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Thank You Liberal Democrat Party

I posted the following on Facebook the other day:

I confess I’ve become weary of Tories complaining about Liberal Democrats. To all Tories everywhere: YOU LOST THE ELECTION! And yet, you are transforming British government and society in ways that Margaret Thatcher would have wet herself over. You are finally fulfilling your dream of privatising the NHS. Hell, you’re privatising everything. You’re killing off green technology. You’re cutting welfare. You’re protecting the banks (oh wait, all parties do that). I know you’re not getting everything you want, but goodness, me you’re getting most of what you want. And who do you have to thank for this, given you lost the elections. The LIBERAL DEMOCRAT PARTY! If they hadn’t formed a government with you I doubt you would be getting away with this stuff. It’s Liberal Democrats who sit around the table with you arguing and creating policy. It’s Liberal Democrats who vote with you to get all this crap passed into law. You shouldn’t be bitching about Liberal Democrats, you should be sending each and every one of them thank you cards. You should put Clegg and Alexander in your hall of fame. So enough already.

It upset a few people, partly that I expressed anger and partly because I expressed this particular opinion. For those of you who think expressing anger in general and/or on Facebook in particularly is wrong, sorry to have upset you, though I can’t resist saying that a couple people expressed angry at my expressing anger. And if it were simply the words “wet, ” "hell," “crap” and “bitching” that got you upset, then again, sorry. We can delete them. But as far as the opinion goes, well that’s something else.

The most frequently voiced defence of the Liberal Democrat Party’s actions in government is that their presence restrains the Tories who would otherwise be passing even more draconian legislation. This is an empty defence. It implies that if the Liberal Democrat Party had not formed a government with the Tory Party, that the Tories would have won a second election or would have formed a minority government after which, in some mysterious way, it would have succeeded in passing through Parliament an even more rightwing agenda. The first assumption is possible, but not probably. The second assumption is nonsense, being based on the supposition that the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrat Party would have for some reason voted with the Tory minority.

In any event, I don’t care about what might have been. I’m not interested in Liberal Democrat imagined parallel universes or confessional angst. I’m interesting in what is happening. Student fees were substantially increased. Liberal Democrats voted for that. The NHS is being sold off bit by bit. Liberal Democrats voted for that. Green energy government subsidies have been largely dropped and the green agenda is being forgotten. Liberal Democrats voted for that. Welfare is being capped, welfare recipients are being “charged” (through reduction in benefits) for extra bedrooms, disabled and the ill are losing some of their benefits, etc. Liberal Democrats voted for all that. The very wealthy had their rate of tax cut. The Liberal Democrats voted for that. The austerity budget is setting British society back a decade or more and has killed off growth. Liberal Democrats vote for that. I could go on and on. My obvious point is that none of these changes which are transforming society and radically reducing government could have happened without Liberal Democrat support and votes. So sorry, but since the Tories did lose the election, they are very much indebted to the Liberal Democrats. And as far as the Liberal Democrats complaining and attempting to distance themselves from the actions of the coalition government and at the same time claiming credit for now being a grown-up party capable of being in government, it just doesn’t wash. They can’t have it both ways, though I can’t blame party members for wishing they could.

How far will the Liberal Democrat Party go? Well, pretty far. We hear a lot about “being in government” and “making the hard decisions.” Fair enough. But what does the party now stand for? Well, another vote is coming up for the Liberal Democrats that will push that question to its limits. The coalition government is proposing “secret courts,” which were not in either the Tory or Liberal Democrat manifestos before the election and were not in the coalition agreement. Nonetheless, in a couple of weeks the House will vote on secret courts. In an article on the Observer, Henry Porter writes:

It is difficult to see how Lib Dem MPs could vote for a bill that restricts rights under the law, at the same time as increasing state power. The justice and security bill is self-evidently against everything they stand for, which may explain recent confusing signals from the party and why a Lib Dem voted against Tory amendments in committee.

Despite Clarke's spin that the bill mostly conforms to the Lords amendments, it is plain that it has reverted to its original objectionable form. As the campaigning Tory David Davis says, if the Lib Dems can't vote against the justice and security bill, what on earth is the party for? The vast majority of the party know, but do their MPs know and does Nick Clegg?

It will be an interesting vote, but it can’t pass into law without the Liberal Democrats voting with the Tories.

Why so much anger directed at the Liberal Democrats and not the Tory Party? Well, I am angry at the Tory Party, but it is a different quality of anger simply because the Tories are doing what I expect the Tories to do. Anyone who thinks that Cameron has changed the party at its core is as naive as the people who thought George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” was in anyway an actual description of the Republican Party. But the Liberal Democrat Party, the self-proclaimed most liberal party in the UK, has become partners in one of the most rightwing governments experienced in Britain. It feels like betrayal. What does the party stand for? All too often it seems like it stands for “being in government.” There is nothing wrong with a party wanting to form a government! That is what parties exist for, to govern. But if the “being in government” trumps what the party originally stood for, then it should be damned at the polls.

If the election were held today, the Liberal Democrats would more than likely lose a number of seats in Parliament. And if there were another hung Parliament with Labour winning the most seats, we can only hope the Liberal Democrats have enough seats to form a government with Labour, because I am confident that they will with equal zeal support a Labour agenda and vote on legislation that would actual negate much of what they are now doing in government. Why? Because being in government is about making the hard decisions.

Copyright © 2013 Dale Rominger

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