The Lib Dems: Enough is enough

by Charlie_East_West on September 12, 2013

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“Don’t settle for low politics and broken promises” – Nick Clegg, 2010
Yes, he fucking well did say that. And yes, he fucking well settled for it.
As always with Nick Clegg – Do as I say, not as I do.

It has been well documented within the panic rooms of the All That’s Left house about the coalition Lib Dem betrayal of liberalism and more importantly – their liberal voters, supporters, activists and members. I have been one such dissenting voice. My family is steeped in Liberal tradition and I have previously worked for the party. Like many, I have become increasingly disenfranchised with the behaviour and ideological volte-face of the coalition Lib Dems led by Nick Clegg. All of which has come to a head over the past two weeks surrounding their pro Syrian interventionism and their unilateral support for the Gagging Bill.

I am not alone. I know of many friends and colleagues who are walking away from lifetime support of the Liberal Democrats. Enough is enough for many.

If we are pragmatic about opposing this government then the Lib Dems are every bit as much to blame as the Tories. The evidence is right in front of our very eyes. We cannot ignore it:- Tuition fees. Bomb Syria. Rampant privatisation. Free schools. Gagging Bill. Misplaced austerity. Public sector cuts. Secret courts. Tax cuts for millionaires. The slow dismantling of the NHS. Rise in VAT. Welfare cuts. A failed “miserable little compromise” on electoral system. And the real eye waterer – Comtinually propping up the Tories and allowing them to push through an agenda that is destroying the social fabric of this country.

The tragedy is that none of this needed to happen. When there was no overall winner in the 2010 General Election the Lib Dems as kingmakers had three options:-

1. Let the Conservatives form a minority government and gain credibility by voting down any right wing and socially divisive legislation.
2. Form a rainbow coalition government with Labour and also the Scottish and Welsh nationalists – which would have formed a larger voting block than the Conservatives, and a block that would have been ideologically closer together than Lib Dems/Tory coalition.
3. Form a coalition with the Conservatives.

Tragically, as we all now know – they chose option 3 and opened up a coalition based on a Neo-Liberal agenda.

The 2010 hung parliament was the Liberal Democrats’ once in a lifetime opportunity to use their influence effectively, but instead, they squandered it. Their decision has had massive ramifications. They had the opportunity to draw up some clear red lines of policy and stick to these – both in terms of coalition negotiations and subsequent government policy making – in particular, demanding a fair and considered programme of austerity targeted at the underserving rich (bankers, corporate tax avoiders, fat cat bonuses), proportional representation, reform of the House of Lords, parliamentary codes of conduct and banking reform. If these red lines were not granted, then the Lib Dems should have rejected any coalition agreement.

Yes, the Tories may have then called a snap election, and won it outright. But, this would have been a very dangerous path for a party that had just failed to secure a majority government and then turned down a coalition out of stubborn opposition to progressive electoral and banking and corporate reform. The public would have immediately remembered the lessons of the Tory past, and perceptions of “the nasty party” would have come flooding back.

If the Lib Dems had stuck to their guns about demanding parliament, voting and banking reforms without compromise – this brinkmanship would have been in tune with the public mood. Instead, the immediate allure of power, ministerial cars, shiny red dispatch boxes and the front benches turned their heads in the direction of the Tories – combined with a scandalous lack of ideological purpose.

The Liberal Democrats could have made enormous political capital out of any coalition refusal. Appealing strongly to all progressive voters by repeating the line that they were the genuine party of political reform – unlike Labour, who wasted the opportunity over 13 years of majority government and the Tories, who consistently showed that they were fundamentally opposed to reform. But, they didn’t. The opportunity was missed.

Also, the hypothetical idea that the Tories were somehow a guarantee for victory in any immediate re-run of the 2010 election, and that the Lib Dems had to form a coalition with the Tories out of “national interest” to protect the economy is absolute bunkum. The fact that it is repeated so often by “I believe in Nick Clegg more than Nick Clegg believes in Nick Clegg” Orange Booker acolytes to justify their role in the coalition shambles just illustrates that power can create self justification for all the wrong reasons.

If the Lib Dems were true to their commitment to the “national interest” then they would have chosen a path that reflected their own pre-2010 ideological commitment to improve the lives of the many rather than the few. If the Lib Dems had stuck by this, they could either have made themselves even more popular by facing down every bit of regressive right wing policy from the Tories. And if it came to it, in a snap-election they could have gone into the re-election campaign with even more people saying “I agree with Nick“, winning a larger share of the vote, more MPs and an even more credible and powerful position to act as kingmaker in return for real political reform. They did not do this. They blew it for a short term power game. Now the 2010 election phrase of “I agree with Nick” seems hollow and passé. It now appears that no one agrees with Nick.

