This piece on the Labour Left (“the home of ethical socialism”) website caught my eye the other day. Basically, it’s a series of quotes from disgruntled and now former Lib Dem voters and members who are to various degrees sickened by the actions of the party they voted and campaigned for at the 2010 election.
Naturally the anger is fully justified, and one can only hope that the Lib Dems receive a well-deserved hiding at the next election.
Two things need reflecting on however.
1) The lack of optimism that Labour will be any different if (and despite some of the suggestions in the media it is still a big if) they do get back in 2015. None of those commenting in the piece has anything positive to say about the Labour Party, the party that they will presumably be voting for at the next election unless they abstain. This was probably the most interesting of the comments:
“I have supported the Lib Dems for more than two decades now, delivering leaflets and campaign material, displaying posters and so on. I even joined our local Lib Dem committee in the run-up to the 2010 General Election, fired up by Nick Clegg’s “Don’t let the Tories in” rhetoric. I read all the material that I put through all those doors – not one mention of the Welfare Reform Bill, putting the terminally ill onto Work Placement schemes, allowing private companies to take over core NHS services or front-line Policing. They have let us down really badly – we have no significant alternative now to the Tories or the Tory-Lite New Labour Party.”
For many of us the behaviour of the senior Lib Dems once they got a sniff of high office was fairly predictable so I don’t share this chap’s horror at the ‘betrayal’. It’s what the Lib Dems do in local government up and down the country so one shouldn’t expect any different at a national level, especially when so many Lib Dems are either utter cowards or devoted Orange Bookers. It’s the last section of the last sentence that is significant. For many of us progressive and leftie types, there is still a great deal of doubt about the Labour Party in 2012 under Ed Miliband. Be it the failure to explicitly oppose cuts (“too far, too fast” is just an opportunistic cop-out quite frankly), to develop a radically different economic policy to the one the government is following, to support any industrial action against the government’s policies, the partial rehabilitation of the justifiably reviled Tony Blair and the continuing role of so many senior Blairite mouth-breathers in the upper echelons of the party; it’s hard to imagine that things would be radically different to what they are now under the current Labour leadership. And I would argue that radically different is what Labour needs to be. The current circumstances are obviously immensely challenging, but also offer opportunities to fundamentally change the terms of the debate. Labour isn’t capitalising on that.
2) Whilst it is perfectly reasonable to be seething with rage and crying betrayal at the actions of the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg we mustn’t forget this is a Conservative-dominated government. For all the posturing of the Lib Dems and their terminally wounded leader they are largely impotent, trapped as they are in a coalition that they know is slowly killing them but they also know they cannot realistically free themselves from without facing annihilation at the general election that a split would presumably precipitate. It is the Conservatives running the show, as we saw last year in Brussels when Cameron acted without even going through the motions of consulting his ‘partner’. These are Conservative policies being implemented (which is why the complaints of the lunatic right of the Tory Party about being constrained by the ‘leftie’ Lib Dems are so risible) and we saw with the dropping of Lords reform that the last vestiges of Lib Dem influence on the coalition’s programme are fading away. The Lib Dems do nothing more than provide a radically right-wing government with the votes it needs to get its controversial proposals through parliament without too much fuss.
We shouldn’t allow ourselves to lose sight of who the real enemy is in this coalition.
I’m a fairly petty-minded and vindictive sort so I am all in favour of kicking the Lib Dems when they are down, but those of us on the left who believe that Labour is the way forward have nothing to be gloating about, if we’re totally honest. The destruction of the Lib Dems as a nationally important party would be amusing and immensely pleasurable and satisfying to watch, obviously, but is it really going to change anything and make the left’s job any easier?
I doubt it somehow.