The beginning of the end of the LibDems?
Extended post – words by Rupert Read photo, unknown (let us know if it’s yours and we’ll credit you).
The last month of student protests, culminating in the Parliamentary vote on Thursday in favour of trebling fees and thoroughly marketizing British higher-ed, have delivered what well could spell the beginning of the end of the Liberal Democrats in British politics.
Hovering now around just 10% in the polls, the Liberal Democrats have broken their promise to the young, to the hopeful with aspirations to achieve their full potential in life. Many young people from working class backgrounds who feel they have something special to offer society have told me or fellow Greens / fellow academics that they will now be put off studying at University because of the back breaking chain of debt that weighs them down if they decide to pursue their dreams. How can a Party that got their MPs elected on the promise that not only would they refuse to increase tuition fees, but would actually scrap them after a few years, look at themselves in the mirror after the last fortnight? In Norwich South, Lib Dem MP Simon Wright won by just 300 votes because his Labour opponent Charles Clarke – who introduced tuition fees – refused to promise students of tomorrow something he couldn’t keep. The prospects there (here, where I live) now look very good for the Green Party, who scored over 7000 votes – for how many people are really going to vote for the LibDems in seats like Norwich South, next time? Every political party wants to win votes where possible, but the kind of u-turn we have seen from the LibDems will undoubtedly stick in students’ minds and in their craw for generations to come.
And it is important to be clear, of course, that these fees were always going to come in, from the moment the coalition agreement was signed. The whole dance of which LibDems were going to vote for the fees, which to abstain, and which to vote against was just for show, and to try to minimise the damage to the LibDems in student seats – there was no way that the LibDems would let the vote actually be lost, because that would have put the Coalition itself at risk. Don’t be fooled by some LibDem MPs having voted against fees in the end – they were in effect allowed to do so because there was no risk of the bill itself being defeated.
People are fed up with lying politicians from the old Parties. People are sick to death of their broken promises: here, the LibDems are merely the latest in a long line, and Nick Clegg is surely bitterly regretting his ‘No more broken promises’ theme during the General Election campaign! And, with their role in government, comes greater attention to the tension between the LibDems’ alleged credentials on political reform, and the reality of their being on the ground the dirtiest campaigners of all. Many people can no longer stomach the twisted attacks the Liberal Democrats direct at other political parties and candidates (see the ‘Straight Choice‘ website, etc. ad nauseum ). It is striking how dirty they are already playing in the byelection to fill Phil Woolas’s seat – very ironically, given the reason for Woolas’s resignation!
The Liberal Democrats may be thinking, despite the backlash against their student-fees u-turn, that if a week is a long time in politics, five years of coalition politics may be enough to turn around the perceptions of the people. Voting reform may ‘do the trick’ after all, and Nick Clegg tells us this was the real reason he came into politics. But this is merely wishful thinking. Millions of young people around Britain are just too adversely affected by this decision by the coalition government to weigh them down in debt before their working lives begin. We’re taking about debts between £30,000 and £50,000 for each and every student once our stars of tomorrow graduate.
And the reason the Lib Dems are finished, not just in 2015 but for good? The protesters who felt so incensed about the maximum £9000 per annum tuition fees co-authored by the Lib Dems were not just current 16 year old and above A-level students but also children in their early teens, 14 and 15 year olds. These schoolkids came out onto the streets in unprecedented numbers in the last weeks. These are the people who will be voting not just in 2015 (when they will vote for the first time) but in the next 10 general elections. These are the people whose children will vote with the knowledge of the treachery the Lib Dems waged on their parents. And these are the people who won’t be placing the Lib Dems favourably in their AV voting preferences if it is selected by the people next year…
The LibDems will now be taught a lesson; when you promise the voters of tomorrow the earth and you deliver a black hole, as a Party you’ll never see the light of day again…
Who stands to gain from the LibDems’ loss?
Labour have been doing well in recent Council byelections – but so, in a number of cases (e.g. in Lewisham, in Manchester) have the Greens. Recent opinion polls have shown the Green Party on level pegging with the LibDems in Scotland, and poised to win our first seat ever on the Welsh Assembly, in our target area there. If we break through into Wales, then we will be represented in every nation of these islands – a distinction unmatched by any other political Party.
