When I joined the Liberal party 26 years ago it was because, in my gut, the Liberals seemed the right people to me. Over the last quarter of a century, particularly in these last 22 months, I've been proved right.Now, in my more tribal moments, I'm also tempted to believe that only the politicians from my camp make their decisions based on morality and good judgement. But that's nonsense, isn't it? It's the worst kind of 'my tribe, right or wrong' partisanship. And reading a senior politician making this argument in such a transparent and extreme way really gets my back up.
When the Tories have had to "do difficult things" – when they closed the mines, the steelworks and the shipyards – do you think they felt bad about it? No. When Labour invaded Iraq, introduced tuition fees, clobbered the poor by scrapping the 10p tax rate or let the bankers off the leash, wrecking the economy – did they feel bad? I doubt it.
But here we are, the Lib Dems, in government taking difficult decisions to rescue our country from the abyss, and we spend our time feeling guilty and beating ourselves up. Do you know what that proves? It proves that we are human, it proves we are decent, that there is something in our DNA as a party that means Lib Dems acquire and retain a conscience.
Drawing out the wider point, I think it's so important to assume good faith with those who disagree with us. If there's good reason not to believe someone is telling the truth, then fair enough, but how can it be right to dismiss the views of those who don't see things our way simply because they don't see things our way? It's certainly never going to bring people over to your point of view, I'd have thought: 'Oh, you've just demonised me just because I disagree with you. Now, let me give some serious thought to what you're saying...' Not going to happen, is it?