The Lib-Dems: Is This The Worst General Campaign Ever?

by Ray_North on April 15, 2015

images-2I’ve been listening to David Laws on the radio this morning – David Laws, like Danny Alexander is someone who I worked with when I was living my former life – unlike Danny Alexander, David Laws did not make my tea, I made his. He is a likeable man with a ferocious intellect. When he came to work for the part as their economics guru in about 1995, it was clear that the MPs and party leadership would listen to him and also that he would ultimately lead the party to the right. It is of note, that between 2001 and 2005 when he was out of Westminster fighting to become an MP in his own right, the party moved markedly to the left.

But, Lawsy, despite his great brain and charm was, just like every other Lib-Dem spokesman and candidate I have come across during this election, struggling to sell his party because of the utter confusion of the Lib-Dem message.

This is the problems they have – first, is Nick Clegg, Clegg is seen as one of the greatest British political let downs in history. He is the David Owen of his generation. For a moment his star shone brightly, then, in an instant he was seen as being shallow, excessively ambitious and deceitful. Laws tried manfully to peddle the line that the Lib-Dems delivered on the promises that they made at the last election, and the usual mantra of raised tax thresholds and pupil premium was trotted out – but, what they fail to understand, and what Nick Clegg spectacularly fails to understand is that the perception (rightly in my opinion) of the nation is that this has been a Tory government in all but name and the Lib-Dems have done little to stop it lurching rightwards and following the usual Tory path of looking after its own.

And because of this, Nick Clegg has morphed into the worst and most useless kind of politician, someone who is deemed to be dishonest and lacking in a clear identity. People will not vote for him.

If the first part of the Lib-Dem message is not believed, then the second part of the Lib-Dem message is not understood; the Lib-Dems go on to say (once they’ve defended their governments record), that they fear the Tories will go too far to the right with their ‘ideologically driven austerity’ and the Labour party will not go far enough and will render the economy into a new mess with excess borrowing. Vote for us, say the Lib-Dems and you will get a coalition that is neither too right wing nor too left wing.

Confused?

Well I am.

‘Not too right wing nor too left wing’? what does that actually mean? Will it be a little bit left wing, or a little bit right wing? If I vote Lib-Dem will they make any effort to form a coalition with Labour if Labour are the biggest party or have they already emotionally agreed to continue with Cameron? How can the Lib-Dems be trusted to curb the Tories further austerity or for that matter the Labour party’s ‘locked-in’ year on year deficit reduction plans?

I speak as a former party member, someone who worked for them and stood for them only ten years ago – but, I have absolutely no idea what I would be voting for if I decided to put my cross in the Lib-Dem box.

The Lib-Dems used to stand for a mixed economy, a robust welfare state, Europe, internationalism and human rights; the Lib-Dems used to champion the environment and be prepared to question the orthodox on issues such as criminal justice, education and tax – now, it appears that the most they can offer is a discredited leader who simply wants another term as Deputy Prime Minister with whoever makes him the best offer.

Is their campaign the worst General Campaign ever – yes. Without doubt.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

George_East April 15, 2015 at 12:08 pm

There is little doubt that the leadership wants the current coalition to continue. They have all but said as much. Even today’s launch was much more barbed about the dangers of Labour and the SNP, than the Tories. Laws made it clear this morning that the madness of the Tories’ plan for an EU referendum was not a red line.

Clegg’s legacy will be to have turned the Lib Dems into a minor slightly more liberal party of the centre right: the FDP in fact (and look what has happened to them – they are not even represented in the Budestag any more).

When doing the arithmetic on possible governments after 7 May 2015, we all need to work on the basis that they key metric is whether (Lab+SNP) > (Con+Lib Dem) because that is how the battle lines are drawn.

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Chris April 15, 2015 at 5:20 pm

I thought that after David Laws there was a revealing interview with Gus O’Donnell that inadvertently supports my view that it David Cameron is will need to be prised out of Downing Street, even if he cannot form a coalition, and that two factors – the Fixed Term Parliament Act and the arrangements put in place since 2010 for the Cabinet Office to manage coalition – will make this much harder.

O’Donnell defined a supply and confidence arrangement as one in which a motion-by-motion arrangement is underpinned by a formal agreement, in which the Government enact some of the other party’s manifesto promises. This may have been true of the Lib-Lab pact, but I do not believe it was true of the 1924 and 1929 minority governments, when supply and confidence was a default arrangement delivered by a combination of policy trimming from the government and election planning from the two other parties.

I wondered if O’Donnell’s position might lead to the advice that to a sitting Coalition government that now falls short of a majority must stay in place because a default Lab-SNP supply and confidence arrangement was not based on a formal arrangement.

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John Stone April 15, 2015 at 6:51 pm

I think once again the Lib Dems will find themselves in an invidious position after the election. I’m sure Charlie is right that the leadership feel they’ve made their bed and should continue to lie in it, but I’m not sure the membership will want that. And if Clegg was to lose in Hallam, it will be a very chastened leadership that would have to sell that notion to the members. Equally, I doubt there will be that much enthusiasm for coalition with Labour. It would look opportunistic and flakey, and there is a tribal dislike of Libdems within Labour circles, perhaps even more so than with the Tories – witness Labour’s position on the AV referendum.

Every election I’ve voted in I’ve been in a Tory seat and as a result in 1987, 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010 I voted LD, never really expecting the outcome we got in 2010. Still, I recognised the arithmetic and by and large was accepting of the decision to join the coalition. But how ironic that the Tories seemed to grasp coalition politics so much quicker than the LD’s. Played like Patsies for the first 3 Years, albeit sinking boundaries reform was some revenge. So what of this year; it’s now a dismal choice. And quite possibly an election to lose. I want a strong Labour party, a party of the people, and that isn’t the party of Balls and Miliband it seems. I’d almost welcome the outcome described by Chris: Cameron trying to cling on with an ungovernable coalition. Tories ripping themselves apart over Europe like 1995/6. Bring it on….

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