Monday, June 29, 2015

The Liberal Democrats can now have only one single purpose



As time has gone by, the message of the 2015 general election becomes even more bleak for the Liberal Democrats. Amid much talk of #LibDemfightback I see a party struggling to cope with the magnitude of the catastrophe that has befallen it. Frankly the policy discussions that are being put together as part of the leadership election campaign are a exercise in self delusion and denial. 

There is only one discussion and only one policy that can offer the Liberal Democrats any relevance or viability at all: It is the constitutional crisis that threatens to destroy the very fabric of the country. 

2015 was one of the most blatantly unfair elections in British history - certainly since the passage of the Great Reform bill in 1832. Less than 25% of the electorate have supported the Conservatives, and yet they have 100% of the power. That is an absolute scandal. In Scotland a party that gained the support of 36% of the electorate has all but three of the Parliamentary seats. This is terrifying, especially since this party is a populist ragtag that holds the British constitution in utter contempt. As well they might, even though they have benefited so strongly from it.

The Conservatives are triumphant, because they have played a ruthless game against the Liberal Democrats, and we have been comprehensively defeated. Although Tim Farron thinks that "campaigning" can eventually bring us back into contention, I am not convinced. Party politics as a participation sport is dying on its arse. The idea that we can continue to play the game of political snakes and ladders and make some kind of come back by doing what we did before is not viable. The ladders are very short, and the snake we have just fallen down has actually taken us back to the point where we need a double six to even start the game. We do not have the money or the members to simply repeat the thirty-forty year battle that brought us back from the previous rout. The generations are passing and ageing, and the party may like to think that it can appeal to "youth" with some cheesy and rather insincere positioning, but since no other party- with the exception of the SNP- has, I find it hard to believe. We need to play a different game entirely.

The Liberal Democrats core policy, core belief, is the urgent need to change the way we are governed.  Radical constitutional reform is now critical for the survival of the country, and without it the UK probably does not have a future, so all the detailed policy wonkery in the world is just so much intellectual masturbation unless the roots of power are changed dramatically and irrevocably. I will address my Scottish colleagues in a separate blog, but for the UK Liberal Democrats focusing on campaigning will not get us back.

So I will be voting for Norman Lamb, mostly because I agree with him on core issues. Sure Tim represents "change" in that he did not take responsibility for either the mistakes or indeed the achievements of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition. Norman Lamb did take responsibility- indeed served as a minister- and was far more respected in the Parliamentary party and the country as a result. What I have heard from Tim Farron is that campaigning can recover our losses. I think that is intellectually empty. What I have heard from Norman Lamb is that Liberal principles can help us create an unconventional recovery- focused on the gathering constitutional crisis that lies ahead of us.

The only thing that Liberal Democrats should be talking about now is the the crooked, dishonest and outrageous political system. We should shame the Tories over the House of Lords, We should demand a Federal system and we must insist on fair votes. We have no means of changing educations, health, welfare or any other part of state policy- we can start a campaign to change the state. In fact it is the only way we can ever restore a Liberal voice in government.

No comments: