Dead Men Left

Friday, November 25, 2005

Never mind bombing al-Jazeera, what about the Liberal Democrats, eh? eh?

At some point, everyone out there – particularly those of a vague, softly-softly, leftish outlook – is going to have to get used to the idea of a Lib Dem/Tory coalition government. Either there’ll be one in office, or its prospect will loom horribly near. Even Tories are waking up to it:

Meanwhile, almost unnoticed, a fresh axis is establishing itself. On issue after issue, the old abysses separating the Conservatives from the Liberal Democrats have narrowed or virtually disappeared…

Last weekend there was another conversion announced. Charles Kennedy - remember him? - proclaimed that his party now believed in "fair tax, not higher tax". The overall effect of any tax pledges in their next manifesto would have to be revenue-neutral…

Victory has gone to the forces behind the market-oriented solutions of the Orange Book, which so outraged the beard-and-sandals hold-overs at the Liberal Assembly. The party's economic spokesmen, Vince Cable and Mark Oaten, would not look ill at ease in a Cameronian government.

Ferdinand Mount, quoted above, is absolutely right to say that the Orange Book crowd have won out: they’ve been the only serious game in the Liberal town for some time, and the newer intake of post-Thatcherite MPs – Nick Clegg amongst them – are edging out the older crowd.

The last time – ok, the only time – I bothered to ask a (self-defined) leftish Lib Dem MP about the Tories, he was remarkably sanguine about forming a government with them: not in 2009, perhaps, but certainly after the election following. This is a party never truly of the left, formed in a marriage of convenience between ex-Labour right-wingers, and anti-Labour liberals. Vince Cable and his free market chums might at least clear some of the stuffy, flatulent air the Lib Dems leftish posturing has wafted around.