Wednesday 2 December 2015

Is there any longer a point to the Liberal Democrats?

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?


  1. I think people will certainly start asking why they bother helping out a bunch of MPs who pay no heed to the interests and concerns of the membership of the party they claim to represent. Actually, I'm sure they think they are acting in the wider interests of their constituents, but it is pointless to pretend this is, in some ways, as bad as the tutition fees debacle and, indeed, in some ways even worse...

  2. Gareth, I can't disagree with a word. I am waiting to see if even one Lib Dem MP l vote against this lunacy.

  3. I personally take a view that international law and the UN need to be treated seriously. This is the key shift between the debate about Chemical weapons where I campaigned to use the UN rather than resort immediately to bombing and the idea that the UK should join up with the USA, France and Russia (and other countries) in using lethal force against Daesh - in response to a UN resolution.


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