Thursday, 16 September 2010

Highland Lib Dems get their collars felt

Just in case Charles Kennedy thinks he's done enough to placate his constituents by murmuring discontent about the coalition cuts agenda the other day there's a cracking editorial in the West Highland Free Press to remind him how much more he must do to oppose the government.

Focusing on the plans to privatise the Royal Mail the Free Press rails that a private company "will be free to charge 20 or 30 pence for a letter delivered within Glasgow or London, two, three or four times that amount for delivery from Glasgow to Kyle of Lochalsh". In short it is " a disgraceful initiative" says the Free Press, which seems to be atoning for giving Kennedy such an easy ride at the general election.

In its leader page the paper points both barrels at all the Highland Lib Dems, claiming it can hear Gladstone birling in his grave as they auction their Liberalism on the alter of Tory cuts. Take it away, Rog..

"If you refute that principle in so basic an amenity as the mail, where do you stop? Or rather, where next do you start - by surcharging the west Highlands for health, for policing, for education?

Interestingly, this is purely a Liberal Democrat proposal. It is not, like so many others, a Tory policy with Danny the LibDem lapdog trotting along behind. It comes from the office of the Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, Mr Vince Cable.

Twickenham is unlikely to suffer from the abolition of the uniform postal charge. But no fewer than five of Mr Cable’s colleagues - nine per cent of his party’s parliamentary strength - represent the Scottish Highlands, which will be hurt more than anywhere else in Britain by Vince Cable’s big idea.

Vince Cable’s fellow LibDem MPs dominate the north and west. From Badenoch to Dunvegan Head in Skye, from the Mull of Kintyre to the northern tip of Unst in Shetland, with the single exception of the Western Isles we are represented at Westminster by Liberal Democrat MPs. They are all we have.

They now need to ask themselves some serious questions. They campaigned for election on a platform of protecting services in this region. They vigorously opposed privatisation of the Royal Mail, and even more furiously condemned the idea of variable charging.

We know that Danny Alexander of Inverness and Alistair Carmichael of Orkney and Shetland have sold their souls for position. We do not know if much goes on in the heads of John Thurso of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross or Alan Reid of Argyll and Bute.

But like much of the rest of the country, we are waiting anxiously for Charles Kennedy of Ross, Skye and Lochaber to stop bleating, climb down from his elaborately contructed fence and oppose government measures which he knows to be both unnecessary and uniquely damaging to his constituents.

Are you - Kennedy, Alexander, Carmichael, Thurso and Reid - going to sit tight in the name of some unholy union with the Tories, while the people you represent are singled out for surcharging simply because of where we live? Gladstone will be turning in his grave."

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