Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Liberal Democrats are still liberals!

I'm sorry, but over the past few weeks, apart from suffering Tory propaganda every time I step outside, I've been observing a rather worrying new trend in my fellow Brits. It seems that after eight years of the Cheshire cat grin, people are getting sick of New Labour. Now this in itself is fair enough: the disturbing nature of this trend is the increasingly widespread perception among voters that the Liberal Democrats are to the left of Labour. This, too, is perhaps a forgivable assumption. The media often rattles on about the Lib Dems being centre-left, and replacing Old Labour.

Unfortunately, while this is forgivable, it's also bollocks.

Let's not forget that the mass media wants two things from the British public: 1) the majority of people (well, active voters) to accept that everything is going swimmingly and 2) for those who see through the charade to be channelled into a nice, safe and ineffectual political cul-de-sac. The Liberal Democrats are that cul-de-sac. Yes, they make a lot of nice promises. Council tax, war, detention without trial, costly nursing, tuition fees? Sure, we'll get rid of those for ya! However, we cannot forget that however socially liberal they are, the Liberal Democrats are capitalists first and foremost. Even worse, they don't have the left-wing members Labour does.

The Liberal Democrats are not to the left of Labour. Not to the average Labour Left activist, councillor or MP. Because sometimes we forget these people are out there. All those members and ex-members who're horrified at what New Labour has done to their Party. The Lib Dems opposed the minimum wage, want to break up the NHS and run it on market rules. They would scrap the New Deal, the Child Trust Fund, the Winter Fuel Payment and the Pension Credit. However much harm Blair and his post-Thatcherite brand of neo-liberalism have done to the labour movement, we should never fall into the sectarian trap of denying the good he has done.

New Labour has poured money back into the public sector, and Brown even looks like he has an affinity for the dreaded "tax and spend" of yore. These aren't left-wing policies, but they help ordinary working people. Another Tory government would scrap this. Yes, it's highly improbable that Howard's savagely populist rhetoric will get the Tories into power, but it's sure as smeg not worth risking it for the Lib Dems. Nothing good could come of a Lib Dem victory, or even an increase in their MPs. The Lib Dems swing from left to right, depending on their audience, and then they forget about any promises as soon as they're in power.

To hammer the point home, consider that in Scotland the Lib Dems even backtracked on their fundamental opposition to tuition fees and the council tax, suddenly deciding to support them. The Liberal Democrats are environmentalists when they can snatch Green votes, but when they're in local government they go right ahead and ignore simple Green policies, such as diverting road-building funds into public transport. For everyone out there supporting them as a the left-wing alternative, think again.

What do you think will happen if New Labour sees their votes flying over to the self-declared "radical centre"? It certainly won't bring the Labour Left back into power, that's for sure.

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