The Spreading Yellow Pool of Shame

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. 





13 thoughts on “The Spreading Yellow Pool of Shame

  1. Excellent piece. I very nearly voted for Lib Dem too so don’t feel too bad. Interesting to see what happens next – Lib Dems can’t leave the coalition because Cameron will just call a snap election and the Lib Dems know they’d be battered again and Labour haven’t really got their house in order. Sad as it is to say, Dave holds all the cards at the moment.

  2. I didn’t vote for the LibDems but I have mixed feelings about them. I was shell-shocked that they agreed to the coalition but I believed they would act as a stabilising force against the Conservatives. This did not appear to be the case as events unfolded.Recent criticism of their passion during the AV referendum (e.g. Chris Huhme’s cabinet outburst) not being in evidence when cuts where announced is the most damning observation of their actions while in Government. They’ve had a chance to stand out as a party in their own right and damaged themselves severely by not taking that chance. What they have done is alienate people with a social conscience who have been unable to place faith in Labour. I believe that is a very significant proportion of the electorate. It is not the voters’ fault that this has occurred (or even grass roots LibDems), it is the mixed message (and apparent dishonesty) of the LibDems at the senior level. However, the constant bashing of the LibDems, albeit warranted, must be music to the ears of the Conservatives. Cuts are being made that further an ideology, while blaming Labour’s financial management. Then the LibDems suffer the backlash. The result is Conservative support that is holding up when opposition to their approaches should be easy. They have played a very, very good game.

  3. I rather beg to differ. I did vote for the LibDems, not that it makes the slightest difference in our deepest blue constituency, not least because the Labour party at the time of the election were essentially finished. It made perfect sense for the LibDems to form a coalition with the Tories for exactly that reason.A agree 100% with John F that the Tories must be loving the lashing that the LibDems are taking, but disagree that it is warranted. Who realistically believed at the time the coalition was formed that the LibDems would be able to prevent swingeing cuts in public services, or even that they *should* be prevented? And absolutely no-one can say what difference has been made by having a coalition government as opposed to a Tory majority government.For the LibDems, and Nick Clegg in particular, to be now getting the opprobrium they are says more about the cattle-like qualities of our fickle electorate than it does about how the LibDems have conducted themselves since the election. Compromise is an inevitable (and should be welcome) part of political life. The histrionic reaction to the LibDem’s inevitable bending in the wind, and subsequent denouncement of them by those who voted for them, is the real cause for shame here.

  4. "Who realistically believed at the time the coalition was formed that the LibDems would be able to prevent swingeing cuts in public services, or even that they *should* be prevented? "Of course it was always going to be difficult for the LibDems to prevent cuts in public services but I don’t think it was unreasonable to hope that the pace and severity of the cuts could be tempered by their presence in the Coalition. As for "should" the cuts be prevented? Certainly they "should" have been better targeted and introduced with more integrity and consideration for the poor and vulnerable who are being hardest hit.In my opinion denouncing those who went into the Coalition claiming there would be a "new form of Government" and that there would be "a line that would not be crossed" when they have abandoned all the promises made when announcing the Coalition agreement is perfectly justified and reasonable. Nick Clegg’s empty rhetoric that he will now protect the NHS when he forced his MPs to vote for the NHS reforms is merely evidence of his hypocrisy and impotence.Of course those most to blame for the vicious, vindictive decimation of essential services and the callous, ruthless and wide-ranging cuts are David Cameron and the Conservatives, but that does not excuse the LibDems’ failure to speak up and fulfil their pre-election promises to be a party of social justice.

  5. "I don’t think it was unreasonable to hope that the pace and severity of the cuts could be tempered by their presence in the Coalition."As I said originally, none of us has any idea what the cuts would have looked like without the coalition."Certainly they "should" have been better targeted and introduced with more integrity and consideration for the poor and vulnerable who are being hardest hit."Targeting is always arguable; the poor and vulnerable are *always* the hardest hit, and integrity and consideration make no difference to the suffering caused."vicious, vindictive decimation of essential services and the callous, ruthless and wide-ranging cuts are David Cameron and the Conservatives, but that does not excuse the LibDems’ failure to speak up and fulfil their pre-election promises to be a party of social justice."I do not see any of the cuts as being vicious, vindictive, or callous. Choices have to be made, and there will be victims who suffer through no fault of their own and others who are untouched who probably don’t deserve to be so. The LibDems (and the electorate) are finding this out the hard way, and so they should, but I am sure they are fighting their corner for social justice where they can. This will never reach the press, however, because it doesn’t fit in with the main narrative, which is that "the suffering is the fault of the LibDems because they aren’t stopping the Tories from implementing policies that are causing the suffering".It is a naive view, and sadly one that the electorate has fallen for. Those who voted for them expecting anything other than a dilution of the broad wishes and hopes that any party’s manifesto is built on are living in a dream. Attacking the LibDems, rather than the policies of the government of which they are only a part, and voting against them in the recent local elections, has played directly into the Tories’ hands, weakening any influence the LibDems might have had by ensuring their political base is damaged.Labour is a spent force, for at least the next few years and possibly even longer if the Scots vote for independence; the LibDems are the only viable alternative to the Tories for at least that time. To support the idea that it is a cause of shame to have voted for them is not helpful, to say the least.

