What is the point of the Lib-Dems?

by Ray_North on December 12, 2011

That sounds like a facetious question – it isn’t meant to be – it is a serious question and one which I would urge every Liberal Democrat to ask themselves now more than ever.

The Lib-Dems have played an important role. Since the Party rose up from the debacle of the SDP/Liberal Alliance in the mid-1980′s they have become an important party in terms of local and regional government; they have provided a very consistent outlet for those of pro-European persuasion; they have often been the most environmentally aware; they have had good and often pioneering policies on education and health; and, they have often outflanked Labour on important issues such as the Iraq War and tuition fees.

Politically, they have used their position in the centre ground adroitly – staying (just) the right side of populist and steadily improving their representation in Parliament.

At the last election, Nick Clegg fought a very good campaign – he was unashamedly pro-European; his, or more correctly Vince Cable’s, position on the economy was sensible and obtainable; and, he maintained the traditional core Lib-Dem aims such as electoral reform and human rights etc, whilst attempting to distinguish his party from Labour and the Tories by using trust and broken promises, which was important in the wake of the expenses scandal.

As a result of this campaign – 6,836,248 people voted Lib-Dem, that was 23% of the vote.

A mere eighteen months on – the Lib-Dems have been shown up as the most duplicitous party perhaps in the history of British Politics, they have drifted so far from their position at the last general election that it is now fair to say that they have let down every single one of the 6.8 million people who voted for them. Those voters did not vote for extreme austerity; they did not vote for increased tuition fees for students; they did not vote for a wholescale dismantling of the NHS; and they didn’t vote for a massive diminution of Britain’s role within the EU.

At the onset of the coalition the Lib-Dems claimed that they had to carry out the will of the electorate – well, the electorate did not vote for a right-wing Thatcherite government. At the onset of the coalition, the Lib-Dems claimed that they would take the tough decisions needed in the best interests of the nation – well, our economic performance has shown the tough decisions have been disastrous. It would have been preferable if they had taken the ‘right decisions’ as opposed to trying to live up to their own rhetoric.

In the absence of some extremely weird and unforeseen event, the Lib-Dems will be slaughtered at the next election – which is a shame because the hole that they will leave in the central ground of British Politics is a significant one, whilst their absence will almost certainly condemn us to a lot more years of Cameron.

But, the Lib-Dems can still contribute something positive to the current political debate and that is they can perform two acts – first, they can get rid of Nick Clegg, quite clearly, Clegg does not have what it takes to be a political leader and his position in the forefront of British politics is now a danger to us all; second, they can end the coalition – this may force an election, which will at least force the Tories to show their hand and force Labour off their current cosy and unhelpful position on the fence; or it may even force the Tories to continue to govern as best they can without the formal support of the Lib-Dems which would act as much more substantial brake on the Tories than the current position in which the Lib-Dem coalescence on everything is taken for granted.

It may be the last act of a drowning man, but the Lib-Dems, for the good of the nation must now put an end to the bumbling awfulness of this Coalition Government.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

George_East December 12, 2011 at 11:40 am

None

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Jen December 12, 2011 at 1:14 pm

“the electorate did not vote for a right-wing Thatcherite government”

Really? 36% of them voted Conservative and nearly as many voted for the “deeper cuts than Thatcher” Labour party.

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Ray_North December 12, 2011 at 1:28 pm

It didn’t – I stand by that. Labour’s policy, though, accepting the need to cut, did not make the economically catastrophic claim that the deficit could be cut within the period of a parliament. I am also convinced that as soon as Gordon Brown (and I am no great Gordon fan, or indeed a Labour voter) realised that cuts were taking the demand out of the economy he would have reacted quickly and decisively to stimulate more growth.
In any event, you will also recall that pre-election, Cameron was very adept at coming across as a ‘compassionate conservative’ – post-election, he has shown his real colours with the zealous way in which he has gone about dismantling the state.
It is clear that there is absolutely no mandate for the austerity measures that have been pursued by the coalition.

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George_East December 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm

It goes beyond that. The Lib Dems stood on an economic platform at the centre of which was Vince Cable’s repeated description of George Osborne’s deficit reduction plan as ‘reckless’. As soon as the election was over, the Lib Dems turned on a dime on the most spurious reason – that Britain was in danger of becoming Greece. Overwhelmingly therefore on the big issue in the election, the economy, the Tory view was repudiated but is now being implemented.
Further, at the time of the election as a result of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling’s stimulus measures in 2009, the economy was growing at a fair pace (Q2 2010, was 1.2% – ie 4.8% annualised) and unemployment was falling. The premature withdrawal of that stimulus and the Coalition cuts have resulted in the economy being plunged back into recession or near recession.
And as for El Gordo, he had his flaws (including failing to regulate the banks) but on economic policy he was so far ahead of the current shambles that it beggars belief. I would have him back in charge in a minute if the option was there. Yes, the Labour position going into the election was too parsimonious on spending given the economy but the measures were pushed towards the end of the parliament to allow the patient to recover (and as you say Ray would undoubtedly have been reviewed if the economy was still at risk). In contrast the Coalition plan is full steam ahead with austerity and hope that the confidence fairy rescues us.

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Charlie East-West December 13, 2011 at 9:49 am

So then Nick Clegg, how is that coalition thingy working out for you? 
In collusion with the Tories he has managed to destroy his party’s three main policies for a generation – tuition fees, reform of the voting system and European integration. But he is doing it all for the national interest, so that makes it all ok, right? 
Wrong.

The Lib Dems will be battered come what may in a future general election. The Lib Dems should therefore, accept being reduced to a parliamentary husk sooner rather than later – so they can immediately begin the process of rediscovering their ideological muse and more importantly, regain the freedom to speak openly in opposition. Now is the time for Nick Clegg to rediscover his cojones and leave the coalition.
Unfortunately, I suspect the trappings of power hold sway. 
Nick Clegg – no backbone, no principles, just power without responsibility.

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