Dead Men Left

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

ICA debate: further proof of why voting Liberal Democrat is such a bad idea

Went to the ICA. Len's got a report here, saving me the effort.

Instead, I thought I'd bang on about the Lib Dems. Floating out there somewhere is the happy idea that this lot are a happy, fluffy bunch of tofu-munching lefties that all those disillusioned with Blair can go and fling their votes at. (Taxloss has been considering just that over here.) The Lib Dem's claim to the Left's affections, as far as I can tell, boils down to their opposition to the war on Iraq.

The only problem being, really, that they didn't oppose the war on Iraq. Like a man claiming to be a vegetarian between meals, they supported it once it had started; which is to say, they supported it when it really mattered.

To recap: The Liberal Democrats supported the invasion of Iraq.

Just so this is clear. But the whole charade is carried on a little bit further. People may remember the fuss that greeted the publication of an overgrown pamphlet, the "Orange Book", containing the distilled political wisdom of eight years' worth of concerted Lib Demmery. Disturbingly, it revealed our fluffy sandals-wearers to be sub-Thatcherite free-marketers: promoting a nineteenth century vision of liberalism, covered up with the twenty-first century flannel of "choice" and "lifestyles".

Now, this caused some embarrassment at the time. Critical to the Lib Dems' triangulation strategy is not appearing to be too right-wing at any one time. Ha ha ha, it could be said, we're just bouncing some ideas around, y'know?

Yet look at what might be called the party's Bright Young Things. Ben Ramm, editor of The Liberal who so roused Lenin's ire at the ICA debate, spent his entire contribution frenetically distancing himself from any idea that the Lib Dems were anything other neoliberal managers par excellence: incredibly, out of the entire platform, this "progressive" representative from a "progressive" party sounded closest to the Institute of Ideas-style fruitcake merchant, Brendan O'Neill, who apparently runs a website inbetween denouncing the vote and pretending global warming doesn't happen. O'Neill's argument, in sum: votes don't matter because we have the market. Ramm's argument, in sum: votes only matter where we don't have markets.

More seriously: read this letter from Charles Kennedy, no less, in this morning's Guardian. Read it carefully, and bear in mind that Lib Dems have formed "anti-Labour" coalitions with Tories in local councils up and down the land: Birmingham, Leeds - in Burnley, they even used the BNP to bring down the Labour council:

Labour would find the Liberal Democrats enthusiastic participants in any discussion about reforming our unfair voting system. That debate could begin now and we would support it.

But I will repeat, yet again, for the benefit of your correspondent (Letters, January 24) that if there is a hung parliament after the next election - an unusual outcome - it would mean that Labour had squandered a three-figure majority. That would represent a huge loss of confidence in a Blair administration. In such circumstances, we in the Liberal Democrats would let ourselves down if we were to chase deals for partisan advantage.

As for the politics of Leeds city council (also Letters, January 24), since the Lib Dems took over six months ago, we have achieved a good Ofsted report (which follows "intervention" after Labour's poor rating) and we have already increased the number of police support officers.

That's immediate progress in education and fighting crime. It just shows the improvements you get with the Liberal Democrats in power.
Charles Kennedy
Leader, Liberal Democrats

No support for Labour then, but.... vote Liberal Democrat, get Conservative?