Much has been said of the demise of the Lib Dems over the last week in both English and European elections. The results, as we know, have been a disaster whatever way you look at it, and it must be pretty depressing to be a Liberal Democrat right now. It was also funny in many ways.
Now I consider myself a future Liberal Democrat, don’t laugh I do. I am a Liberal and a patriot, but while I vote nationalist it’s always been a means to an end for me because I really believe that we have come to an end of this unfair political union, a union that Scottish people never voted for or were asked their opinion. I accept it was 300 years ago and democracy was very different then but not that much but I am digressing.
We need a strong left of centre Liberal movement in Scotland. I have no doubts about that at all. Liberalism for me is common sense, is the idea that you can take many views based on your principles and that a good idea is a good idea no matter where it comes from. Liberals believe in democracy, free trade, ownership and freedom of expression. Not many people would disagree with those aspirations and I would add that for them to work they need to work within a framework of social justice and fairness.
The problem right now for the Lib Dems is that the party has been hijacked in the same way that Labour was by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Nick Clegg got power when the party decided that they would take advantage of Charles Kennedy’s personal problems and have a wee power grab. I was very close to voting for them in Westminster elections under Charles Kennedy, I don’t agree with everything he says but he was a leader and had some integrity. Nick Clegg aided by the likes of Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, Jo Swinson and the David Laws of the world however saw their opportunity and the rest is history.
Now many people and commentators say that the Liberals are suffering because of their coalition with the Conservatives at Westminster, and while that may play some part in their demise, I suspect it is the fact that they, like Labour, gave up on the principles that they are supposed to believe in for a bit of power. They made promises that they did not keep and have allowed themselves to be pulled to the right on an agenda of attacks on the poorest. They made a complete arse of the AV referendum when you would have thought they would have taken their time and not allowed themselves to be bullied by the mainstream and the right.
One of my biggest gripes with the current Libdems is their persistence in saying they cut taxes for the poorest and took many out of tax, however the price for this was the virtual ending of tax credits which left many a lot worse off and the tax cut did little to make up the difference. They gave up their souls and betrayed their members by giving up far too much , in the national interest of course.
A lot of people are now calling on Nick Clegg to stand down, I agree with them and he should. He is now a disaster for the party and while they will win some seats next year, they may even hold the balance of power if UKip implode, they will not make the kind of inroads that a true liberal movement should. The other problem they have is that the people waiting in the wings are equally a disaster. Danny Alexander is unlikable and in the wrong party, Vince Cable is not the man they think he is and would only be a stop-gap. Simon Hughes is not in the frame any longer for lot’s of reasons while David Laws stole from the public purse and should not have a way back.
I would argue that the Liberal Democrats need to do a few things. The person they should turn to is Tim Farron, the current president of the party. He comes across as a decent and honest man and may well just strike a chord with the electorate. They have to get Danny Alexander gone; he is poison and is a Tory. Michael Moore would have been a better choice, not very exciting but a decent man who I think people may just have underestimated. Others like Carmichael, Campbell, Cable need to be allowed to retire gracefully over time. There is a place for a liberal movement and a liberal party, but again like new Labour, the members of the Liberal Democrats need to act now to save it.