No more Clegg love or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the SNP
As some of you may remember, I was very positive about Clegg’s election to the Lib Dem leadership in 2007 and less positive about his role enabling Conservative cuts but still remained a member of the party. On Thursday I voted SNP in the Scottish elections and saw with delight as the Lib Dems lost more than 70% of their seats. I was prompted my a friend to examine quite what prompted my dramatic turnaround.
It’s hard to forget quite the level of betrayal I felt over the pledge-breaking tuition fees vote (admittedly one that does not affect us in Scotland). They signed a single campaign pledge in front of invited media attention, waved around that pledge all through that campaign, used it to court the student and academic vote by signing this pledge on a policy they had already supported for years. Unsurprising, their supporters didn’t take too kindly towards them not voting against, not abstaining, not quietly supporting but actively promoting the breaking of their pledge as something good for the country. This made me not want to vote Lib Dem for 10 years (if not more). People may accuse me (and others) of focusing on a single issue but, then again, the Lib Dems were practically doing that too.
Is it better for them to be in coalition than not in government? The political types and within their own party said it was. The voters have shown them in the Scottish and council elections that it was not. Many (former) members of the party are so fundamentally opposed to these cuts that the Lib Dem “moderating influence” and “compromises” feel like a “compromise” of supplying wine rather than vodka to an alcoholic bent on self-destruction (in this case, the Conservatives are bent on destruction of our public sector). The Lib Dems could have blocked these cuts. Instead all their principles seem to have been sold down the river in favour of an AV vote which has dramatically failed. Nice work Clegg (and the Lib Dem leadership); you’ve killed the party, possibly killed any chance at Commons voting reform, saddled the next generation of students with huge amounts of debt and been narrowly stopped in your first steps in privatising the NHS.
I honestly think the best thing now is to let the Conservatives form a minority government and support them on an issue-to-issue basis. They’ve hung the Lib Dems out to dry in English council elections and with the AV vote. This won’t happen, however. Power corrupts and the Lib Dem leadership will remain in denial until they are absolutely destroyed at the next election and wonder out loud where it all went wrong whilst their former members roll their eyes.
I think they underestimated the sheer extent to which the electorate would care about their pledge breaking. In my (limited) experience the majority of left-leaning voters were split into Lib Dems and Labour and (very generally) the prior have seemed to be more likely to be university educated and the latter (again, very generally) more likely to be working class. Unsurprisingly, academics, students and former graduates who value social mobility view an affordable university education as being somewhat important.
I’d found myself in a situation where I felt I could no longer support the Lib Dems so who to vote for in the Scottish elections? Obviously Conservatives were out so I was (limiting myself to somewhat major parties) choosing between the Greens, SNP and Labour. Labour’s campaign in the run up to the election was a farce. They seemed to focus on entirely why I shouldn’t vote for the SNP and gave me very little reason to vote for them (this is probably why the party leader only held onto his seat by 151 votes) and seemed further right of SNP and Greens with regards to renewable energy and certainly the Westminster party is more in favour with regards to foreign military intervention. This left me with two parties who both supported an independence referendum, both supported renewable investment but only one with a change of winning in my region or constituency (even my MP is an SNP, amusingly married to my MSP).
After voting SNP (choosing over Greens fairly late in the day) I was fairly overjoyed to see Scotland turn yellow on the electoral maps yesterday. We saw them make terrific gains and almost doubling their vote and meeting the magic 65 MSPs needed for a majority to finish with 69. This means they have their chance to show the Scottish electorate what they can do without needing cross-party support. Their last minority administration had very little power to institute any real change with this cross-party support and was denied their independence referendum as a result. The referendum is now on the cards in their next term and will begin a debate far more dramatic and interesting than that of AV or arguably even the Westminster elections: do the Scottish people want an independent Scotland? I do and I’ll elaborate on why in a future post. For now I’m just content with the first good election result since I’ve been able to vote.