Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Lib Dem roller coaster continues

It is 5 years since my last blog post.
In that time there has never been a more challenging time to be a Lib Dem, apart from in the 1950s when the Liberal party almost died.
We can see from what the government is doing today that the Lib Dems did perform a useful role in Coalition in moderating the Tories. Even so, the reputation and the appeal of the Liberal Democrats has taken a battering. Some policies that should not have seen the light of day got through and the Lib Dems have a difficult legacy to deal with as they now hope to recover. The election of Tim Farron as a new leader has given a new hope to those of us on the left of the party, upon which he has only partially delivered.
His majority was small and his strategy all along has been to try and keep the party united and this probably accounts for his record so far. He was able to oppose the Tory welfare cuts with conviction and he has made tackling inequality - not just social mobility - a priority. How that fits in with austerity economics and what our take on it is remains to be seen. On the other hand he has supported Trident replacement and air strikes in Syria.
I think he was relishing outflanking Labour on the left, but the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party has made that impossible. Jeremy Corbyn is on the hard left and they have their flaws as well. In the 32 years that Jeremy Corbyn was elected the MP for Islington North, he has often walked through the same voting lobbies as the Lib Dems, both in opposition to the Tories and Labour. There is more we agree on than we would both like to admit; on civil liberties, tackling global warming, opposing benefit cuts. Jeremy Corbyn has a laid back personality, very different from some of his hard left allies. The hard left have a culture of believing that anyone who opposes them on any issue should be treated with contempt. As the soft left Guardian journalist John Harris pointed out, they are not interested in listening to the electorate if they say things they do not want to hear.
For that reason a lot of the new recruits to Labour have joined the wrong party. Unfortunately because on the policies they are closer to Jeremey Corbyn than Tim Farron, that does not seem obvious. No doubt some will eject from Labour when they find out what it is really like, but it would have been better if they joined the Lib Dems in the first place. The Lib Dems have plenty of new members themselves and that is an opportunity they must capitalise on.
But what about the bigger picture? Global warming will continue it's deadly path. There is no end in sight in the so called war against terror. Will Assad be overthrown and will the Syrian state collapse in a similar fashion to Iraq in 2003? Will the government really find the money to replace Trident? Will Donald Trump or Ted Cruz become the next US president? How will the global economy fare as the Chinese economy falters? What if the British people vote to leave the EU? Will Greece leave the Euro currency, and will others follow? Will the far right prosper in Europe in the UK? How will Daesh be managing in Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebenon, Jordan, Egypt and will they attack Israel? And these are just the known unknowns.
Despite appearances the Tories are not invincible. They governed Canada for 10 years but they got defeated by the Liberals in Canada in 2015. Even so, politics is getting harder whoever is in power. Can the Lib Dems keep up with what is happening in the world today?

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