There’s been a lot of political anger floating around the internet this week. This blog has carried a fair bit of it too. In the wake of the tuition fee travesty, and a host of other assaults on social equality and justice, the Lib Dems have borne the brunt of it.
It’s hardly surprising. The Liberal Democrats are the ones who are keeping the Tories in power. The majority of Coalition policies being enforced are directly contrary to everything the Lib Dems campaigned for in the 2010 Election. (Interestingly, it’s fun to take a look at the Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010, and try to spot the parts that are actually to be implemented. It’s like a political game of “Where’s Wally?”). People feel deceived by the Lib Dems, and the excuses that “Oh, we didn’t know how bad a state the country was in” and “You have to compromise in coalition government” are wearing thin, because yes they did know how bad it was, and for a compromise they seem to have gotten very little out of the deal.
People’s anger at the Lib Dems is entirely justified, let me make that clear. They lied. They’ve gone back on promises. But although they should carry their share of the blame for the economic and social vandalism that’s taking place at the moment, it’s important I think for us to remember that they aren’t alone in this. The main power, behind the yellow scapegoats, is the Tories.
And the Tories never lied about it. Not really. They said that they’d changed, that they weren’t the nasty party any more, but I don’t think any of us seriously believed that. For the most part, they were disgustingly up front about what they intended to do to our society, and the Lib Dem’s involvement has only given the opportunity to be more vicious.
It’s easy to attack the Lib Dems. They’re cowards. They’re weak. But the real power here, the force that it slashing public services, that is playing fast and loose with the economy, that is making the poorest in society pay for their misguided ideas, are the Conservatives. Whenever they’re in power, Conservatives cut. We saw it under Thatcher just as much as we’re seeing it now, and I can guarantee you that the Tories would still be cutting and cutting hard even without a recession and deficit as an excuse.
We (the people who believe that what is happening is wrong) can focus all our fire on the Liberal Democrats. We can tear them down as cowards, traitors to their principles, opportunists, liars. We can make sure they never win a seat again for the next generation. But the real danger is, and always has been, conservatism. Liberal Democracy is conservatism in a yellow jacket and a smug sense of superiority.
The next election will, whatever happens, be a straight slog between the left and the right. Labour and the Conservatives- the Lib Dems are effectively finished now. What is shaping up is an ideological battle the like of which we haven’t seen since the fall of Thatcher. And we, the left, need to start getting ready for it now if we’re to really win. We need to be tackling the Tories head on, not just rubbishing the Liberal Democrats. We need to make sure we remember who the true enemy is.
[Many thanks to Kieran Patel, for spotting my embarrassing mistakes]