Paddy (now Lord) Ashdown, a former Whitehall diplomat, tried to force the Liberal Democrats to accept tuition fees in the spring conference of 1996 at Nottingham and the members would not have it. He resigned the party leadership shortly afterwards and went off to run Bosnia.
Three years later, in 1999, 15 newly elected Lib Dem MSPs at the new Holyrood parliament did a deal with Labour selling the policy out in Scotland. That set a trend which Charles Kennedy, alas could not stop and which cost him his job when he tried a different kind of leadership.
Nick Clegg sold out his party’s policy on tuition fees in 2010 just as the 15 MSPs had in 1999. The Lib Dem party conference is supposed to make the policy. Paddy is as much a part of the problem as Nick.
A handful of posh-boy characters at the top of the party do not listen to the members.
The failure is Mr Clegg’s. Special conference be hanged. He does not agree with the policies members vote for at conference and so just makes it up as he goes along, disregarding policy he doesn’t like. Bring back Charlie Kennedy.
Nigel F Boddy