The tragedy of the Liberal Democrats

It seems like a curious choice for the Liberal Democrats to have their national conference in Glasgow this year, what with everything else that’s been going on in Scotland. I don’t think they’re very popular there.

Then again, they’re not very popular anywhere.

Back before the the coalition, when the Lib Dems were the third party, they always spoke in favour of coalition government. They always said that they would work with anyone if it they ever held the balance of power.

Then when it looked there was going to be a hung parliament, and when there actually was, they still said that they would work with either Labour or the Tories in order to bring a government into being.

The trouble is, no-one really believed them.

OK, I can only really speak for myself; but I’m probably not that unusual. The Lib Dems were always seen as being closer to Labour than to the Tories. There was the [Lib-Lab pact](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lib%E2%80%93Lab_pact) back in the seventies. And all through the New Labour years, they were generally seen as being further left than Labour.

So when they held the balance of power in 2010, it was obvious — so we all thought, I say — that they would work with Labour, rather than the Tories.

Alas, it was not to be. Imagine how different the country might be now if Clegg had swung the right way back then. The country wouldn’t have been half-destroyed by Osbourne’s “austerity” measures. (I mean, _really_: haven’t they learned by now that you don’t cut public spending in a recession?)

Of course, there have been some good things during the coalition: marriage equality; the Scottish referendum (irrespective of how it turned out, Cameron agreed to it). There was even — if you recall — a referendum on electoral reform. Remember that?

No, me neither. It was a fix (since it got voted down), but I don’t recall how. Oh, yes wait: the anti-reform camp [made a big thing](http://devilgate.org/blog/2011/05/03/lets-all-say-yes/) of how much more complex than first-past-the-post the alternative vote (AV) system would be. When in fact it’s [quite simple](http://i.imgur.com/kk2lZ.jpg). And I guess they got the friendly media working against it.

Anyway, now they’ve been all but wiped out in yesterday’s by election. The worst thing about that is that UKIP seem to be in danger of replacing them as the third party.

Scary but interesting times.

Yes you can!

Congratulations, America! “Great news”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/05/uselections2008-barackobama4.

Obama’s speech was fantastic, and McCain’s was very dignified.

Unfortunately, there is one piece of bad news: Stephen Fry “tweets”:http://twitter.com/stephenfry/status/991361168 that California’s Proposition 8 has passed. It outlaws same-sex marriage, and is a “nasty, bigoted piece of work”:http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2008/11/a_revolting_proposition.html. I can’t find any official news on it at the moment, though, so let’s hope that the good Mr Fry is just misinformed, out there in Africa as he is.

Floating

So “the Tories took Crewe and Nantwich”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/may/23/crewebyelection08.byelections3 in the by-election.

I don’t understand (never have) the mentality, the mindset, the _brains_ of “floating voters”:http://www.thefreedictionary.com/floating+voter. I’m not saying that no-one should ever change their mind, in politics or anything else; nor do I think that people can’t be convinced by the arguments over issues – nor, for that matter, swayed by the force of a candidate’s personality. Furthermore, I speak as one who has “voted _against_”:http://devilgate.livejournal.com/27082.html Labour, my lifetime-favoured party, in recent years.

But floating voters – and in particular ones who’ll switch all the way between Labour and Tory – I just don’t understand them.

Of course it’s possible – even likely – that no-one actually _describes_ themself as a floating voter. They might all say, “I decide on the issues each time,” or even, “… by who I like…” That would be OK, y’know? I could get behind that, sort of. I mean, it doesn’t sound very _committed_; but it could be. On each occasion you could examine the candidates’ and/or their parties’ positions on human rights/the environment/tax cuts/hanging and flogging (or whatever your particular concerns may be). Match them against your own position and preferences, and see who suits you best.

But I’m not convinced that’s what the bulk of these ‘floaters’ do.

See, I suspect that they mostly take little to no interest in politics (which is to say, little to no interest in _the world_) between elections. Then when one does roll round they vote whatever way their stupid, dumbfuck tabloid paper tells them to.

Though I may be doing many people a great disservice there. And at least they do get out and vote.

It’s just that sometimes the world might be a better place if they didn’t.

Jeremy Hardy obviously feels similarly to me: on ??The News Quiz?? the other night he said that floating voters who switched all the way from Labour to Tory (rather than voting, say, Green or LibDem) were like someone saying, “Well, I’ve always had my hair cut at the barbers in the High Street, but this time I’m just going to set my head on fire!”

Time for writing crosses in booths, folks

You know what’s coming. It’s nearly the 1st of May, and that means elections. An all-too-infrequent chance to exercise our fundamental democratic right and duty. Always important, even when you’re quite happy with how things are. Somebody else won’t be, and you don’t want them to change things.

Of course, that’s not what gets people out to vote: a desire for change is much more likely to bring crowds to the local schools, village halls, and other little nooks and crannies of public space that experience a kind of sovereignty for a day.

Either way, there’s no better or nobler duty that you can do in a few minutes in a small cubicle with a pencil and a piece of paper.

And if you live in London, and have a vote, please, please, _please_ get out and use it _against_ Boris Johnson.

I don’t really care who you vote for (well, the BNP are standing, but I’m sure anyone reading this is much too decent and right-thinking to go there). Though it’s clear that only Ken has a serious chance of keeping the bumbling buffoon out.

I’m convinced, by the way, that the Tories put him up to it as a joke. The thinking probably went something like, “Nobody’s going to beat Livingstone, so let’s put comedy candidate up, and make a mockery of the whole thing.” Then somehow, thanks largely to the vile rag that is ??The Evening Standard??, and the lack of seriousness with which some people treat politics, Boris climbed up the polls, and now looks like a serious contender for the Mayorship.

It will be a disaster for London if he gets elected, of course. We can only hope that it will backfire on the Tories: that he fails fast enough that it seriously harms them in the general election.

Putting your hopes for the country on disaster for your city is no position to be in, though. So I can only reiterate: get out and vote, and stop Boris. Give at least your _second_ vote to Ken. He has his faults, but he’s done a pretty good job of running the city this last eight years.

Vote!