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LibDems: A Torysvestite Party

March 13, 2011

“If you listen to some, then apparently because I am in coalition with the conservatives, or ‘in bed with the Tories’ then I must be a Tory.” complained Tim Farron in his speech to the Liberal Democrat delegates yesterday. “Are they mad?”, he continued, “Look, for flips sake, I share a bed with my wife, it doesn’t make me a woman.”

This is true, Tim. But if you started wearing your wife’s clothes and talking in her voice, if you started growing breasts, legitimate questions may be asked.

The conference was touted as a difficult balancing act for the party’s leaders, by the party’s leaders. The overwhelming vote against the proposed NHS reforms, the protests outside and the Barnsley result (or any of the recent polls which point to the obliteration of their vote) added to the number of spinning plates. They responded to these challenges in the traditional way of British government – by largely ignoring them. The resulting image – to use a current analogy – was of Nick Clegg standing on the beach, watching the Tsunami coming in and responding by putting on a snorkel.

But perhaps plate-spinning is not their act. Perhaps it is sleight of hand. How else can I explain this subtle, but at its core incredible, change of language?

The LibDems seem to be taking to government like ducks to orange sauce. In the BBC Politics Show, Chris Huhne MP, standing in the lobby of the conference hall, was asked regarding the opposition to the NHS plans:

Q: Does Andrew Lansley need to re-think his reforms?

Huhne: Well, I think that whenever you go through a big reform of the sort Andrew has put forward for the Health Service, there is always debate. I’m sure since he is a very sensitive and good politician that he will be taking on board the remarks that were made here.

Q: So you would like him to re-think.

Huhne: I think the fundamentals don’t need re-thinking.

Q: Shirley Williams said, following that vote, “It means that Nick Clegg has to go back to Lansley with the other members of the cabinet and say: I can’t get this through my party. We will have to make amendments.” Are you going to be part of that delegation?

Huhne: Well, that wasn’t the lesson I took out of the NHS debate. I thought that the motion very clearly stated that this party wants to stand on the founding principles of the NHS, that it should be free at the point of need for anybody who falls ill, that’s absolutely crucial, and that is respected. And I think that is respected and is what the government has put forward.

An oily response, which mutates the truth of the motion for which the conference voted in a way that any Blairite publicist would be proud of. The message is clear. The LibDem members of the cabinet are so utterly besotted with power that they are willing to do anything to prolong this love affair.

Never mind that Dominic Carman, their own candidate in Barnsley writes of his experience of going door-to-door: “Clegg is variously described to me as a coward, a traitor, a turncoat, a liar, a hypocrite, Tory scum and Cameron’s lapdog – most comments being spiced with expletives.” The response is the mantra: we are making difficult decisions, so the country is bound to hate us. It is handed down by Dave and chanted by Nick, like a hypnotised member of a religious cult.

For me, at least, the answer is not that simple. The reason I loathe – and after this conference I can use that word – the LibDem members of the cabinet is quite different. They either ignore or deny that a significant slice of their support was from Labour voters who wanted to keep the Conservatives out. Pre-election, this was something they fully accepted; used; fostered. They published tables of constituencies in which one should vote for them. They printed thousands of “Liberal Democrats Winning Here” posters. They said it explicitly in speech after speech and interview after interview. It is the complete denial of this part of their mandate that I find totally unpalatable.

In his opening speech Nick Clegg said: “I never expected the Conservatives to embrace negotiation and compromise. But they did and it does them credit. David Cameron showed he could think beyond his party and help build a new kind of politics.” My sympathy goes to the hard-working, honest members of the party who have to go door-to-door in the next couple of months and peddle this tripe. Clegg must believe that there is a wave of senility sweeping through the country.

And maybe there is. Maybe I am the only sap that remembers Clegg’s speech from the Spring conference only a year ago and his words about the Conservatives: “the world’s first offshore political party. It used to be a British party. Now it’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lord Ashcroft, a man who collects tax havens the way some people collect beer mats. How can David Cameron claim to clean up politics, when he can’t even clean up his own party chairman? The label still says Made in Britain, but the money says Made in Belize.

The sad fact is that by (what is the verb of coalition? collude? no coalesce – meaning to grow into one body) by coalescing with the Tories, the LibDems have denied the country a third voice of true opposition in the House of Commons which is sorely missed. They have hurt the political plurality they so valued. If the Iraq situation arose today, I don’t even know how they would vote. I don’t think they do either.

So, no Mr Farron; getting in bed with the Tories does not make you a Tory. But in the light of what you thought of them a year ago, I can legitimately draw the conclusion that you must have been pretty desperate for a fuck.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Nick Griffin permalink
    March 13, 2011 5:21 pm

    A good piece but would the Lib Dems behaved any different if they were in coalition with Labour?
    ‘The nearest thing to a Tory in disguise is a Whig in office’. Benjamin Disreali 1832, he was spot on but we better get used to this. This is the future if we have AV.

    PS excellent blog.

