Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Will the Liberal Democrats survive the coalition?

There's an interesting article in today's Guardian about how nervous many in the Liberal Democrats are about the direction in which Nick Clegg has taken them.

David Steel:

"The Lib Dem rank and file are nervous," Steel says. "Quite a lot of the parliamentarians are nervous – about how the coalition will turn out." In the Observer last month, he described the Lib-Con deal as "collaboration with the enemy", and his misgivings were echoed by both Clegg's key predecessors as party leader, Charles Kennedy ("I felt personally unable to vote for this outcome") and Paddy Ashdown ("Am I happy about helping the Tories to form a government? No.")
It's a curious state of affairs and says a lot about how much rope voters are willing to give to politicians.

During the election campaign, there were high hopes for the Liberal Democrats in the library at Goldsmiths college in London. Manoj Kerai was supposed to be finishing his anthropology master's thesis and revising, but he kept jumping up from his desk to hand out Lib Dem leaflets and buttonhole people about their policies. He wasn't even a party member, yet he says he spoke to "hundreds" of students. Sometimes he emphasised the party's opposition to the Iraq war and university tuition fees. Sometimes he simply urged people to "vote Lib Dem to stop the Tories".

Two days after the election, with a Lib Dem-Labour alliance seemingly a possibility, he finally joined the Liberal Democrats. Three days later, his party went into government with the Conservatives. Kerai's political feelings since have been "mixed . . . I am willing to give the coalition a chance. I'm happy to carry on campaigning for the Lib Dems. But I'm not a big fan of the Conservatives. The Lib Dems are closer to Labour. A lot of people on the left will never vote for the Lib Dems again. The coalition is either going to make or break the party." Has he thought about resigning his membership? "No." He pauses. "Not yet."

People invest so much hope in individuals rather than in policies that this guy can still find himself hoping that the coalition will work out okay, despite the fact that he voted Liberal precisely to stop the Tories coming to power.

It's why so many left wing blogs now find themselves defending Obama whilst he carries out policies which we freely condemned when they were the policies of the Bush administration.

It's as if politics is a baseball game and our job is to unquestioningly support our side.

I personally think Clegg has made a colossal mistake. He might do very well to hold the Tories back from their worst excesses, but he will still pay the price for taking so many people's votes in the very opposite direction from which they were cast.

Had I voted Lib Dem I would never be able to forgive him for what he has done.

At the moment, as this article attests, there are many still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I wonder how long that will last?

Click here for full article.

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