There is still an abiding distrust of Labour among many former LibDem voters; and Labour is very weak now, barely-existent, in large parts of the country. Furthermore, it is of course Labour who began this whole fees farrago – they come out of this smelling of something the opposite of roses…
Only the Green Party emerge from this whole thing with any credit. Buoyed up by the historic moment that was constituted by Caroline Lucas’s election in Brighton Pavillion, the Green Party is poised to advance significantly on many Councils next year, and possibly to take over the running of one or two, which would be another historic moment in British politics. And our prospects in the devolved elections in Scotland and Wales may be particular bright, given the Libs’ fall from grace. (Of course, the fact that the fees voted for on Thursday are for England only makes the contrast between the devolved nations and the Westminster centre all the more striking…)
Three times in British history, the Liberals have propped up a Conservative government. Each time, it has ended in electoral cataclysm for them, the junior partner, and in a fullblown split of one kind or another. The historical omens are grim for the neoliberal clique that has taken over the LibDems – and rightly so.
Meanwhile, around the world, Greens are growing in strength. The Green Party has overtaken centre Parties in Germany and in France, and is running there at its highest ever levels in the polls. In Australia, the LibDem equivalent Party, the ‘Democrats’, have collapsed, and the Green Party, which also won its first seat in the lower House there this year, now stands unchallenged as the 3rd Party of the country.
The Liberal Torycrats are discredited. As the Party of the future, the Green Party here is now following the Australian, French and German Green Parties in the march toward power.
The vote last Thursday makes the beginning of the end of the Libs as a party. Every time they have gone into government with the Conservatives in the past, they have ended up splitting – and now we see the start of the same splitting process here, in their chaotic 3-way split over fees. This split is very real, between the neoliberal / right-wing clique around Nick Clegg who actually agree with this awful, regressive policy of marketizing higher education, and the ‘social liberals’ / more social-democratic MPs in the Party including several former LibDem Leaders who emphatically do not.
The chaotic and shoddy outcome of last Thursday’s vote shows that the LibDems are on the way down and on the way out — and it is increasingly clear that the only growing progressive force in British politics is the Green Party.
For those who have been betrayed by the LibDems, for those who are being cut, whose futures are being mortgaged, who are paying through the nose so that the bankers can laugh all the way to…the bank, for our soldiers dying in pointless wars, for our children who are poised to inherit a ravaged Earth; for all these and many more, the rise of the Greens won’t be a moment too soon.
Thanks for the link. To be brutally honest I have neither the time or inclination to read that PFI research paper.
Now, and please do educate me if I have missed something, having rules limiting borrowing and debt are surely good… but maybe the rules were temporarily abandoned so that the Government could throw money at the banks.
But who’s to say that, Maastricht aside, PFI IS actually a useful device for Governments to keep public spending down. Aren’t Governments judged on how much money they spend and, particularly, borrow?
BTW – what do you think of the TV license fee?
See page 20
Please copy and paste the link below – to a UK Parliament pdf document, which touches upon this issue.
FROM THE LINK: “The
Maastricht Treaty, for instance, allows UK gross general government debt of no
more than 60 per cent of GDP, which is consistent with net public debt being
considerably higher than 40 per cent of GDP.” …………… “The golden rule is not broken by funding projects through the PFI, as the capital cost of
the project is allocated to the private sector, and so is not discussed in detail here.”
COMMENT: As you will be able to see – it’s one thing for the Greens to say they oppose PFIs, but how can they do this whilst at the same time enthusiastically supporting an unethical, corrupt organisation (ie-the EU) that has forced our MPs to go down the private funding route!
I find it totally bizzare that the Greens talk about the need for more decision making to be taken at a local level, and yet they support the situation where a small group of unelected, unaccountable Commissioners in Brussels can initiate some 75% of UK laws!
I would love someone from the Green party to explain the hypocrisy of their double-standards when it comes to the EU. Unfortunately, I have asked several times – and they always seem to shy away from the issue completely, or are completely unable to provide any satisfactory answer!
For further study, it’s probably better to google “Maastricht Treaty” and “PFI”.
hi Johnny W,
i’m intrigued by your association of PFI and the EU. Could you elaborate? I have tried to Google it but to no avail…
I do not approve of the increases in the amounts students should have to pay to go to universities, especially when bankers are handed out millions in bonuses. I would also agree with Rupert Read that people are generally sick and tired of broken promises from the mainstream parties.
However, one of the biggest problems I see with Green policies is that there are massive areas where they simply seem to have so little to offer, and are being very selective in how they are presenting certain policies. Very often they too are offering things that they are fully aware – that they cannot deliver.
It seems strange to me, that some of the biggest problems I hear people talking about are – overcrowding, lack of democracy, lack of accountability, uncontrolled immigration, religious extremism, the EU, PFI’s and Bankers.
