A question many people are asking after the rump of 8 Lib Dem MPs agreed they would all vote to prop up David Cameron's latest attempt to bomb Syria.
As a Liberator Collective colleague put it.... ' I have no idea where to start - I fluctuate from anger to despair. Even if you put the arguments about Syria themselves to one side...'. And on the basis of the tests by which the Lib Dems said they would decide whether or not to back air strikes in Syria, they have absolutely not been met. In particular, there is no post-Daesh plan that would even fill the back of a fag packet, and no sign of British efforts to lead an international diplomatic consensus.
Both Farron and Clegg have changed their tune in barely two months. Take Clegg (no - please, please do. Preferably to his natural home.) In October he wrote in the Evening Standard that 'dropping bombs on a country without a workable military approach on the ground made little strategic sense. On the substance on which we based our collective decision in 2014, nothing has changed. If anything, the evolving circumstances make air strikes less justified. All there is on the ground in Syria is chaos, blood and anger. We would simply be throwing more bombs into a furnace..... playing catch-up with other people’s bombing raids is hardly the most effective way of doing so.' Yesterday he jumped the gun on the whole party by blurting out to Sky that it would back the Tories, as if he were still leader. I am told that colleagues were furious. My response is that his behaviour is at least consistent for him.
The damage to the Liberal Democrats, however, is political. "The Conservatives... with support from the DUP and the Liberal Democrats..." is what the media will record of today's debate and vote. The toxic accusation that the Liberal Democrats are simply propping up the Tories will still apply. Not a single Lib Dem MP is recognising that almost three to one Lib Dem members currently, as it stands, oppose action at this stage; the party is the only one (apart from the DUP) whose name is absent from the counter-proposal on the order papers today. While we should not be fooled by claims about the late Charles Kennedy's actions in 2003, the public will see the Liberal Democrats trashing the political legacy on intervention and Iraq, while backing action that repeats the same mistakes.
It seems Liberal Democrat MPs have learned nothing of the mistakes of action in Iraq and more recently Libya; nothing of their mistakes from the Coalition Parliament; and have understood nothing of the gaping chasm in opinion between them and the party members that have worked hard to get them elected. The reaction of those members - many of whom didn't receive a single email from the party on how it would approach the issue - is of utter dismay.
It is no surprise so many party members are asking: what's the point?