Tag Archive: Liberal Democrats


The Problem with Power

Rant time.

To be fair, I must say that I failed to renew my LibDem membership a long time ago. I still considered myself “a LibDem” but I was disturbed by the party’s direction enough to not want to be a party member. For me it was an issue of the party regaining my vote and membership rather than retaining it-I was not prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt as many of my activist colleagues have done.

Perhaps it is hypocritical that I continued to promote the party to others while not being a member, but I don’t see it that way. I have never urged anyone to join as a member, I merely have advocated that the LibDems are worth a vote and even more, that Labour and the Tories are unworthy of Government. I still believe in the latter, but I am having trouble with the former. So the question is what do you do, when your choices are all bad and if you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t?

Personally, I am a left winger-I am a lot more a left winger than I am a Liberal (sorry if that disappoints anyone who knows me). In the LibDem spectrum I am definitely more on the old Social Democrats wing and even now am quite interested in how this Liberal Left thing will play out. Of course I am also a Liberal-for the most part I am a strong believer in social liberalism (though I’m not an absolutist) but I am definitely not an economic Liberal. For me anything that strays into the “right wing” is instantly suspect until it proves that it serves some sort of utilitarian goal, basically that it will achieve something which is good for the people. Why am I not a Labour activist? Probably because Labour nowadays are further right than the LibDems and are generally hellbent on destroying personal freedom on a breathtaking scale.

So for me, the current developments which have taken the party on a dark journey rightwards, rubber-stamping abhorrent Tory pet projects, are very unpalatable. I think this is definitely the reason why I not only have no plans of renewing my membership, but I am finding it harder and harder to say a good word about the LibDems in Government. The Grassroots party is still true to its roots, but there is a growing disconnect between them and their representatives in Westminster. Several times now LibDem MP’s and Peers have completely ignored conference motions and arguably public and Grassroots LibDem outcries and toed the party and government line. In other words, they are listening to Clegg and Cameron and not to the card carrying members who ARE the party. Nick Clegg had famously said that he will die a card carrying LibDem-well that’s very poetic but all for nowt if he completely bastardises what that card stands for in the mean time.

At the same time, it is important to realise a very clear and chilling truth. Everything that the public doesn’t like about the government and that has caused the most pain to the ordinary person would be much, much worse, if the LibDems were not in government. If this was an exclusively Tory Government, the UK would be suffering the full brunt of Cameron and Osborne’s perverse market obsessed brand of insanity. I don’t believe that Nick Clegg is a bad man. I really don’t. I think he does bad things for good reasons. I think he believes that what he is doing now is the best thing for the country-making concessions here, being diplomatic there in order to extract every bit of humanity possible from Tory policies. Essentially I believe he is engaging in an extremely risky and high stakes game of damage limitation on behalf of Joe Public. I empathise with this, which is why I still think the coalition was the only way forward. Staying the Tory hand and checking their excesses in Government would not otherwise be possible.

I fear, however that he and the rest of the leading LibDems have lost their head in their attempts and controlling Cameron and co. They have started agreeing and advocating things they would never dream of pre-election. This shows they are in danger of completely losing their integrity and tarnishing the party reputation for generations. I fear, therefore that the strain from holding back the Tories and their inexperience in Government (and in managing sly political operators) has lead them to essentially go native (or fall to the Dark Side if you will).

So what is the solution-the Tories seem hell bent on destroying the state and making the people suffer, Labour’s answer to everything appears to be to spy on you and the LibDems…well they don’t really seem to have an answer to anything right now. The only way out for Clegg right now seems to be to wait for a sufficiently charged issue and use it as an opportunity to either score a big win over Cameron or break the coalition. Waiting it out will only allow the Tories to do more damage, which will take the next Labour or coalition government even longer to reverse. Furthermore, waiting until 2015 will, at this rate, ensure the LibDems get slaughtered at the polls. People blame the party for everything that goes wrong. I used to think that the electorate is stupidly being duped by Cameron into blaming Clegg for everything. Now I see it differently-of course they’re not angry with Cameron-those who voted for him actually think he’s doing good work and those who didn’t know for sure that Tories will be Tories-you can’t expect a wild beast not to bite. The LibDems however, CAN do something about it-which is why they get blamed everytime they don’t. They need only look to the continent to see examples of minority parties in Government mounting much more active rearguard action than the LibDems have currently managed. Will it cause stalemates-sure, maybe. That’s still better than allowing atrocious laws onto the statute book for the sake of stability.

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Many pages have been written (or typed) about the unenviable position of one Nick Clegg. Many pundits feel he is now so toxic that it is only a matter of time before he has to call it quits and fall on his sword to save the party. These people have missed their guess in spectacular fashion.

Underestimating Clegg is up there with the most unwise things to do in current British Politics. A bit over a year ago, the man was a political nobody-today he is the Deputy Prime Minister  and second most powerful man in Westminster. He did this off the back of three televised debates-not too shabby for a virtual unknown. In so doing however he showed that he has political skill at least equal to David Cameron, who is pretty slick by anyone’s standards (his policies notwithstanding).

