Hearing the news this morning that Nick Clegg is covering all his bases by suggesting that his party would welcome a coalition with Labour after the general election, I’m left asking the question “why?” Why would we, as a party, want to jump into bed with the Liberals, especially with their record both nationally and locally.
I do respect many individual Liberals, theoretically they cover the centre ground, and I know that my politics is more left of centre than extreme left-wing , I had sympathy with many of the national policies too, things like the student tuition fees and raising the tax threshold. Even when this coalition was formed, I did think that maybe its a good thing, they will hold the Tories back from unleashing their full arsenal onto the public. But, how wrong was I. In fact it wasn’t until a recent discussion that made me realise what makes the Lib Dem leadership, as a whole, tick.
The discussion was based around the differences in driving ethos between the parties. What was interesting was the differences between Labour and Conservative, and how, because of them, while we don’t agree with the stances we take, we do know where they come from and why. While it was quite easy to derive the Socialist principles of the Labour Party and the Capitalist principles of the Conservatives, we were both at a bit of a loss when it came down to what the bedrock of the Liberals really was. For me, ethos is important, it means that when the chips are down and faced with complex and difficult decision, I have something to use to get to the root of what I should do. So if we are talking about making difficult decisions about where and how to spend limited budgets, or where costs should fall, I use this ethos, these principles to guide me. So, what does a Liberal fall back on. It wasn’t until I was on my way home that it clicked, the Liberal Democrats are about getting into power.
Your gut reaction to that will be, “yes, aren’t you all?”, which is true, but we want to get into power to deliver our ethos, in our case to govern using socialist principles, to help people survive and grow. The Liberals just want power, and will cut anyones throat, including their own to get it. This is echoed in local politics too, so many times have we heard the local Liberal Democrats claim successes of their national Party, but when they come to do something they don’t agree with, then they claim they are different and not associated to their national leadership. As an example, they put on their literature about the raise in income tax thresholds (claiming the national position), yet in the Count Council chamber when talking about the Badger Cull, they conveniently forget that its their national party who voted the cull through, and their own minister signing the paperwork.
It seems to me that currently, you don’t join the Liberal Democrat party, you join the Lib Dem franchise, you sign up, get the literature to hand out, but do what you like and set the most convenient position possible. Thankfully, the mechanics of the next election would mean a coalition with the Lib Dems is a scenario that is not likely to be even considered (this is covered by this article on LabourList.) That said, before the general Election, there is going to be a local City and District elections, and I think the same warnings apply, until the Liberals find their moral compass and let it guide them, instead of a pure thirst for power, then they will remain a toxic franchise that works on press releases rather than real discussion, negotiation and debate.