Posts Tagged ‘Nick Clegg’

Photo: Dave Radcliffe (www.flickr.com/photos/libdems)

Photo: Dave Radcliffe (www.flickr.com/photos/libdems)

Whatever one may think of the current Labour Party, there’s no denying that it knows how to lose an election.

The morning of May 8 brought a crushing defeat, but for all the upset there was no time wasted. Miliband resigned and straight away conversations started about what could be done differently – and under who – to win in 2020.

Coming, as it did, on the morning the party hoped to walk victorious into Downing Street, this was admirably resilient. But what of the night’s other losers, the Liberal Democrats?

While there is no consensus on why Labour lost it, the Liberal Democrats can be under no illusions: five years of propping up a Tory government had ground voter support down to a nub.

Yet somehow, the party seems to have missed this message. Its leaders speak as if the electorate lost the election, not them – as if no mistakes have been made, save for by the voters.

Nick Clegg, stepping down, said the results had been “crushing and unkind.” Paddy Ashdown said the outcome was “cruel.” You’d think the public had failed to support them out of spite.

Clegg went on to say his MPs had lost their seats because of “forces entirely beyond their control” and that the “politics of fear” had cost them – the latter point was echoed by Vince Cable.

In a moment of undisguised contempt for the electorate, Clegg evoked a Liberal Democrat councillor who, on losing his seat, said he wholeheartedly accepted the voters’ verdict if it was their thanks for the scraps begged from the Tory table.

The notion that the coalition might have been a mistake, meanwhile, is not indulged at all. The party is agreed – it was brave and selfless to leap at power like a dog after a stick, and a move all should admire.

If a failure must be considered, it’s that the party did not adequately communicate its greatness. Yet this too can be someone else’s fault. One councillor told me they blamed the lack of a Liberal Democrat mouthpiece on Fleet Street.

Even Norman Lamb, who at least accepts some wrongdoing, seems to only give ground on the tuition fee U-turn, otherwise defending the Liberal Democrats’ time in Toryland.

One might expect something like humility from a party that lost 85 per cent of its MPs, but the talk is mainly of rebuilding, and – with the coalition not disavowed – it’s on these toxic foundations.

The year after entering the Conservative coalition, Lib Dem party membership plummeted 25 per cent. Herein lies the key.

The Liberal Democrat voter base was, in no small part, composed of people on the centre-left. Did Clegg and co really expect to get into bed with a right wing party and retain that support?

For many, this loss will seem well earned and richly deserved. Here is a party that not only helped the Tories into power, but continued to support them even when its own values were the cost.

Whether or not the party did the right thing by sporting a Tory leash (it didn’t) is neither here nor there. The voters have decided it was wrong and, until the survivors distance themselves from the decision, they will be starved of support.

Clegg may mourn a sad result for liberalism, but liberalism is alive and well. Its followers didn’t abandon his party, his party abandoned them.

What matters now is who liberals choose to support in the future and, at this stage, it’s not the Liberal Democrats.

While politicos and pundits throw around statistics and debate policy, a great number of people are feeling right now the way I feel on match days – bored.

Photo: Bart Heird (www.flickr.com/photos/chicagobart)

Photo: Bart Heird (www.flickr.com/photos/chicagobart)

Every election I find myself trying to convince people I know to go out and vote, and every time I hear this argument: they’re all the same, none of them represent me.

At this point, some would try and push their party of choice, while others might try and give an unbiased account of each side. My problem is, I kind of get the argument.

In 2010, those who weren’t voting Labour or Conservative had a moderate third option in the Liberal Democrats and their centre-left manifesto.

But five years later, any Liberal manifesto is a risky proposition. Enacting higher tuition fees, party brass made clear that pre-election pledges count for nothing until Clegg gets a majority – a notion so far-fetched that the Dems can promise whatever they want.

Nor have teams red and blue become more attractive in the meantime. National debt, soaring under Labour, reached giddy new heights under the Coalition and though the economy is growing, so is wealth inequality, foodbank use and insecure employment.

Small parties offer one alternative, but each has its electoral baggage – from bigots to hippies – and you can only do so much to separate the two.

In any case, all options would require me to settle. Where I agree with a party on one thing, it’s negated by disagreement elsewhere. Besides, my vote makes precisely no difference in my staunchly Tory constituency.

If all this seems to be building to some puerile argument for refusing to take part altogether, rest assured it’s not, I’m simply saying we should vote for Batman.

A self-starter, the aforementioned Bruce Wayne recovered from personal tragedy and built a business empire, he recognises the value of investing in technology and takes a hardline on crime. He’s community minded.

I mean, I only saw the films, but that’s what I got from it.

Granted, he’s a fictional character – one that’s ominously quiet about the deficit and foreign policy – yet if I’m wasting my vote anyway, why not make a point of it?

With any other approach, it’s an all-or-nothing game. Don’t vote and you appear not to care, however principled your abstention. Vote for a party and you may as well support it heart and soul.

In my university days, there was a way to take part in student democracy without voting for the self-important twerps who’d plastered their faces on every building.

His name was RON, meaning re-open nominations, and every year he ran for every position. He never won, but I liked his resilience and, like Batman, he had a use.

Those in power don’t concern themselves with non-voters. It’s no coincidence that so much policy is geared towards older people, who hit the polling booths in big numbers, while so little is aimed at young people, who don’t.

Snub the polls and they’ll govern like you aren’t watching, snub the parties and they’ll know that you are.

By voting for Batman – or more accurately, by scrawling the bat logo over the whole paper – you say: “Yes, I’ll vote, but not for any of this lot.”