Certainly, Clegg has benefited from the fact that his party actually has a raft of good policies which he was able to talk about at those debates . Furthermore, I want to make it clear that for all his virtues (and regardless of the oppinions held by contless armchair political pundits across the land-he has many) he is too far on the right of the LibDem spectrum for my personal liking. Be that as it may, the fact remains that as far as the public is concerned Nick Clegg IS the Liberal Democrats. Removing him will not clear the taint since it has long since seeped through to the rest of the party in the minds of voters. What is necessary from a LibDem point of view is to carry out a detoxifying of our very own.  Clegg seemes to have gotten this as this article shows:

http://www.politicshome.com/uk/story/16981/

Despite the unjustified visceral hatred of all things LibDem felt by many, sorting out the LibDem image over the course of this Parliament should be an easier task than the one Cameron faced when he took over as Conservative Party Leader. The reason being that Cameron had the task of presenting a thorughly horrid Tory party as a new soft and cuddly Conservative unit. He has done so admirably. If you can make the public somehow forget the horrors of Thatcher and how generally distatestful most Tory policies are, then I would put money on the public forgetting the Tuition fees fiasco.

Something which aids in this respect is that while Tuition fees generated a lot of hype it is a comparatively small field-it affects students and their parents but at a relatively low level. Raising debt is an abstract concept. The Tories demolishing the NHS is very real and it affects literally everyone at a most basic level. This is why Clegg’s road to redemption begins now. According to the news today, Clegg and the LibDems in Parliament have obviously started to take the fight to the Tories over the NHS. Andrew Lansley’s reforms are a complete train wreck and a vile attack on one of Britain’s cornerstone institutions. More importantly, the public have realised this and have their eyes wide open on this one.

The more the Tories defend the plans, the more damage they will take when the LibDem and Labour MP’s inevitably vote them down in the Commons. Regardless of what select Tory bank bench MP’s might like to imagine, the post local elections LibDem caucus has nothing at all to lose and will now make the price for its votes be worth its weight in gold-as it should have been from the start. The fact is, the NHS bill will not survive if it has the marketisation bent that the Tories want. Therefore it will either be a changed bill and the Tories will hate it (as the NHS will remain immune from market forces) or it will be scrapped alltogether.

Either way this presents the opportunity for a big win, but more importantly it presents the opportunity for Clegg & Co to do what they entered the coalition to do-keep a leash on the Tories and ensure they dont completely destroy the state in favour of their big business pals before the end of this Parliament. The public has been too cruel to the LibDems and Clegg, but save the NHS and he will be well on the way to save himself and his party.

Initially I wanted to start a blog to document my experiences in Brussels, however since I am back now , the more pressing domestic issues will come first.

Foremost among those of course is the AV referendum and local elections which happened recently.  It takes no great powers of deduction to see that the public is furious with the Liberal Democrats. That I will argue however is incredibly unfair. Let me make one thing clear-I am a student and the LibDem tuition fee policy was very important to me. Furthermore I am a left winger so I distrust the Orange book liberals within our own party, simply because I distrust and dislike most things that start leaning towards the right.  The fact is that the tuition fee U turn was a complete disaster in every way-the policy itself was horrific-not only was it regressive, it will also work to increase the deficit, not reduce it. It was the ideological bastard child of neo-Thatcherite elements in the Tory party. What is more, the contrast between the LibDem election campaign focus on this policy and the way in which it was ditched, left a sour taste in my mouth. Make no mistake, Clegg will pay for this debacle on way or another, most likely with his leadership.

BE THAT AS IT MAY, the vast majority of people now lining up to bash the LibDems and Nick Clegg over this have absolutely no right to do so. If everyone who is now suddenly outraged and who marched in the student marches had voted LibDem last year, we’d have a lot more MPs and would have been in a much better position to get this policy through. If you had no promise made to you, you cannot have been betrayed. Therefore I will accept that LibDem voters have every right to be outraged but anyone who has not voted LibDem, can jolly well mind their own business as far as I am concerned-one does not have an automatic right to pass judgement on things which does not concern them-and if you did not vote LibDem on the back of LibDem promises on tuition fees then the Uturn is not your concern and you have no right to be angry about it.

Furthermore, it takes a special amount of political immaturity to punish a party for making compromises in government in order to deliver a strong government for the benefit of everyone-especially when the abhorrent policies the public is railing against are all coming from the Tories-had we not been in government to keep a leash on them,it would have been far, far worse. What this teaches politicians is that it does not pay to make grown up decisions, because the electorate will punish you for it.  I say nothing to the core Labour vote or the core Tory vote. I am only incensed by the people determined to “kick Clegg”. This attitude is incredibly short sighted and unwise. If you are unhappy with what the government is doing you should go for Cameron, not Clegg.

Saying all this, Clegg and co have made many, many mistakes.  The way they conducted the 2010 election campaign clashes badly with what happened after. The overtly rosy relationship with Cameron and chums was a bad move in my eyes-they should have been clear from the start about what they are happy with and what they are not. Lastly, they should not have allowed Tory policy to be put in place at all if it was not in the Coalition agreement-because this is not a Conservative government, it is a coalition government. It is high time the LibDem leadership realised this and started taking a hard line against the Tories.

The title of this post applies both to the LibDems and to the electorate as a whole.  For the Liberal Democrats, the mistakes with the tuition fee policy and what is more, the mistake in allowing ourselves to become a shield for the Tories to hide behind while they implement their despicable policies has led to this defeat in the local elections and furthermore it allowed the AV vote to be tainted by association and lost for a generation.

For the electorate, and mostly for the floating voters, allowing themselves to be shortsighted enough to vent their anger at the LibDems when the problems stem from the Tories will leave them with more Conservative counselors, an unfair voting system which elects majority Tory governments on a minority of the vote and with more damaging Tory policies. All in all, a bad week for progressive politics in the UK-you can judge who will suffer from it more however.