You can’t trust the Lib Dems and you could never trust them. They want to be all things to all men and their by-election campaigns around the country in the past have reflected this. Now that they’re in power with the Tories, they have shown what a thoroughly slippery bunch they are. Vince Cable claimed that the cuts proposed by the Tories would hurt the country and harm the economy. Now in that he is in power, he has changed his tune.
But the Lib Dems have always shown 2 faces to the public: there’s the touchy-feely, sandal wearing face and the hard-nosed neo-liberal face. The neo-liberal face was represented by the Orange Book tendency and it is the Orange book mob that are sitting on the government front bench. Before the coalition government was announced, Cable was tipped for a job in the Treasury but that didn’t happen. He’s now the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. One can only surmise as to why that has happened. They say it’s because he has been charged with looking at how to reform the banking system. Personally, I think the job of Chancellor was always going to go to Gideon; the Tories didn’t want a former economics lecturer heading the department. Better to give it to someone who has a hereditary baronetcy and no professional experience of economics than someone who has a track record in economics. Gravitas? What’s that? Even the loathsome David Laws was better qualified than the current occupant of the post.
The one thing that really stands out about the Lib Dems is the lack of black or Asian candidates among their number. In past by-elections, most notably the 1991 Langbaurgh by-election, the Lib Dems ran a very nasty campaign that played on the ethnicity of the Labour candidate, Ashok Kumar. They referred to their candidate as ‘local’, a form of shorthand for ‘white’. Labour won the election and the Lib Dems slinked away but charges of dirty tricks continue to dog them(remember the 1983 Bermondsey by-election?). In the last General Election, Gerald Kaufman accused the Lib Dems of Gorton of using “racist tactics“. One Lib Dem candidate claims to have been forced out of her party. This is sort of thing isn’t new either. The Lib Dems have been here before. In 1993, the expelled 3 local councillors from the party for allegedly “pandering to racism“. Before the General Election, a Lib Dem candidate was accused of sending a “racist email“. He was not allowed to stand. In all cases, someone had to blow the whistle on the Lib Dems, they were forced to root out the racists and would not have done this of their own accord.
The crazy thing is that the Lib Dems do have black and Asian members; I’ve seen them at conference. So why aren’t any minorities selected to stand in safe seats rather than in marginal ones where they stand no chance of winning? Why does the party continue to allow racists to dictate terms locally? Only the leadership of the party can answer these questions but has, thus far, shown no willingness to deal with the issue head on.
The Lib Dems may be enjoying their moment in power but it is likely to go very pear-shaped for them as this article hints. There were a number of unhappy Lib Dem faces on the government backbenches when the Budget was announced and those unhappy faces will eventually turn into defections. The sandal-wearing faction will either defect to Labour or the Greens. After the next General Election, the Lib Dems could find themselves in the same position they were in throughout the 1970’s when they had so few MPs that they could all fit into a taxi.
But if the Lib Dems don’t shoot themselves in the foot, then the right wing press is gunning for them. The coalition has already lost Laws and Chris Huhne was exposed in last Sunday’s papers for having a long-running extra-marital relationship. I wonder who is next?