I seem to meet more people who talk about these issues than I do those who talk about ‘Climate Change’ or ‘Global Warming’.
As for Alternative Voting – I can quite honestly say I’ve never heard anyone express the desire to see a referendum on that issue, and yet our arrogant politicians have offered us one on that very issue! I feel sure that if you were to conduct a street poll today, and ask people what they would prefer to have a referendum on – Alternative Voting, or whether we should remain in the EU? – I think I can guess correctly what the outcome would be!
I believe the Green party has some very good principles, and that on the whole most members have good intentions, and genuinely wish to improve situations. I have even voted for them myself (at local elections) as they do seem genuinely enthusiastic, and interested in local issues.
However, their naivety and refusal to fully appreciate the much wider importance of principles like Democratic Accountability is very evident when you see their complete lack of understanding on issues such as the true nature of the EU, big banks, global corporations, and wealthy ‘investors’.
It would be nice to see the Green’s fully support democratic principles, and get away from their love affair with the corrupt EU – a failed, flawed organisation that hasn’t had it’s own accounts passed by it’s own Court of Auditors for some 15 years in succession. In short, it stinks! It is corrupt and is beyond ‘reform’.
It also saddens me to see leading Greens alligning themselves with purely profit-making organisations like the RSPCAs ‘Freedom Foods’. Yes, it might look good on the political CV at election times, but why isn’t that close connection with such schemes used to try to genuinely influence improvements in the conditions for farm animals like ducks and chickens at other times? I have always questioned this, in time many others (hopefully) will.
The Greens policy on PFIs is another good example of disconnected, flawed thinking. On one hand they are totally opposed to PFIs (and I would agree with them 100%). But, on the other – they agree with the EU. It was because of the EU that we have PFI’s in the first place! PFIs were adopted as the Maastricht Treaty imposed strict limitations on where we can spend our own money.
So, we’re left with the bizzare situation where the Greens are against PFIs, but not the corrupt institution that provided the catalyst for that scheme being adopted?
That doesn’t make any sense to me at all, and smacks of hypocrisy.
This is all such a shame, as the Greens could (and should) be offering us so much more, at a time when the electorate is genuinely crying out for such a change.
It seems to me, that the more the Greens rise in the political spectrum – the more like the other parties they will become, as inevitably the good intentions and principles give way to lucritive careers and the big money that having ‘friends in high places’ seems to ensure.
There’s another very important message the Greens never seem to mention – and it’s much more important than ‘Global Warming’ (I write, as outside we’re experiencing some of the coldest temperatures in deacdes!). Surely the biggest threat planet Earth currently faces is the uncontrolled increase in human population?
Isn’t it about time the Greens started voicing serious concern about this issue? I think if they did, a lot more people would start respecting them more.
I have the horrible feeling that as soon as they get their hands on a little bit of power, they too will completely sell-out, as they have already done with their shameful support of a tyranny like the EU, and with not using their influence to directly improve organisations like ‘Freedom Foods’.
These are only my opinions. I hope I am wrong in some of those areas, and that the Greens do manage to develop meaningful, viable and democratic alternatives, and offer us policies that are better thought out.
I did actually read that Wiki entry but couldn’t quite equate it to Rupert’s reference of them.
Rupert, we went round on that Thursday expecting that Adrian might, might… win. Or at least get a good second. Instead he came 4th!
Sure Adrian doubled the vote from 2005, and since 1997 the Green vote in Norwich S has doubled at every GE. And the Brighton victory is important as it is the breakthrough that shows the county that Greens can be elected to Westminster. But don’t forget that between Simon’s narrow victory and Adrian’s 7000 votes are the Tories and Labour. If the LDs shoddy fees tactic had not worked it is Charles Clark that would have been re-elected.
Just because the LDs might implode doesn’t automatically mean the Greens will benefit in Norwich S at the next GE. You know as well as I that there are many in the LDs and supporters who have a long way to go before they decide to even consider the Greens.
Now that Labour is out of power and the Tories (+LDs) are set to trash the country it’s likely that, in Norwich at least, Labour will pick-up disaffected LD votes. Adrian’s 4th place just shows that despite his profile and all the hard work there is still a long way to go.
Anyway as Harold Wilson said ‘a week is a long time in politics’… LD fortunes may well change from what they are now.