  6. The idea that Labour is a spent force and that the LibDems are the only viable alternative to the Tories is so bafflingly and obviously untrue, that it’s almost impossible to take seriously, so I conclude that "Farsickle" is aptly named, and is playing games on this issue. 

  7. <div>Hmm, I did wonder about that line myself, but I think I stand by it. Labour were almost begging to be thrown out of office at the last election, and although there is clearly a very long way to go, Labour under Ed Milliband is unlikely to look like a credible electoral alternative at the next. One could probably also say this of the LibDems too if they do not begin to recover from their recent (to my mind, undeserved) drubbing, so the decision for the centre-left voter of where to put their cross is going to be someting of a Hobson's choice.<br> </div>

  8. I am really intrigued to find people who think that the LibDems didn’t deserve the drubbing they got. My only surprise really was that they got so many votes as they did. How on earth they live with themselves is mystifying. They spend years pretending to be progressive, centre-left and trustowrthy. Then when dangled a bit of power show that actually they are none of the above after all. Having crawled into power they continue to show themselves to be shameless liars. They connive with the Tories to perpetuate the myth that Labour alone were responsible for the global financial crisis and therefore the need for the cuts. Here is a good read on the debt "crisis":

  9. Reality bites.I am equally intrigued to find people who voted for the Lib Dems at the last election, in the almost certain knowledge that there was likely to be a hung parliament with them as the minority party by a significant margin, and still be surprised/shocked/disgusted that they have had to compromise once in power. Is there *any* party whose opposition and pre-election stances and promises have not been largely reneged on once in power, even with a full majority government? To hold the LibDems up as being especially vile in this respect is so misguided as to be bizarre.I’ve yet to see any evidence that the Lib Dems or the Tories hold Labour solely responsible for the global financial crisis, but they do hold them accountable for the state of the UK’s finances at the time of the crisis and immediately after, as indeed they should. No-one doubts the need for cuts; the only argument is about speed and depth, and no-one knows for sure whether the Tory/LibDem fast and deep or Labour slow and shallow strategy is the right one. Nor will we ever know.

  10. There has never ever been anything like the about turn made by the LibDems. Sure Labour and the Tories have both changed some policies after elections. What the LibDems have done is completely change what the party was supposed to stand for. You cannot be a centre-left progressive party before an election and then prop up a vicious Tory programme after it and expect people to think that this is just changing a couple of policies. It’s not it’s a complete sell out. Way more people voted LibDem to keep the Tories out than as a protest against Labour, which is why they got thumped at the election and kicked in the AV vote for good measure. You may think differently but the people spoke and they didn’t agree with you.There are plenty of people who think that the cuts are not only not necessary but likely to make things worse rather than better. Contracting the economy and people’s spending power is only going to decrease tax revenues and increase welfare payments. This is of course slightly mitigated by the government heaping misery on misery by not only throwing people on the dole queue but cutting their benefits at the same time.

  11. Clearly, we are not going to agree on the degree of latitude that the Lib Dems should be allowed. I don't know if the motivation for political decisions matters to other people or not (to me, it does), but in my view the Lib Dems took the course they did because they felt it was the responsible thing to do under the exceptional circumstances in which they found themselves. It almost certainly went against the grain for many LD MPs, but they made the call and have to live with it as part of the government.<br> <br>&quot;Way more people voted LibDem to keep the Tories out than as a protest against Labour&quot; The best way of keeping the Tories out was to vote Labour, so it's hard to see why the drop in Lib Dem support happened if your assertion is correct. If, however, the significant proportion of LD votes were a protest vote against Labour, then the LD showing makes sense. It follows that most Lib Dem votes under these circumstances were lost simply as a result of their forming a coalition with the Tories. Those who conflated voting against AV with an additional anti-Lib Dem vote could not have handed the Tories a better gift. It ensures the centre-left vote remains split forever more, allowing the Tories continued unwarranted stretches in power. The people did indeed speak, but what they said made no sense.<br> <br>On cuts, you are of course right: there are many who do not see them as necessary. And there are many, of all political persuasions, who disagree.

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