Letter from Westminster

Invitations to the Althing do not come my way very often. Before last weekend the last time that I had spoken at an Althing debate was in 2000.

Goodness only knows I have dropped enough hints over the years but no invitations have been forth­coming until now. The motion to be debated was that the coalition gov­ern­ment would mean the end of liberalism in Shetland, proposed by Jonathan Wills and Drew Ratter.

Much of the debate followed lines that were fairly predictable and which I will not rehearse here. Personally I felt that the notion that a government can end a political philosophy was a pretty absurd one. Drew seemed to suggest that in fact there was no liberalism in the isles but that it was all a hang-over from the 1950s when we were all beguiled by the charms of Jo Grimond and that people here voted Liberal because they did not bother thinking about it. It was not a view that I thought did him justice.

The more substantial proposition put to support the motion, however, was that the coalition government was actually a Conservative govern­ment with Liberal Democrats mak­ing up the numbers. It is a proposition that I reject absolutely.

Remember the things that this government is doing:

  • Linking the state pension to earnings again and reforming it to produce a citizen’s pension of £140 per week;
  • Taking almost a million of the lowest paid earners out of paying tax at all; ? Protecting the health budget;
  • Meeting the 0.7 per cent target for overseas aid by 2012;
  • Putting extra money into Post Offices as well as putting more government business through them;
  • Abolishing the identity card and database;
  • Giving a commitment to ending the detention of children for immigration purposes – an end to seeing children in places like Dungavel and Yarlswood.

To be able to do these things at a time when we are having to tackle an enormous deficit in the public finances is an achievement of which I am proud and which I am willing to defend against anyone.

I am constantly struck by the atti­t­ude of the left to this government. Such is the tribal hatred of the Con­servatives that they cannot bring them­selves to acknowledge any good done by a government of which they are part. At last week’s Althing one member of the audience quoted with approval the remarks of Boris Johnson who had earlier said that the impact of changes to housing benefit would be similar to what happened in Kosovo. When you hear things like that it makes you take a pause for thought. What happened in Kosovo was a shameful episode of ethnic cleansing that left thousands of people dead because of their ethnicity. Surely we are talking about things which are on different scales here.

Alistair Carmichael MP


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