  2. March 13, 2011 5:23 pm

    A good piece but would the Lib Dems behaved any different if they were in coalition with Labour?
    ‘The nearest thing to a Tory in disguise is a Whig in office’. Benjamin Disreali 1832, he was spot on but we better get used to this. This is the future if we have AV.

  3. Chris Keating permalink
    March 13, 2011 8:12 pm

    So what would you have preferred the Lib Dems to do?

    • March 13, 2011 8:22 pm

      Maintain some integrity? Radical option, I know.

      They could start by apologising to students over tuition fees and to lefties in marginal seats that they duped into voting for them “to keep out the Tories”. They could go back to the cabinet and say what their membership has explicitly asked them to say, rather than diluting it with a load of flannel.

      They could in short start being what they used to be: honest.

      • Chris Keating permalink
        March 13, 2011 8:58 pm

        What have those lefties in marginal seats achieved by voting Lib Dem? Well they’ve stopped a proper Tory government scrapping inheritance tax, spending billions on nuclear weapons, and backpedalling on civil liberties. That’s got to be worth something.

        Going back to health – Huhne might have been waffling in the media but I reckon he’ll be more forceful around the cabinet table. That highlights part of the problem, actually. The Lib Dems are winning far more concessions from the Tories as part of the Government than we ever did from Labour when we were in opposition. But the arguments are happening behind closed doors instead of in the media and the Commons.

      • March 13, 2011 9:08 pm

        The Lib Dems had a massively important role, I think. They kept the other two honest. Since this coalition the level of debate during PMQs has disappeared through the floor. They were many things and I agreed on issues and disagreed on issues with them. But they were honest. They are no longer that. By losing their voice they have impoverished British Politics disproportionately. Probably for good. If a vote on AV is worth that, well done.

  4. March 13, 2011 8:19 pm

    I voted Lib-Dem as on paper they were the last remaining party of radicalism. Now i have no-one left to vote for…

  5. The Pedant permalink
    March 13, 2011 8:29 pm

    Good piece but I have to take issue with your first commenter. Having to compromise when forming a coalition is not new. Here in Scotland we’ve had all sorts of coalitions and minorities since devolution so we’re kind-of used to it, and so far none of the parties involved have had any identity loss. And coalitions are, of course, commonplace in many countries in Europe.

    I am completely baffled by what the LibDem negotiators thought they were doing back in May 2010. Did they really believe in what they were signing up to and did they really think their own supporters would be comfortable with it?

    They held all the cards but never seemed to realise it. Was it naivity? Was it genuine fear for the country if a ‘strong government’ wasn’t formed? Or as plenty of others have written, greed for power? Or were they lying all the way through the election about what they really believed?

    It’s been written about at length by others but I can’t see any future for the Lib Dems as a party. May is going to be horrific and that’s just the start of it.

  6. Hrolfk permalink
    March 13, 2011 8:30 pm

    In answer to ‘what they should have done’ there was the option of staying in opposition, letting the Conservatives form a minority government, and waited for the election that would be happening right now.
    Worried what the markets would have thought of that? The economy has continued to dip for the last year – there would have been a lot of bluster, but it would be the same. In the meantime we’d have a Parliament people voted for, perhaps even with MP’s still standing by what they said in the manifestos (I’m optimistic like that).

  7. March 13, 2011 8:51 pm

    Tremendous stuff, which mirrors a good deal of my previous expectations, now swept away. I didn’t want a 4th Labour Term, but can’t bring myself to vote Tory.

    So I blogged optimistically when the coalition was announced, I hailed an opportunity for new politics. I feel very naive and disillusioned now. Clegg might claim concessions on National Insurance and a vote on AV as proof of negotiations, but he’s lost everything I used to admire about the Lib Dems in opposition.

  8. Matt Downey permalink
    March 13, 2011 10:32 pm

    I’m sorry, but that is all utter crap. The Lib Dems said they would form a coalition with whoever got the most votes-they did. They got 65% of their policies into the coalition agreement. What was the alternative? sitting on hands and getting 0% Lib Dem policy into government and sitting on the sidelines looking like the idiots who missed their chance at getting things done.

  9. Peter Benson permalink
    March 29, 2011 6:54 pm

    The LibDems are done for.Clegg led them into a fine romance with Cameron the Shrewd ex PR Public Schoolboy.

    Clegg could do the Talk but not the Walk.He is a man of little integrity calling the sick and unemployed work shy while never doing a Hard Days graft in his life.Give him a shovel for a few weeks before he makes comments on laziness.He even wants to finish his job at the Commons by 3pm.

    What does the Job of a MP compromise.Getting half pissed in the Cheapest Bar in London and talking shite.In other words these work shy wannabes are useful for bugger all else.Bar room pundits are as wise as most politicians.If it was not for civil servants holding there hands they would be more clueless than they apparently are.

    Britain is run by big corporations,lobbyists,bankers and billionaires.Just like America.Politicians are wined and dined by these parasites.And what do they say you catch when you lay with Dogs with Fleas.
    Yeah that,s right.We are infested by parasites.

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