The Lib Dems: Tales from the Sideshow

The Lib Dems are a party of such remarkable irrelevance that it is worth reminding oneself of why this is the case.

The Huffington Post (UK) recently reported that LibDem MPs claim the British public as ‘a grotesquely distorted view’ of Europe [1]. The article cites the conclusion made by Lib Dem politicians which conclude that this is the result of a ‘obsessive focus by some on the worst aspects of the EU’ [2].

The report scorns Mr Cameron’s veto of the EU fiscal compact treaty in December suggesting that it will damage the UK’s influence and put distance between the UK and decision-making within the EU [3]. The Lib Dems will no doubt be glad that, even were this the case, the EU will not be putting any distance between itself and its ongoing effort to exert its unaccountable powers over the UK.

Mr Cameron is not alone in being targeted. It is suggested that the EU itself is imperfect and that reform is required, but it also remarks “The vast majority of MPs have little or no engagement with substantive EU matters at all. The level of understanding of how the EU operates and Britain’s role within it is staggeringly low and the awareness of EU policy developments practically non-existent.”

The Huffington Post quotes Robin Niblet, the director of think-tank Chatham House, who argues  that greater UK integration with the EU is  ‘the best choice for the UK, in light of both the compelling economic case and the strategic realities inside and outside the EU.’

The wearisome views espoused by this beleaguered and defunct party should be treated with the same contempt with which they disdainfully conceive of the electorate. Consider the views of one of their Goebbels impressionists, Graham Watson MEP, who during a debate with Nigel Farage remarked that the ‘EU is doing remarkably well’ – in the same way the village idiot does well when they mark an ‘x’ to sign their name? Mr Watson’s propaganda typifies the Lib Dem attitude towards Europe, one guided by misplaced ideology and wishful thinking as opposed to anything practical or substantiated.

The Lib Dems’ report, for all the figures it proposes and the ideological whimsy is commits itself to, misses an essential point. If something works and functions correctly then its usefulness becomes obvious and dependency upon it, a natural reflex.  If the EU was not the dysfunctional institution it has proven itself to be, its benefits should and would be obvious to voters. That they are not, that the structural integrity of this unelected body is brittle, that its politicians are seen to be at a remove from the people and lives they claim to represent, must then be the fault of the institution.

The Lib Dems talk of EU reform in the same vague and insincere way that associates reunited by chance suggest they must meet up some time and go out for a drink. Their recommendations are entirely cosmetic. They do not suggest that the EU is awash with vested interests and unelected persons creating and enacting legislation, nor do they address the years of un-audited accounts, the grossly inflated sums spent on entertainments and gifts, nor do they address the non-existence of a link between taxation, representation and expenditure at Brussels level. [4] ‘How quickly nature falls into revolt | When gold becomes her object.’ [5]. That democratic precepts such as these are not attended to by the Lib Dems or the EU itself is enough to ensure that this engorged institution and the Lib Dems as a party are both seen as obscure irrelevancies.

When it comes to a domestic agenda, the Lib Dems are no less unsuccessful. Why should this be so? Their collective non-identity formerly presented the electorate with an opportunity to dispose of their vote in such a way as to protest or remain neutral – no one actually meant for them to get into power. Unfortunately this party, which has been untested in government for over a century, has shown itself to be as incapable in governing. Daily their pledges crumble like burnt paper, lit by their senior partners or consumed by the flames of their wishful thinking, as ideology always combusts when it is oxidised by reality. As leader of this anonymous and insubstantial band, it is little wonder that Mr Clegg failed to make an impression in any capacity.

It is suggested that an alliance with the Conservatives in the wake of the 2010 hung parliament was an unnatural cohabitation of two diametrically opposed parties, but this supposes that the Conservatives were pursuing a conservative agenda which they were and are not. To secure this deal, both parties offered concessions which were probably not conducive to core members. Of these concessions, by far the most uncomfortable one for Mr Clegg was his party’s abandonment of the abolition of tuition fees, which now amount to the princely sum of up to £9000 p/a. This is quite a significant turnaround and he was widely ridiculed for it. Certainly there remains an element of excess in the attacks heaped upon him  –  find me an opposition party that has not reversed a specific pledge once it attained power, or in some cases the other way around. Mr Cameron’s ‘cast-iron guaruntee’ of a referendum on Europe? Labour suddenly deciding in opposition that they no longer agree with the idea of academy schools? The list is endless.

What characterises Mr Clegg and his party is their extreme imprecision. Take remarks Mr Clegg has made in support of gay marriage: ‘your freedom to love who you choose is a fundamental right in a liberal society’ [6]. Many, I’m sure, will exhale with relief knowing that love is endorsed by Mr Clegg and his kin, but this misses the point: love and marriage may go together, but they are as different as are a horse and carriage. Once again, we see a politician giving leave to emotional rather than articulate responses.

If it is not imprecision, it is that old chestnut of hypocrisy that helps undo Mr Clegg, Of his desire to reform the House of Lords, he writes:

As you read this I am with statesmen and dignitaries from more than 100 countries at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. There are leaders from countries with a wide range of different democratic systems and almost overwhelmingly they are united by one belief: that the people who make the laws should be elected.It seems bizarre to think that, in Britain in the 21st century, that should still be a controversial statement, and yet the majority of politicians in our own Parliament are not elected. They sit in the House of Lords, a body of appointed politicians that is growing at a startling rate and has no democratic mandate. [7]

Do these remarks not describe the EU with unintended exactitude? How does Mr Clegg square his desire for democratic reform with his refusal to allow the British people a referendum on the EU? Formerly I had a degree of sympathy for Mr Clegg at having to suffer the indignity of being attacked by the House of Commons’ most senior student politician, the odious Ed Miliband; but when he is as fatuous and openly inconsistent as this, he deserves ridicule and contempt.

In concluding, though it may seem a little late, one must remember that there is little benefit in getting worked up about this report or the Lib Dems attitude towards public opinion; instead, it is worth remembering public opinion of them. At the last General Election they received only a 23% share of the vote, a figure not so much in diminution but free-fall in recent times. On almost every subject the Lib Dems have nothing important to say; even before they get to policy, their share of the vote is so low it should be enough to impress upon them their irrelevance.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012


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