Reflections on environmental sustainability and social entrepreneurship
For the first time since the General Election, and stepping back from the front line of community politics in West London where I was an active Liberal Democrat for a decade (a parliamentary candidate in 2005 and 2010), I feel compelled to speak out.
The Liberal Democrats have often allowed ourselves to be presented as mindlessly pro-European - we are not. We are pro-reform and the creation of a far more efficient, less bureaucratic EU. However neither are the Liberal Democrats isolationist - we are internationalists. Thus, the news of Cameron's inept negotiations at the end of last week have left many of us dismayed and in the first instance speechless.
We are left particularly baffled by the flagrant betrayal of the Coalition Agreement which stated:
"The Government believes that Britain should play a leading role in an enlarged European Union, but that no further powers should be transferred to Brussels without a referendum. This approach strikes the right balance between constructive engagement with the EU to deal with the issues that affect us all, and protecting our national sovereignty.
"We will ensure that the British Government is a positive participant in the European Union, playing a strong and positive role with our partners, with the goal of ensuring that all the nations of Europe are equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century: global competitiveness, global warming and global poverty."
There was nothing "positive" about Cameron's engagement with European trading partners last week who are grappling with a financial crisis that is already damaging the UK economy, as well as potentially regional peace and security. As Clegg has said this morning there is a real danger the UK could end up looking "Isolated and marginalised". Beyond this Cameron's understanding of the views of the Liberal Democrat membership/supporter base, which he should carry with him as PM, appears to be severely deficient.
Such is the severity of this foreign policy set-back from an internationalist perspective that I wonder whether it is now time for 200 Lib Dem party members (conference representatives) to call a Special Conference of the party as clause 6.6 of our constitution allows:
"The Conference shall normally meet twice a year. Additional meetings may be summoned upon the requisition of the Federal Executive or the Federal Policy Committee or the Conference itself or 200 representatives entitled to attend the Conference."
The Special Conference should consider two options:
1) Is Prime Minister's action of sufficient concern that the Liberal Democrats should pull out of the Coalition; and, if not,
2) What actions Nick Clegg should be calling on the Prime Minister to take, to rebuild relations with our European trading partners - and ensure that Coalition relationships are not undermined so severely again.
As Lord Oakeshott has pointed out it was David Cameron's job to go to Brussels and represent Britain as Prime Minister of a Coalition-led Britain, not Leader of the Conservatives.
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