A large proportion of voters wanted the Lib Dems to do well in the 2010 election so that they could stick it to the man – and open the door to genuine and sustainable political reform. The timing was perfect – in light of MP’s expense scandals and banking collapse. Instead of seizing the moment to rejuvenate British politics by accepting nothing less than genuine reform, they have instead helped the Tories remove the need for reform. They could have made politics and society a better place. They have instead made it worse. They unlocked the door and ushered through the Tories towards a horrific Neo-Liberal meeting place.

Not only have the Liberal Democrats ruined any real chance of progressive political reform for the foreseeable future, they have destroyed their own credibility and trust for an entire generation and have disenfranchised their core supporter. Vote Lib Dem – Get Tory. What is the fucking point of that? It is like a Liverpool supporter cheering on their team against arch rivals Manchester United, only to then run onto the pitch and inexplicably kick the ball into the Liverpool net. It is an own goal that will define a generation. How can the Lib Dems be seen at the next election to be campaigning on a platform of political reform after their shenanigans within power?

So, what next for the Lib Dems? They are staring down the barrel of the worst question and answer session that any political party can be asked by voters at an election:-

Question: Why on earth should I vote for you?
Answer: No idea.
Outcome: Electoral meltdown.

I blame the Orange Bookers. This bunch of so-called enlightened modern-day Liberals have destroyed their own party. The old Liberal (the fair minded Social Liberals) has been marginalised by the “anything goes, but as long as it is for power“, borderline Neo-Liberal. If this had been a deliberate plan to become a political double agent, to work from within, to completely destroy the Liberal Democrat party from the inside, covertly establish a brand of neoliberalism to prop up the scarier version within the Tory party, reboot Thatcherism (but this time rebooted in an even more extreme right wing remix), and kill off political reform for at least 20 years in the future – then Clegg and his Orange Bookers couldn’t have implemented it any better.

Internal ideological coup d’états aside, I think the reason behind the tragedy of the coalition Lib Dems are pretty straightforward. Basically, the only reason that the Lib Dems perched their yellow bird in the Tory tree is because of one word…power.

Nick Clegg said today, “I hope some people now will give [the Lib Dems] begrudging respect for having stayed the course.” – Nick Clegg – you do not have my respect. Not even any begrudging respect.

Dear Lib Dems, we need to have that little chat. I think it is finally time that we said goodbye to each other. Enough is enough. I secretly hoped that you would improve your behaviour over a difficult couple of years. Unfortunately, you haven’t. Your behaviour has become completely unreasonable. So, regrettably, I am off to find someone who understands me a little bit better.

Goodbye and good luck.

Yours regrettably,
Charlie East-West

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Zedbeded September 12, 2013 at 6:38 pm

I’m convinced Clegg will be standing as a Tory at the next election, if not he should be. 🙁

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Eddie Kaye September 12, 2013 at 8:22 pm

The electorate spoke in 2010. They rejected the Brown administration. Equally, they did not give David Cameron the mandate to have things all his own way. Parliamentary protocol besides, Clegg (even in his Orange Book wisdom) should have realised he had the ultimate bargaining chip. Instead of using that to get the country a better deal, he took the pathe of least resistance. Had he been bolder, the tabloids would have painted it as the tail wagging the dog. On the contrary, it was the gilt edged opportunity for him to help those who should hold the lead have a say. He failed, and we now have a rerun of the ’80’s on our hands. In a few years time when the privatised post office is delivering privatised electricity bills, letters home from privatised prisons, correspondence from heads of free schools and academies, and final demands from legal loan sharks – how will Clegg be judged then?

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Charlie_East_West September 12, 2013 at 8:33 pm

The electorate rejected everyone in 2010. But, in particular, they rejected the way in which politics was conducted. So, over to Mr Clegg…and his fresh faced “do things differently” – which he did – that Rose Garden coalition launch was appallingly original.

Most people will not care a jot about Clegg’s legacy, but for those of us who care deeply about the darkened allayway direction in which we are heading – his approach towards forming the coalition and management of the coalition means we are now drifting even further to the right in terms of setting the agenda. It might take 30 years to claw it back.

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Eddie Kaye September 12, 2013 at 8:46 pm

To be honest Charlie, I just cannot believe we have not seen some sort of revolt. A high profile resignation, a defection or two – I don’t count that clown Sarah Teather standing down. A few missed divisions that only the right wing press notice do not cut it for me. They have ruined our democracy, ruined their own party, destroyed parliamentary integrity, sold this country down the river to the cabinet of millionaires. A decade on from the stand against the invasion of Iraq – what the fuck have they done?

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Charlie_East_West September 12, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Eddie – I agree with every word.

The last part of my Lib Dem bashing trilogy this week will focus on some of your points raised. As in, the Lib Dems have caused The State We Are In…to be continued…

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