Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Winging it - a bloody awful performance by the Lib Dems

Having once been to the Liberal Democrat party conference - in the capacity of an events organiser for a political magazine - I can attest to its eccentricities. The beards, the white socks and sandals, ill-fitting worsted jackets, severe fringes and coke-bottle glasses are all there in some shape or form. I was manning a stand on the exhibition floor so I got to see it all, as well as a refreshing level of activism not seen at either of the other two parties. Here it seemed that visitors were genuinely interested in debating policy and would  even engage a two-bit salesman like me in political discussion given half the chance. It was an interesting and quite enjoyable experience, not quite dominated by unions (Labour) and public affairs officers (Conservatives). 

That was only two years ago, but I have been careful to follow all the party conferences on the gogglebox and monitor the development of the respective parties in a turbulent time. As king makers the liberal democrats find themselves, mid-term in a very difficult position with two options: to sink into obscurity (the polls predict they will loose at least half their seats) or enter into another coalition government (another hung parliament looks increasingly likely). 

For party senior management the former is, quite obviously, unthinkable; The latter opens up a deep divide within the party distinctly separating the liberals wing from the SDP - the question of who to go into coalition with has real potential to destabilise the Liberal Democrats be it the Conservatives or Labour. For the meantime, like it or not they are mid-term through a coalition with the blues and it was in this setting that the party found itself on the banks of the Clyde.

Eyes were on Nick today. Vince ‘Jeremiah’ Cable (delusional egoist), Danny ‘Osborne’ Alexander (pragmatic) et al gave it their all in Glasgow to the assembled masses. The platform was there for some credible policy, some great speech full of gravitas and yet... yet it all descended into an exercise of back slapping and point scoring (not, I’m sure that the other two won’t have their fair share). 

Don’t get me wrong, I personally like having the Liberal Democrats around, they metre the loony fringes of my party (The Conservatives) with some loony fringes of their own creating a balance that was decidedly lacking in the Conservative governments of old. However, this union is one of convenience for most and a constant source of policy tension as much as it is one of policy agreement... deeply unpopular with some, lauded by others. 

I quite understand each side trying to snatch as much credit they can from any success from this partnership but listening to Nick Clegg this afternoon trot out his list of thwarted policy decisions at the Conservative’s expense took the biscuit, how easily he forgets his days as Leon Brittan’s advisor. The most galling moment was when he decided to bask in the glory of his disastrous decision to destroy the boundary review which will cause the demise of his own party and potentially let the ‘Reds under the bed’ back into power. Bravo Nick!

Having made a strong speech in comparison to his fellow senior colleagues, Nick can bask in some temporary glory. As he stood on that platform and made a wholly negative speech in which he deluded himself and delegates that his party were the only ones who came up with good policies he struck me as being wholly disingenuous. His lack of willingness to take responsibility for  the unpopular policies goes to show why he is just Deputy Prime Minister. 

What did that matter today? Gone for the moment is that moping, front bench pout from a man who cannot appreciate his good fortune. The Liberal Democrats might now be applauding his tough stance but it won’t change the fact that he has allowed his parliamentary party to both seriously hinder growth and stifle some very important policies. We shall wait and see what happens at the ballot box but I don’t reckon he’ll be quite so cocky as he was today!

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