Thursday 12 September 2013

The Delusional Liberal Democrats

What on earth goes on in the minds of (the remaining) Liberal Democrats?

Some of the stuff that has come out in the buildup to the 2013 Lib-Dem conference is indicative of some seriously misguided and delusional thinking.

On the first weekend of September the Lib-Dem MP and former coalition minister Sarah Teather announced her decision to quit the Liberal Democrats at the 2015 election because of their abandonment of their liberal values. Whilst I'm inclined to give her a bit of credit for showing some principles, her stance raises a number of questions.

If she is truly opposed to the illiberal tendencies of the coalition government, why doesn't she resign immediately, rather than hanging on as a Lib-Dem MP until 2015? If she doesn't want to quit parliament before her time is up, why doesn't she quit the Liberal Democrat party, cross the floor and serve out her time as an independent, or join a genuinely left-liberal party like the Green Party (if they would even have her after her decision to oppose equal rights for gay people)?

Another question is why now? I mean, it was absolutely obvious that the Lib-Dems had abandoned any pretence at being a liberal party when they backed the fascistic Justice and Security "secret courts" Bill earlier this year. Sarah knew all about this betrayal of the liberal values that the Lib-Dems misleadingly continue to advertise in their name. In fact, she was one of the few Lib-Dem MPs with the requisite liberal values to vote against her party backing of this Kafkaesque legislation back in March 2013. Why has she waited until the week before the Lib-Dem conference to announce her resignation, when March 2013 was clearly a better moment.

The anti-Teather bile emanating from the Lib Dem ranks suggests that Teather's belated resignation has really struck a nerve. It's all very well people like me questioning her motives for quitting in this particular week, but the Lib-Dems that have chosen to stay loyal to a leadership hellbent on betraying their proclaimed liberal values should surely have more important things to do than slinging mud at Sarah Teather. They should perhaps be asking themselves why they continue to support a party leadership that has open contempt for the proclaimed core values of the party, and in just a few short years has driven away vast swathes of Lib-Dem support that took decades of extremely hard work to build up.

Not content with the embarrassing spectacle of a public spat between Sarah Teather and the Coalition loyalists, Nick Clegg decided to to give everyone something else to ridicule with press briefings that the Lib-Dems were about to withdraw support for Secret Courts just six months after his party voted them into existence!

Just as a little reminder of the grotesquely illiberal stuff Clegg and co helped the Tories to enact: If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself charged with a crime by a secret court, you will be excluded from the hearings where your fate is decided; you will not be allowed to know what the case against you is; you will not be allowed to enter the courtroom; you will not be allowed to know or challenge the details of the case; and you will not be allowed representation from your own lawyer (who will also be barred from knowing what the case against you is), but will instead be represented (in your absence) by a state appointed "special advocate". What is more, thanks to Lib-Dem votes shooting down some last minute Labour amendments, the court will not even have to demonstrate that it is in the public interest to hold your case in secret.

Remember, the only reason that these Kafkaesque secret courts found their way onto the statute books was by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats repeatedly voting in favour of them, their helping the Tories to carefully unpick all of the House of Lords amendments and their deliberate voting down of opposition amendments designed to mitigate some of the most totalitarian elements.

The decision to begin campaigning against legislation that you yourself voted into law just six months previously has to be one of the most ridiculous political U-turns in history.

Not content with the embarrassment of the Sarah Teather resignation and the shambolic secret courts debacle, the Lib-Dem President Tim Farron decided to elicit more public ridicule with his delusional assertion that the Liberal Democrats should "stay on the centre-left" of British politics. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that Farron is either politically illiterate, or he's been fast asleep for the last three years.

The Liberal-Democrats are not a centre-left party. They are quite clearly occupiers of the same tiny patch of right-wing authoritarianism as the other two establishment parties. They are a corporate backed, orthodox neoliberal, pro-privatisation, anti-welfare and extremely illiberal party. Just because they occupy ground slightly to the left of the Tories and UKIP doesn't make them left-wing or liberal, in the same way that just because a carving knife isn't as fearsome as a Samurai sword, doesn't mean that it's safe to be stabbed in the neck with one.

Are any of these things to be expected from a centre-left party?
Farron must be absolutely delusional if he thinks that the millions of betrayed Lib-Dem voters are going to flood back before the 2015 election simply because they draw up a list of left-liberal manifesto "pledges" to be abandoned at will in the unlikely circumstance that they find themselves in power again. Their appalling track record of betraying their liberal minded supporters and cravenly supporting a Tory government even more fanatically right-wing and totalitarian than the Thatcher regime will surely be albatross around Lib-Dem necks for generations to come.

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