The Irrelevant Liberals

The polls for the Sunday Times and Telegraph have the Lib Dems on 16 per cent and Labour and the Tories well up on the election. Meanwhile, over at the Observer we have a poll  showing that leftish Lib Dem voters are ready to defect to Labour.

    Who cares when there may not be an election for five years, and every sensible person is checking their beer and wine supplies and preparing for the England game rather than thinking about politics?

  Maybe they are worth thinking about because far from ushering in a new era of European compromise and proportional representation, as respectable opinion envisaged, the Clegg-Cameron alliance may herald a return to the dominance of the old two parties. The Liberal Democrat vote is falling because

1. Its right-leaning voters are seeing Conservatives in government and realizing that Tories aren’t so bad after all, as David Cameron always intended they should. He has devoted the past decade to decontaminating the fallout from Thatcherism, and persuading the British middle classes that Tories are respectable people, not thugs who want to beat-up on blacks and gays. If he succeeds, he will be following the example of his predecessors.  From Joe Chamberlain’s Liberal Unionists of the 1880s through the National Liberals of the 1930s and on to the tiny Owenite wing of the SDP in the 1980s, whenever right-wing Liberals have formed an alliance with Tories, they have ended up becoming Tories. I really can’t see why it should be different this time around.

 2.   Its shocked left-leaning voters are realizing that Liberal leaders are prepared to go along with a pre-Keynsian programme of fiscal rectitude and to hell with the consequences. They have no right to be shocked in my view. Anyone who read the Orange Book ought to have known that the current generations of Liberal MPs are often closer to Manchester liberalism than many Tories.  If they did not know it before, leftish liberal voters most certainly know it now, and are starting to drift away to Labour.

 Put simply, if you approve of what the coalition is doing you may as well vote Tory and if you do not you may as well vote Labour. As in so much of the 20th century, the Liberals are once again not worth bothering with.

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