I thought, for a very short place in time, that Change UK might be the new political force in the land. With Labour unavailable to anyone other than the hard left, where does the mainstream leftie go? Despite the presence of former Tories, I hoped I could escape the tribal politics, of which I have been as guilty as anyone, and have a party that believed in the things I did and had credible leaders. That didn’t last long, did it? Change UK has already split and appears to be destined for the same place as Monty Python’s Norwegian Blue. What’s left?
I lent my EU elections vote to the Lib Dems. It could, perhaps should, have been the Greens, although my one vote would not have swung things one way or another. But lending it was all I could do. If the Lib Dems want my vote, and the votes of millions who feel that Labour has left them under the reign of Jeremy Corbyn, they will need to prove they have changed, that they have at least a little contrition for their time in Government and preferably a full apology.
Their EU stance appeals, even though I am not (quite) a second referendum supporter. Their history, at least until 2010, was generally to be admired. After 2010, it all went wrong.
Ed Davey is one of the two candidates to replace Vince Cable as leader of the Lib Dems. He’s competent enough, for sure, but his line in hustings has been to defend the Lib Dems in the coalition. Things would have been much worse without the Libs Dems, he argues. Christ, I wonder: how much worse? It is not just Nick Clegg’s big lie over tuition fees, it’s their subservient role in everything else. Tax cuts for the middle classes whilst the low paid received buttons, a harsh benefits regime applied to the most vulnerable people in the land, cuts to the NHS, policing, the destruction of Sure Start – oh, you know the rest. And the rest includes the deliberate austerity that was inflicted upon the country in the general and the poorest people in the land in particular. That is not a record to be proud of.
On the contrary, I believe that the Lib Dems were not so much the brake on austerity, they were the enablers of it. If being part of a coalition government meant comprising to that extent, I cannot imagine why on earth they got into it. In fact, if taking jobs in a Tory government entailed supporting such horrible policies, how in all conscience could they even consider joining a coalition?
The fact that the Lib Dems left government four years ago does not and cannot excuse what they did. Davey, like Cable, Alexander, Webb, Harvey and Clegg, was awarded a knighthood for serving in Cameron’s government. No wonder since he kept the Tories in power for five miserable years. It is a vast stain on the Lib Dems’ credibility, yet they seem unable to utter two simple words: “I’m sorry.”
If the Lib Dems cannot admit they got a lot of things wrong, not least in joining the coalition in the first place, they’ll stay a minor third, or even fourth, party. And they’ll richly deserve to stay that way. There’s a golden opportunity for the Lib Dems. But the best they can say is their sole contribution to five years in government was that they made things less worse, they surely won’t take it.