You report (Coalition: no alternative to NHS reforms, 9 February) that Nick Clegg has agreed with David Cameron that they must work together to push through the Tories’ health and social care bill, in the face of ever-mounting opposition from professional bodies and the public. And it was only a few days ago that Nick Clegg was leading his troops through the lobbies in support of the Conservatives’ welfare reform bill, which the Guardian has demonstrated to be a barrage of serious attacks on the vulnerable.
No matter how much Martin Kettle argues in the same paper that the Lib Dems “have priorities that are distinctly different from those of their Conservative partners” (Lib Dems can again enjoy the reflection in the mirror), their actual behaviour in government is of a party morally and practically embedded in a Conservative party. Embedded, in fact, in a Conservative party dedicated to the destruction of the NHS, the grave weakening of the welfare state, the wrecking of local accountability for education, planning and much else, and a pre-Suez view of Britain’s place in the world. Lib Dem priorities, whatever they may be, have totally failed to divert the Tory juggernaut, and that is their tragedy – and ours.
• At the Madeley byelection mentioned by Martin Kettle the Lib Dems had factors in our favour. We ran a campaign with no dirty tricks, as, to their credit, did the other parties. We had an excellent candidate and the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition at Newcastle has a good story to tell. For six years we have run a council that has improved services and cut costs. Unlike Westminster we have stuck to the letter of our coalition agreement, often through difficult negotiations. Lib Dems at Westminster should take their lead from us and throw out the NHS bill, which is in conflict with their coalition agreement.
Cllr David Becket
Campaign manager, Madeley byelection
• I wasn’t surprised to hear that a Liberal Left group has formed to mobilise against the drift to the right by the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dem group launches in protest against Tory-led coalition, 9 February), although it doesn’t fill me with optimism as I’ve always been sceptical about how left-leaning any Lib Dem is. Perhaps the solution is for the remaining Labour politicians that care about social justice to join with the Green party to form a new party that fights for both people and planet. I don’t know anybody who is interested in redistribution that still believes this can be delivered by Labour, while most who agree with the Green party’s stance on environmental issues and protecting the vulnerable refuse to vote for them on the belief that they won’t get in. Something has to give.
• The Social Liberal Forum welcomes the launch of Liberal Left. However, Richard Grayson is incorrect to describe the Social Liberal Forum’s position as “equidistant” between Conservatives and Labour. The Lib Dem party needs to do more to re-establish its own identity as an independent, progressive, liberal force in British politics. The Social Liberal Forum will continue to fight for policies that aim to narrow the gap between rich and poor and to oppose any kind of pre-election deal with any party.
Dr David Hall-Matthews
Chair, Social Liberal Forum
• Your suggestion that the Lib Dems should support the new constituency map if they get a half-baked promise from Cameron to look at Lord’s reform is totally inadequate to the constitutional situation (Editorial, 8 February). It is inevitable that Scotland will either become independent or almost so. In either case there will be major implications for the UK, and if devo max is the outcome the UK will become a de facto federal state. The proposal to reduce the number of MPs while allowing continuing expansion of the Lord’s has never made sense. The fact is that the UK will need a new constitutional settlement that recognises the new relationship with Scotland, whatever that turns out to be. The Commons changes should be voted down and cross-party work started to consider a new constitution.
Todmorden, West Yorkshire