Wednesday, 17 October 2007

What are the Lib Dems for ?

So 'Ming' is off. I have to say my initial reaction is that it doesn't really seem to matter and I don't really care.

I have never been really clear what the Liberals were for. In fact almost since the First World War, I'm not sure that they are 'for' anything at all.

At national level they are, depending on the circumstances, the Tories without the small mindedness, or New Labour without the 'embarrassing' links to a socialist past. I know they like proportional representation and civil liberties. And at local level they are very good at community relations - campaigning against dog shit on the pavement etc, when they run councils they are pretty much indistinguishable from wet Tories. Er that's about it ...

In most of the recent post-war period they were almost a regional party of the rural 'celtic fringe' - for some pretty quirky historic reasons. Very long memories of the Monmouth rebellion in the West Country, of the Highland Clearances in Scotland, and in Wales of non-conformist battles against the Church Of England - all made the Tories beyond the pail. Increasingly their place has been taken by proper nationalist parties like the SNP and Plaid Cmyru.

For a short time, when there was the flirtation with the SDP that gave birth to the modern 'Liberal Democrats', there appeared to be something like a coherent ideology of euro-style social democracy. But then New Labour came along and nicked those clothes leaving the Lib-Dems to play catch up.

So do the Lib Dems matter and should we care ?

Well ever since mainstream politics meant the abandonment of principle and hinged on the pursuit of a small layer of middle class voters in Middle England marginals, then sadly it just might.

I would advise them to choose another Blair/Cameron photogenic, unprincipled, opportunist charmer from the same cloning stable (somewhere in Oxbridge I think) that churns them out these days...

Which is of course exactly what they've done with Clegg and Huhne.

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