Monday, 23 January 2012

Betrayed: or will Clegg win on obedience at Cruft's?

I have yet to be reminded to renew my subscription to the Liberal Democrats.  As a grumpy old Liberal this is a dilemma - my long-standing desire for liberty, opportunity and democracy appears to be thwarted by the way in which the leader of the successor party prostitutes himself in front of David Cameron, looking for approval from a parental figure warped by the self-belief of bloated capitalism, Eton and the Bullingdon Club (Clegg being a Cambridge man won't help his limited comprehension of the subspecies).  Let's emasculate the NHS and bring in more opportunities for crony capitalism - and Nick will endorse it.  Let the evil little toad Gove pass the blame to Dr Vince for the tuition fees increase - Nick's quite happy.  And anything crass Georgie Osborne dreams up while avoiding tax is enthusiastically endorsed by Beaker, clapping his hands fervently while waiting to go up into the Fifth Form.

In the last eighteen months, whatever Clegg says in e-mails to his diminishing band of faithful, Liberalism and the policies it has stood for have been prostituted.  Our most consistent desire - to reform the constitutional muddle - has been ridiculed, defeated and criminally gerrymandered to allow the Tories to redefine constituency boundaries.  Push the Scots into independence (Cameron's clear objective, no matter how much he wraps his pitiful body in the Union Jack while twitching like a hamster on amphetamines) and you have effectively condemned England and (probably) Wales to backwards drift and neo-conservatism ad infinitum.  Puffed up by the hysterical vacuity of the Tory press, and a BBC whose mission to explain diminishes in inverse proportion to the number of overpaid corporate drones leeching off the licence fee, Cameron must be feeling ineffably smug by now.  We're all in this together, apart from the capitalists and experts who have creamed off illusory profits while continuing to allege that we ought to be grateful for their brilliance and should really pay them for the privilege of tugging our forelocks while they rape the pensions system and destroy workforce rights.

So what has Clegg been doing?  Claiming to offer a moderating influence over the Tories is about as far as he will go - assuming that the role of the Liberal Democrats is to be a nice little centre party whose role is to temper the excesses of whoever pushes out a few crumbs.  This was never my reasoning for supporting the Liberals - more the need for a libertarian left alternative that reasserted that relationships in society are not solely based around the relative economic power and that the values of the Enlightenment might continue to be expressed through the political system.  Labour's drift into the authoritarian right, and Blair's abandonment of the traditional social democratic platform, created a vacancy for critics of the neo-con Altanticist settlement.  And don't start me on Europe...

There is now a real need for common cause to resist the orthodoxies being touted by all three parties - or social breakdown is a distinct possibility.  As a Liberal I can't support a party that categorises people into shades of "vulnerability" while pouring patronising garbage over them, while acting as lightning conductors to a party whose malevolence continues to become more manifest.  The Labour Party might move back into a place where its mavericks are more tolerated and where it does not feel that repeating the Blair con-trick of sticking to Tory spending plans in government is going to win - but I'm not holding out much hope.  The long game may be for a further Tory victory to spur genuine realignment and a centre-left recognition that the anti-democratic farrago that passes for an electoral system needs a one-off modernisation. 

However in the meantime, I shall have to decide by the end of the month whether to renew membership of a party that cannot in itself inspire much loyalty or enthusiasm.  After nearly three decades it would come as a shock to be a party-less Liberal, but that seems a plausible outcome.  Not that Nick would notice, as Dave will be very busily tickling his tummy.

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