Senior Lib Dems clash over party’s coalition legacy with Tories

Liberal Democrats deputy leader Jo Swinson speaks at the party’s Autumn Conference (Gareth Fuller/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Senior figures in the Lib Dems have clashed over the party’s record in office with the Tories.

Deputy leader Jo Swinson used a key note conference speech to admit the party “lost too many arguments” in coalition and had agreed to compromises that “sucked”.

However, just hours later former energy secretary Sir Ed Davey was defending the party’s record – telling journalists in the conference media room he was “deeply, deeply proud” of his achievements during that period.

Sir Ed also struck a different tone to Ms Swinson on Windrush – with the former saying “no one realised” how the Immigration Bill would impact on people, while the latter said the party “should have done more to stop Theresa May’s hostile environment”.

Ms Swinson said: “Negotiating with the Conservatives meant compromise. And some of those compromises sucked.

“We should have done more, more to stop Theresa May’s hostile environment, more to block Andrew Lansley’s disruptive NHS reforms, more to prevent Iain Duncan Smith’s punishing bedroom tax.

“We were right to cut the deficit, but those who were already struggling paid too high a price.

“Let me be blunt, if we are to claim the successes of our time in Government we need to own the failures of it too. We lost too many arguments. When they fought dirty, we were too nice.

“And austerity left behind people who liberals are in politics to protect.”

Sir Ed, speaking to reporters, said: “I’m not one of those who think we should deny all the amazing things we did in the coalition.

“One of the reasons I’m loving the Brighton conference is those offshore wind turbines out there, I signed the contract for that, because Liberal Democrats were in Government, those offshore wind turbines have been built.

“Do you think I’m gonna deny that, I’m deeply proud of that, deeply, deeply proud of that.”

Asked about Windrush, he added: “No one realised at the time, it wasn’t just us, some Tory ministers might have been but all the people who reviewed that legislation, the refugee council to immigration practitioners they all missed it.

“We need to understand how the home office manged to get that through with none of the people realising that.

“You’ve got to remember in coalition we were fighting some of their immigration policies, we stopped a lot, we weren’t gonna stop everything.

“What people recognise, I think is that a coalition was a whole set of compromises, they didn’t want that offshore wind-farm out there, I didn’t want the immigration.”