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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 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 of how much more complex than first-past-the-post the alternative vote (AV) system would be. When in fact it’s quite simple. 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.

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