Thanks for the link Bob – They may have been Liberal International members, but I have to say the Australian Democrats seem closer to being a Green party and very similar to the Green Party of England and Wales, than the Liberal Democrats or the Alliance Party! Mind you the now defunct (Global Greens affiliated) Independent Liberal Forum/Reform Party of Gibraltar http://www.gibnet.gi/~emery/policies.html , seemed to me to be more like (social) Liberals, than a Greens. They even shared the “none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity” constitutional wording with the Lib Dems.
Recent opinion polls have shown the Green Party on level pegging with the LibDems in Scotland
Do you have a URL for this?
One thing is certain: AV could be a game-changer for the Greens, as it has been in Australia.
Paul – you can read about the rise and fall of the aussie democrats here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Democrats
From a high of nearly 13% in 1990 to less than 1% in 2010 – a good example of what happens when political principle is overridden by personal ambition.
The Liberals, Nationals, Liberal Nationals and Country liberals are in permanent coalition in Australia, so the greens have got a pretty sound claim to be the third party.
Sorry Rupert but I’m going to be very, very picky. Please do correct me if I’m wrong…
The Australian ‘Democrats’. Who are they precisely and were they the 3rd party?
Seems to me that as far as seats go, in the current House of Representatives Labor have 72 seats, the Liberal Party 44, the Liberal National Party 21, the National Party of Australia 6, the Country Liberals 1… and the Greens 1.
However based on votes cast then yes it seems the Australian Greens are 3rd with 11.76%. But the Liberal Nationals have 9.12%. Hardly an ‘unchallenged’ position.
Of course the Australian Senate is more exciting as the Greens are indeed 3rd with 9 seats.
I’m not going to write the Liberal Democrats off, I don’t think they are going the way of the Green Party in Ireland. I remember the 1989 European Parliament elections, in which the Liberal Democrats secured only 6.2 % of the vote, being convincingly beaten into fourth place by the Green Party who got more than double the Lib Dem vote with 15%. The Lib Dems were a standing joke, yet they pulled themselves up.
The Lib Dems have deep roots in parts of the country; if they ditch Clegg for Fallon in a few years time they could turn things around look how forgiving Labour voters have been.
I wouldn’t argue with the analysis that the present incarnation of the Liberal Party are doomed, the historical parallels are both interesting and informative. What is in doubt, is who will benefit ? Norwich South is an unusual Lib Dem seat,it is a 4 way marginal and the Conservatives are the least likely beneficiaries. However many Lib Dem seats are under FPTP straight Lib Dem/Tory contests , Kingston upon Thames would be a good example..The students make up a distinct group, but there is evidence that around 40% of Lib Dem voters see the Tories as their second preference. I suspect any Lib Dem collapse will give the Tories an extra 25 seats.
The Tories have conveniently used Clegg and Cable as a human shield during the student protests, of course once the public sector cuts in services and jobs come by the spring,it will be harder to disguise who are the real masters
Labour are trying to say as little as possible, on the assumption that anti cuts/fees votes will naturally gravitate to them. This ignores the need for long term strategy, and assumes that oppositions don’t have to win elections. As mentioned on the subject of tuition fees Labour’s hands are anything but clean, and their token opposition to the huge rise was pitiful.
The Green Party do offer a distinct alternative, and leaving aside a possible change in voting system as a result of the AV/FPTP referendum, what is essential is to convince voters in many areas that a Green vote is not “wasted” . Brighton Pavilion has to provide the electoral credibility and become a springboard for further gains. While Labour offers little or no alternative, there is a huge gap on the left of politics, and next May’s local elections will provide an opportunity to reach those voters with a campaign centred on an anti-cuts programme. The reshaping of British politics depends not only on the Green Party capturing a slice of the Lib Dem vote, but also reaching out to those who’ve concluded that the Labour leadership is offering no ideological opposition
Yes, it was. And what is your point, FM? What is ‘dirty’ about what I have written here? Where are the lies, the false insinuations or personal attacks, the distorted graphs?… [Cf. http://liberalconspiracy.org/2009/06/17/those-fibdems/ ]
The truth is, unless I am much mistaken, that there aren’t any.
So, in fact, it turns out that the only dirty politics around here, FM, is _your_ comment, which _falsely_ insinuates that my article here itself constitutes dirty campaigning.
Remind me. Wasn’t it Rupert Read who launched, to great fanfares, his “clean politics pledge”?
I also see parallels with New Labour. Both relied on a label to attract support from a constituency of voters who do not look too deeply, whilst pursuing policies which attract a very different constituency. With New Labour, traditional Labour voters did not have a realistic alternative. With the LibDems there is a left-liberal alternative -the Greens. It’s up to us to highlight that.