Following on from Tim Montgomerie's confessional lead regarding three things he feels he has got wrong since starting blogging and commentating I thought I'd have a stab at confessing my own three:
- I was wrong to so quickly dismiss the claims of Charlotte Gore (with whom I had a long discussion at the 2009 Lib Dem conference on this subject) and various others that Lib Dems being in government would be "our worst nightmare". I think I had a somewhat naive view that once the party was part of a coalition that the public would be able to very clearly see what the party stands for and it would be rewarded as it made a difference. The reality has been very different as we now all know. The excitement of the immediate post-election period with the negotiations and the heady feeling of rubbing shoulders with cabinet ministers at our conferences has now dissipated. What we are left with is the grind of being activists in a party of government having to take very tough decisions about balancing finances and getting the economy back on track. The party is getting little credit for its wins and lots of blame for the things it has compromised on. Whilst I would still contend that it is not our worst nightmare it could become so in 2015 if the polls do not recover from where they currently are. Charlotte was right to be very wary of us going into coalition. I should have been more prepared for the trials and tribulations of being a governing party.
- In 2009 I wrote a piece entitled "Georgia Gould is too young to become an MP" where I argued that the 22 year old Labour activist who was trying to get selected for a seat should wait a few years. I even argued in the comments that there could perhaps be an age restriction on aspiring MPs so they could not stand until they were at least 30. I was taken to task by some people in the comments and on Twitter and I did take a few steps back and think about what I was advocating. What I was trying to do was find a way to reduce the number of MPs who do not have life experience before representing seats in parliament. But what I was actually doing was showing my own prejudices. I am pretty sure that I would have made a useless MP at the age of 22, 25 or 28. But my life experiences are not the same as everybody else's. There is nothing to say that someone who is 22, 25 or 28 could have experienced all sorts of things that would make them good MPs. Also, I was completely discounting the fact that a bit of variety within the Commons can be a Very Good Thing. Not least because when legislation is being scrutinised the voice of people in their 20s and early 30s can be heard. When I stood in a council by-election in 2010 one of my opponents was a 19 year old Labour candidate called Guy Gillbe. His grasp and experience of politics and issues was very inspiring and I expect he would make a good MP even if he was only in his 20s. I have changed my mind completely on this issue and now think we should not be adding further age restrictions on standing for parliament.
- I was wrong to believe that the coalition's plans would help to stimulate the economy. After the government was formed and announced its programme I did think that by getting a grip on the finances the economy would pick up. I accept now that the programme did not do enough in terms of stimulus. I still contend that Cameron, Clegg and Osborne did have to send a clear message to the markets in order to ensure we did not lose their confidence (which could have been calamitous) but there was more scope than I think the government accepted for investment which I feel the markets would have understood was intended to stimulate growth. Belatedly we are starting to see moves towards the sort of infrastructure investment I think we need but they are likely to take a fair while to get going and it has taken a double-dip recession to force the government's hand. I still fear Osborne in particular is too hidebound by his previous announcements and rhetoric. I just hope that he can use his economic statement in December to further nudge a somewhat covert Plan B (OK let's call it Plan A+) into action.
I won't tag anyone with this meme as I think it's quite a tricky thing and I don't want to put anyone on the spot but I'd be interested to see other bloggers have a crack at this.