Stormin’ Norman and the Curse of the Coalition Government

I’m not one for making predictions, as my regular readers (Warren, Momma Grizzly, Councillor Christopher, and Biker Dave) will testify, but I have a premonition about the future fortunes of the Lib Dem Member of Parliament for Lewes, Norman Baker. I can feel it it my waters that his time on the Green Benches (the colour, not the party) may be limited.

Actually, there is speculation about his future in several quarters, not least in the pages of Latest 7 magazine and in Brighton and Hove News in articles written by one of the nicest and most principled journalists around, Frank le Duc.

So why should Stormin’ Norman’s future look so uncertain? Well, for a start, he is a Lib Dem, and as my regular readers (the said WM, MG, CH & BD) will know, I have had my doubts about the Lib Dems. Apart from being untrustworthy, lacking backbone, two-faced, unprincipled, deserving to be confined to the dustbin of history, I think they are rather a decent bunch.

The Lib Dems are facing meltdown at the next general election for several reasons:

For helping to create the Coalition Government and thereby allow the Tories to run the country without a mandate;

For betraying their pledge on tuition fees;

For standing by while the privatisation of the NHS has begun;

etc. etc. etc.

And Stormin’ Norman’s part in this is not great. He betrayed his own written pledge on tuition fees, he agreed to become a Minister in this government that is implementing policies that were not in either party’s manifesto nor in the Coalition Agreement, and his government is bumping up rail fares (something that will not go unpunished by commuters in the Lewes constituency). On the issue of rail fares, Stormin’ Norman not only remained silent, he is the Transport Minister responsible for rail!

But it isn’t all bleak for him, as Frank le Duc has suggested, Lord Baker of Lewes is a likely reward for his loyal service to the Coalition. However, that would be a sorry end for someone who inspired so much hope as an anti-establishment MP in his early career.

5 Responses

  1. Although I work in Brighton, I live in Lewes, so Norm is my MP. A while back, me and my friend who’s a teacher visited one of his surgeries to challenge him about cuts to education (amongst others). I also spoke to him about the hike in rail fares, and asked how this could be justified. His response was that the increase was fair because, and I quote, “poor people get the bus”. You couldn’t make it up.

  2. I was dubious about Norman Baker – especially in view of the very odd conspiracy theory book he wrote about David Kelly and some strange views he expressed about 9/11 being some kind of inside job.
    However I think he has actually made a pretty good minister on the whole. In the end I cannot help but respect someone who has decided to take responsibility and make some difficult decisions, rather than simply sit on the sidelines and snipe.
    Also for a Lib Dem he has always had a rather more sensible position on the EU than the Party as a whole.

  3. Err… just commenting to show I visited I guess… The original post seems right on the button…

    The constituency changes in these parts appear to be completely mad – but Baker is seriously damaged goods whatever the constituency looks like.

    Every time an MP goes out on a whimper instead of raging against they dying of the light I am sure a fairy dies. The fairy of missed opportunity to actually matter, count and make a difference.

    Right now, parents are angry about tuition fees – but in a few years whole generations of graduates will be angry about them (or about paying them back!). Lib dems have cursed themselves for generations to come (so not all bad I guess…)

  4. This is an article written as recently as March 2010……

    March 18th, 2010 by Steve Beasant
    Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary, Norman Baker has taken on Prime Minister, Gordon Brown in the House of Commons over the rising cost of train fares.
    Norman Baker quizzed the PM over the fact that Labour have allowed the cost of motoring to decrease while the price of most rail fares have skyrocketed. Norman Baker called upon the Prime Minister to end Labour’s policy under which most fares rise by 1% above inflation every year. 
    On the floor of the Commons, Mr Baker challenged the Prime Minister: “It is unfair on rail passengers and contrary to the Government’s carbon reduction strategy that, since 1997, the cost of motoring has decreased by 14 per cent while the cost of rail fares has gone up in real terms by 13 per cent. 
    “Given that a large reason for this is the Government’s policy of forcing up rail fares by 1 per cent above inflation every single year, will the Prime Minister now give the House and the country an assurance that, if a Labour Government are re-elected, they will end their RPI plus 1 policy and their train fare escalator?” 
    The Prime Minister entirely ducked the question about rail fares, stating only: “I believe that passengers welcome the fact not only that we have better services but that trains arrive on time. It is important to recognise the huge investment that this Government have made in the railways of this country.” 
    Norman Baker later commented: “It is high time the government re-evaluated this unfair policy. My constituents are fed up with seeing rail fares go up above inflation year after year. 
    “We need to encourage people to use the railways, especially as the transport sector is the only one where carbon emissions are increasing, but rip-off fares will not give people a reason to travel by rail. 
    “It is clear that Labour is not willing to recognise that there is a problem, but the Lib Dems are committed to a fairer deal for the passenger.”


    After relentlessly campaigning for lower fares when in opposition he now spends his time justifying inflation busting increases now he’s part of the government. What a shame he has no principles or integrity. I get the impression from comments from various people that he’s an excellent constituency MP and I have no reason to doubt this (although I suspect that this is through self-interest in order to ensure he’s re-elected), but as a member of the Government he’s been an utter disgrace. His crocodile tears when deciding how to vote of tuition fees were the last straw……

  5. I would be surprised if Norman Baker stood again. As things stand, the Lib Dem candidate could easily finish fourth in the Lewes/East Brighton seat, and I can’t see his prospects being much better elsewhere – even if the next election ends up being held under the present boundaries.

    The irony is that, under first-past-the-post, the progressive voters of Lewes and district are likely to turf out their MP for abandoning his progressive principles, allowing the election of a Tory MP who never had any in the first place.

    Tactically, the Lib Dems have made a massive mistake in underestimating just how many of their votes are ‘lent’ Labour/Green votes in seats like Lewes.
    The latest YouGov poll puts them at 7 percent. A modest personal following isn’t going to do much for Norman under these circumstances.

    Just to make a partial defence of the Lib Dems as a whole, given that I used to belong to the party: the parliamentary arithmetic and Labour’s post-election disarray meant that there was not much choice post-election but to deal with Tories, although full coalition on such poor terms was not the only option.

    The Lib Dem leadership’s abiding sin for me, which the blogger doesn’t specify, was their damascene conversion to the Tory policy on debt reduction. Everything else – including the tuition fee debacle – has flowed from that. Their attempts, post hoc, to blame everything on Labour’s spending are most disingenuous and make it hard to defend them from the blogger’s often repeated (and rather hackneyed) attacks (though see also Caroline Lucas and her ‘debt-fuelled spend-a-thon’ – what on earth was she thinking of?)

    That said, the Lib Dems have taken some courageous stances in recent years – on Europe, civil liberties and Iraq, for example – on which they showed plenty of ‘backbone’. Pity they have so swiftly pissed that political credit away – and all for what?

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