» Worth reading 39: Unluck comes in threes ¦ What You Can Get Away With

Bored? Then it’s time for some linkage:

Colonel Albert Bachmann – Telegraph obituary of a Swiss spy, whose life resembled something from a black comedy about the Cold War.
The Lib Dem Leadership Don’t Get It – But I Do – Jennie explains the elephant in the room that the party leadership aren’t acknowledging.
TPA – Pretence of Authority – Tim Fenton notes that the Taxpayers Alliance’s policies only seem to be for a very small number of taxpayers.
Some Advice to New Councillors – Useful advice from Richard Kemp.
Thirty Books from Interrupted Worlds – Lawrence Miles provides some humorous reinterpretations of classic books from alternate timelines.

Burning of the heretics may now recommence.

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4 comments untill now

  1. The piece by Jennie on the Lib Dems is a bit overwrought, isn’t it? Promise-breaking matters, true enough, but (i) very few *voters* have ever actually thought that the Lib Dems are (or, rather, were) qualitatively ethically better than other politicians; this just seems to be a myth that the Lib Dem activists tell among themselves to make themselves feel better about the world; and (ii) while, as I say, promise-breaking matters more generally, the point here is that the relevant pledge speaks directly to the economic interests of a substantial proportion of Lib Dem voters (i.e. students and young people).

    What happened over tuition fees wasn’t so much a broken promise (we said we’d do something but we didn’t) but a calculated betrayal, with the leadership deliberately choosing to shaft a large chunk of its own core constituency. The politics of this are jolly interesting (when you start thinking through the circumstances in which a political party might plausibly decide its own best interests were served with a direct and substantial assault on the bank accounts of its own supporters), but the trouble is that saying that it’s all about “trust” and being different from the others, and why can’t he apologise, and so on, always threatens to obscure this.

  2. Chris, I’m not just going by what Charlie Brooker and the News Quiz and Have I Got News For You say here: I work in a pub, and everyone knows I am a lib dem, and this is what customers say to me. Lots of them. Very few of them are students, so I don’t think it /is/ about self interest.

    Of course, there is the chance that all the electorate are deluding themselves as well as Lib Dem activists, but there is also the option that you might be slightly off in your analysis too.

    Perhaps my language was a little over the top, but I don’t think your whataboutery holds water.

  3. And the comment I meant to make was going to be a joke about Millennium being the elephant in the room we’re allowed to acknowledge… thanks for the linkage, Nick.

  4. Thanks for the reply, Jennie.

    OK: I haven’t been in your pub, and Cllr Nick and the others here have knocked on more doors than I ever will to ask people what they think of the Lib Dems, so let’s say you’re right about all of this, and that a key part of the Lib Dem electoral appeal used to be that they were better than the others. We’re all agreed that they’ve lost this, and your post suggests that it’ll take decades of hard work to restore this trust, work which Lib Dem activists may or may not be motivated to undertake.

    But that still leaves the political question. (If you think this is objectionable whataboutery, then just ignore me: I won’t be offended.) Ever since the Lib Dems went into government, it was entirely predictable (and, indeed, predicted) that they’d lose a great deal of their support (this was true long before the tuition fees fiasco). And it has always looked as if the Clegg strategy was to sell out the centre-left, younger, more student-y portion of the Lib Dem electorate, in the hope (eventually) of acquiring a different voter base: older, better-off, a bit more Tory-leaning. The recent Prospect mega-poll suggests that the strategy is working out very well indeed: about two-thirds of those who say they voted Lib Dem at the general election say they wouldn’t any more, but the reason Lib Dem support in the polls is generally only around half the GE figure is because they’re finding new voters on the centre-right, who didn’t used to support them. The Party is fashioning a new electorate for itself — which, as I said earlier, is politically a very interesting thing to be doing.

    As I say: all of this was reasonably predictable, as soon as the decision to join the Tories in Coalition was made. And, indeed, from the Lib Dem point of view (and I am not a Lib Dem), that may still have been the least-worst option that the Party faced following the election, given a menu of very bad choices. And Clegg was shrewd enough to bind the whole Party to his choice: getting huge majorities at each stage of the celebrated “triple lock” process, even holding the membership ballot that he didn’t actually have to hold.

    Now, while I’m sympathetic to any Lib Dem who is fed up with Nick Clegg, I can’t seen that there’s much mileage in an apologise-and-try-to-go-back-to-the-status-quo-ante kind of an approach. In going into Coalition, the Lib Dems crossed a threshold. Of course the smaller party in such a Coalition was always going to be more severely compromised than the larger party, and was always going to face much greater pressures, including pressures on its basic political identity.

    Or, to put things slightly differently: every time Liberals have gone into Coalition with the Tories in the past, whether in 1895, 1916 or 1931, the party or bit of the party joining the government has never emerged from the experience (if they have emerged at all) in remotely similar shape as it went in, and I don’t see any reason at all to think that it’ll be different this time.

    And I suppose (though I may be wrong), Jennie, that when I read your post, you came across to me as someone who does think (or hope) that the clock can to a certain extent be turned back, and the Lib Dems can once again be like what they once were, before last year’s election. And Clegg–for all his faults (and my goodness there are a lot of these)–has this, at least, to his credit, that he sees that as the delusory fantasy which it is.