Watching the LibDems...
This letter was in last week's edition of Varsity, one of the Cambridge student newspapers (and edited by my very recently ex-girlfriend...that's another story though):
Last Thursday, students at the Cambridge Union voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion proposing that "the Liberal Democrats are the effective opposition". In light of the Hutton Inquiry and the top-up fees vote, the debate could not have come at a better time.
This government continues to disappoint. The gap between rich and poor grows wider; on Higher Education and foundation hospitals their inadequate proposals are at best conservative, at worst Thatcherite; while our civil liberties continue to be undermined by a Home Secretary who insists on pandering to the Daily Mail.
The Conservative opposition, led by the backward-looking and reactionary Michael Howard, is no better. At last week's debate, they offered up Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford, a man who is pro-hanging, pro-flogging, pro-firearms, anti-asylum & anti-abortion. He is an exemplar of a party that is intellectually bankcrupt, out of touch and unfit to govern.
At the next general election, David Howarth, a Fellow of Clare College and former leader of Cambridge City Council, will be fighting to unseat Anne Campbell and represent the students of this constituency. In Cambridge, the Liberal Democrats are the effective opposition; the Tories lie in a distant third place. I hope you will all join me in voting Liberal at the next election and in ridding this constituency of one more distinctly disappointing Blairite.
Chair, Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats."
I must first mention that I believe the debate mentioned was won by some 'overwhelming' margin not far short of 10: typical 'fact manipulation', the sort of which I am now well used to. But this letter got me thinking again on two counts.
Firstly are the LibDems 'Liberal', as described in this letter, or are they 'Social Democrats' as the leader used to be and as many of their policies seem. I'm not sure that there is any such thing as a Liberal Democrat, and this contradiction between their two wings really needs to be addressed and dealt with. For, I believe, it is this which is the reason for their comparative success of recent years - they have seemed all things to all people - yet will also be their biggest problem once they become a national party. When they begin to become a proper national party, which could well be disturbingly soon, they will be subjected to much more scrutiny at a high-level. They must evince a genuine philosophy (not just harking back to what the 'liberal' academic response 'must be', as they are often wont) which ties things together. I believe then that they will hit problems as this eternal divide opens up.
The second ponderance I've had, relates to this in a way, and it is the extent to which hypocrisy seems to run deep through what they say. I had quite an interesting exchange, below, with Richard about possible opportunism on Kennedy's behalf but this letter really sums it up. The national Party often tries to present an image of a Party which is different, above the petty yah-boo of the other parties. They offer a constructive alternative. 'Honest politics' was Champagne Charlie's phrase at the last election. Yet when it actually comes down to it look how negative they can be. Where is the description of the LibDem alternative in this letter? Where is the sensible demurring from the other Parties' views?
There is none. There is just naked, negative opportunism. Then again that is what I often see from many LibDems. LibDem opportunism is a much greater, all-encompassing political game than any policy on higher education. Some, many whom I know, are decent but misguided 'social democrats' who care about freedoms and rights. The rest of the rat-bag bunch though are just as bad as any other politican. Except they're worse, because they cynically pretend to be different.
[I hope I haven't offended any of my more regular LibDem readers....but they probably know how I feel anyway!!]