-file Lib Dems feel about being in coalition with the Conservatives
But in reality, most activists realise their leaders had little option, and many councillors have been part of local coalitions.
One party member said the Lib Dem leadership encouraged the grassroots to speak against coalition policy as that gave them extra leverage when dealing with their Tory colleagues. But how much tension is there on construction issues?
Chris Huhne, the Lib Dem energy secretary, gave the party line: “We will clear the way for a new generation of nuclear power plants, providing there is no government subsidy.”
The back bench do not agree. Martin Horwood MP says: “Nuclear crowds out investment in renewable and the waste is an immoral and dangerous legacy to leave future generations.”
- Social housing
Andrew Stunell, Lib Dem junior communities minister, said: “Lifelong security of tenure was only introduced by Mrs Thatcher. We have to ask questions about tenure reform when 150,000 people live in overcrowded social homes, yet 400,000 have two or more spare bedrooms.”
Richard Kemp, education committee chair of the Local Government Association, disagrees: “Security of tenure is important. If the government doesn’t realise that these are people’s lives, and just thinks of them as bricks and mortar, it’s a great mistake.”
- Free schools
Sarah Teather, the Lib Dem’s junior education minister, said: “Opposing free schools would be an illiberal measure.”
Peter Downes, deputy leader of Cambridgeshire Lib Dems, begs to differ. “Academies and free schools are likely to be divisive, costly and unfair. Being in coalition should not require us to abandon the basic values, principles and policies that our experience, knowledge and collective wisdom have formulated over many years.”