Are the Lib Dems really that bad?

Sherlock Holmes once said, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” This statement has rarely rung truer than in this General Election, where my friends all seem to be choosing their party through process of elimination. “Ukip are probably racist. The Tories don’t promote equality enough. Can I picture Ed in government? The Greens are too extreme. And I couldn’t possibly vote for Nicholas ‘Call me Nick!’ Clegg.”

By Jacob Whitehead (@jwhitey98)

(Credit: Dom Richards)

As you may have picked up, I think the most damning indictment there is that of Nick and the Lib Dems. There isn’t really a reason given for their swift dismissal, maybe a half-hearted comment about breaking promises to the political left, right, and centre.

Instead a culture seems to have emerged when their policies are roundly ignored, and a taboo has emerged. This taboo is even adhered to by the Lib Dems themselves. Doesn’t it seem odd that whilst Miliband and Cameron have been battling it out on PMQs, Farage has been on a different terrestrial channel every day, and Natalie Bennett has been pleading for debate inclusion, Nick has stayed silent?


Perhaps this a ploy to ensure no more voters will switch parties, as 72% of those who voted for them at the last election have said they intend to do. I can just imagine the conversations at Lib Dem HQ: “Do you think they’ll still remember us Vince?”


But is this justified? Do they deserve this flak they’re getting from all sides of the political spectrum? They seem to take no credit for the economic recovery, despite the biggest successes, jobs and GDP growth, being coordinated by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. Their major policy entering the 2010 Election was Income Tax cuts; the first £10,000 earned would be taxed free, saving £800 for most households. This has been successfully implemented, and is the biggest factor in the growth of Real Disposable Income for households. They’ve also managed to create 1.2 million apprenticeships, but for me this is somewhat mitigated by the appalling wage of £2.73/hour.


Similarly, the replacement for income tax, the eradication of loopholes for the rich, hasn’t seemed to be effective, with a number of celebrities outed by “newspapers” such as the Sun and Mail for tax avoidance schemes.  Regardless, they’ve set out and achieved these policies, which for the most part seem to have helped the economic revival.


Can voters forgive the tuition
fee U-turn?
(Photo: Oxford Student)
However, sadly for Nick, the failing seems to be as a result of what the Lib Dems have failed to do, rather than what they have. His tenure as Deputy PM didn’t start off well with an embarrassing loss in his bid for proportional representation, and this was exacerbated by more U-turns than a dodgy plumber.


This is the crux of the issue. Voters were promised the scrapping of Trident, and they’ve now got partial renewal. They were promised 240,000 houses a year, and have now got 190,000 to be built over four years. They were the first party to suggest a mansion tax, and have now switched their mind about it for the third time. Worst of all there was a famous pledge signed by all 57 Lib Dem MP’s which promised there wouldn’t be a hike in tuition fees. There was, and they voted in favour of it. For the party which is traditionally the domain of the ideological student, to alienate them in the name of nepotism is quite unforgivable.


Quite simply, whilst the Lib Dems haven’t done anything inept, they’ve made themselves an electoral enigma. No student will vote for them (a major component of the 72% who have switched parties) and they have no prospects of attracting new voters. The formula for attracting votes is either to be one of the major two parties, or to campaign tirelessly and brutally over one or two issues. The Greens are anti-austerity and want better environmental sustainability, whilst Ukip are campaigning on immigration. Surely alarm bells must have started ringing this week as both political bookends have now overtaken them in terms of membership.


The party are killing themselves by not publicising their message enough. They must pick a message to run on, and extoll their successes to the public, rather than cowering in fear of reprisal. Defend their policies instead of changing them, attacking the Tories rather than pandering to them, and most importantly- showing backbone.


With a focused message, there is long-term
hope for Nick. (Photo: The Times)
If this were any other election Nick would see their position as ideal. They can provide a more stable economic plan than Labour, using their governmental successes as evidence, and can use their traditional liberal views to address the problem of social equality.


There’s little prospect of the Lib Dems regaining ground in time for this election, save for an unprecedented surge in popularity. However, with a more focused message, and more outspoken leadership, there is hope for the Lib Dems in 2020.


So, back to the question I posed at the start: “Are they really that bad?”


I’d say that they were.
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