Ooops! There I was, distracted by something shiny. I got a little bit over-excited. And now here I am standing in a spreading yellow pool of shame.
Yes. I voted LibDem at the last general election.
I’m a ‘floating’ voter, so it wasn’t the first time I’d put a cross in that box, but it was the first time I’d thought my vote might really count. Hence the over-excitement. And now the regret as I discover the unexpected warm feeling only leads to something cold and damp later. And a bad smell.
It didn’t take long for the cold and damp to seep in. First was the obvious disappointment that ‘Cleggmania’ hadn’t translated into nearly such a substantial number of votes, let alone seats, as opinion polls seemed to suggest it would.
Then it became increasingly clear that there would be no ‘progressive left’ alliance. I had imagined the civil liberties credentials of the LibDems holding Labour’s surveillance state in check. Together (surely?) they would implement a gradual regime of deficit reduction, supported by a Keynesian stimulus package, coupled with a continuing and sensible programme of welfare support for society’s more vulnerable individuals and families. But no LibLab pact.
An alliance in the other direction was unthinkable though. It seemed to me that the LibDems’ commitment to equality, diversity and human rights meant that they couldn’t get into a coalition with the Tories, could they?
Just in case, and because the party was inviting comments on what it should do, I wrote to Nick Clegg to tell him: force Cameron to run a minority government; operate a principled opposition – vote with the Government on any good ideas but stand firm against hard-line Tory nonsense. I didn’t really think the letter was necessary, because surely the notion of an actual coalition with Cameron and his ilk would be anathema to them. Apparently not.
A few days after the election – on my birthday, no less – I was gifted a new government.
Worst. Present. Ever.
Of course some of you will point out that instead of reading and believing the party manifestos, watching (and cheering) the TV debates, and getting a little giddy on the hype about ‘the new politics’, I should have had a look at ‘The Orange Book’ and found out for myself that the LibDems weren’t quite the type of party I thought they were. Perhaps I should have looked at the background, schooling and pre-politics careers of the LibDem front bench and noticed that the pedigree was more or less the same as their true blue counterparts. And then recoiled. Too late.
I have watched – first with glumness, then with fury, and more recently with an increasing sense of despair – as the party that promised no more broken promises has broken pledge after pledge, while pretending that working in coalition makes that a reasonable thing to do. The party that promised no more broken promises has even criticised the electorate for seeming to consider promise-keeping a desirable trait in politicians. How very naive of us!
The stupidity, incompetence and vicious destructiveness of the Tory frontbench would be tolerable, even amusing, if a strong coalition partner was holding it in check; standing up for the principles it said it believed in and taking a clear stand: “this far and no further”. Instead we have a coalition partner either too craven to stand up for its own principles or too deceitful to acknowledge that it is just a different flavour of Toryism. With Labour confused or moribund (who can say?) the disgraceful sacking and burning of our most important public institutions, the spiteful villification of the most vulnerable members of society, and the pitiless attack on services and support to women and children in particular goes ahead unchecked.
Standing in my yellow pool, I am ashamed of the blind enthusiam with which I cast my vote last year, although the party that benefited from it shows no shame at having won my vote under false pretences.
The LibDems have taken a spanking in this week’s polls. They deserved it. This blog from LibDem voice captures the flavour of the rout.
The results are ‘a disaster’ for the party. The miserable little compromise that is AV so effectively divided those who are in favour of electoral reform (but perhaps not of this type) that pushing for the referendum as the price of coalition has ensured this progressive proposition gets “a trouncing beyond even the more pessimistic pollsters’ imaginations”. But note the penultimate paragraph: “party members still overwhelmingly back the coalition”.
That tells me all I need to know. I was looking for a party with a genuine commitment to social justice, to equality, to diversity; a party that understood society to be more than just the economy; a party that valued people over businesses and put children and vulnerable adults first, rather than just screwing them first because it’s so easy to do.
I loved this pencilandpapertest blog today from @TeacherTalks
Does the party really belive their strategies and policies are right? Are they really governing as they intended? Can they see who they are hurting and how, and do they really think that’s all right? Have they got nothing wrong? Is there nothing they should reconsider or re-evaluate?
I was perhaps once ‘of a yellow persuasion’. But now I don’t think any fresh promise could persuade me.
At least my feet are not on fire. But that’s because I am standing in a nasty yellow pool of my own making. The shame is huge. I can’t blush deeply enough.