I'm beginning to think the LibDems may have imploded.
Half a decade ago, it was easy to see where they stood: middle of the road, social justice, liberalism, electoral reform, pro-EU.
I didn't necessarily like
where they stood, and only voted for them in local elections, but at least their position was clear.
Unfortunately, they're a party that in current guise had never seen real power at the national level, and even the Liberal half of the party has languished since WWII.
Now, of course, they've formed a coalition government. By my understanding, they did this for several reasons:
- Because the country was in financial crisis and couldn't easily stand minority government or a second general election.
- To keep Labour — in large parts the architects of the current financial mess — out of power.
- To improve their credibility by demonstrating to the nation that they were fit to govern.
- To demonstrate to the nation that coalition government could work.
- To promote as many of their own policies as possible.
Well, sure, it's now looking like we might be emerging from the recession, though our recovery is still highly dependent on global events that are outside our control. The noble national interest has been served and for that I'm grateful to the LibDems.
On the matter of coalition government, I think they're in some difficulty: the Conservatives have handled the situation more shrewdly. With dishonourable exceptions such as the Snooper's Charter, the Conservatives have picked their battles well, excusing themselves unobtrusively at an early stage from those they couldn't win. The LibDems, conversely, have been billed by turns as impotent and unprincipled for their ineffective posturing and craven sacrifice of core policies on the altar of political expediency. Granted, that's not entirely fair, but it's how it looks and how it's spinning in the media.
On the matter of their own credibility, the LibDems are now paying the price for having previously played on their squeaky-clean image. I bet they'd rather Chris Huhne — formerly their Home-Secretary-alike — hadn't had breakfast with Greyson Perry in the Chippenham Pit Stop Cafe. Or perverted the course of justice. Vince Cable appears to have survived by dropping the genteel image and transforming into a down-and-dirty fighter, but he's the exception.
But most importantly, the LibDems are now awash over electoral reform and Europe. On electoral reform, they got the referendum they've always dreamed of… and they lost. OK, it wasn't actually the referendum they wanted, but that detail is now lost in the noise, especially when one considers that their preferred STV would give UKIP 169 seats in Parliament compared with FPTP's zilch.
Now Europe is the hot issue. Not so long ago, the LibDems campaigned forcefully
for an in-or-out referendum, criticising Labour for providing no referendum and the Conservatives for wanting a referendum only on Lisbon. Suddenly, the heat is on for a referendum and they… don't want one. LibDem apologists point out
that the situation is A Bit More Complicated Than That, but Europe is a Marmite issue: almost everyone has a strong opinion one way or the other. Nuanced positions that adapt as circumstances change have little place in a debate on bold black-or-white issues.
A cynic would say the LibDems' dreams are in tatters: they're scared to have a referendum on Europe after what happened to electoral reform. But where does that leave their firm belief in democracy and respect for the electorate? They can't win!
Me, I have little respect for politicians or the electorate. To quote this
recent article, politics is uniquely full of bullshit. Uniquely full of people who don’t really have any moral inclination towards the truth. The electorate, conversely, is being asked to make decisions about important topics well beyond their comprehension.
I sense a political vacuum opening up. In Greece, the vacuum was filled by extremists (I didn't link to this
especially worrying article when it was first published). In the UK, my bet is that Labour will win the next general election after UKIP shaves a small but important slice off the Conservative vote in marginal constituencies. I remember the seventies, and fear Labour will then screw things up royally.
2020 could get ugly. /-8