We read that much of the former Liberal Democrat support, dismayed by our performance in government, is transferring itself to Labour.
In her interesting account of her time in parliament, Green MP Caroline Lucas sums up very well why we need to be cautious.
Time and again - 1931, 1950, 1997, 2008 - Labour have been in power, yet have been seduced by the bankers and financiers, or backed down in the face of their threats. Where communities and whole cities have pinned their faith in Labour it has led to cronyism and corruption, and the local equivalent of one-party states. And when Margaret Thatcher challenged the post-war social democratic consensus, New Labour responded by adapting her agenda wholesale: competition, privatization, and the dominance of market forces. Tony Blair gave Labour three victories; but hollowed out those victories through the betrayal of Labour's true values. (Page 225, Honourable Friends?)
Concentrating on the most recent history, it's not just
- the Iraq War, but also:
- the acceptance of growing inequality (Mandelson and being "intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich);
- caving in to lobbyists (eg Bernie Ecclestone);
- the absurd continuation of the totally illogical PFI schemes to finance hospitals and schools, thus borrowing at far higher costs than those available to the government and lumbering future taxpayers with the burden of repayment;
- failure ever to make the positive case for the European Union;
- introduction of student fees when they said in their manifesto that they wouldn't, and then increasing them when they said they had "no plans" to do so;
- commitment to the private sector over the public sector: eg the part-privatisation of Air Traffic Control (1998) and the re-privatisation of South East Trains (2006), even refusing to allow the successful publicly owned railway company even to bid. So what price their indignation over the re-privatisation of Directly Operated Railways, the public company that successfully ran trains on the East Coast Mainline?
- the beginnings of privatisation in the NHS:
- no attempt to curtail the right to buy, thus exacerbating the current housing crisis;
- the illiberal regimes of David Blunkett and Jack Straw at he Home Office, with a casual attitude towards civil and human rights, the growth of the surveillance state, and attempt to introduce ID cards.
11. failed to support electoral reform, even though the introduction of AV was in their manifesto;
12. scuppered House of Lords reform by failing to vote for the parliamentary time to discuss the necessary legislation. How duplicitous can you get?
Yes I know that Liberal Democrats have not behaved in government in the Simon-pure manner many of us would have wished and had every reason to expect.
The turn-round on student fees is our most derided error but, although we deservedly suffer from the loss of trust, its practical effects are not all that important. Students from poorer backgrounds have not been deterred from applying for university, there are some good bits (loans for part-time students) and before long someone will realise that it was all a mistake and either revert to free tertiary education or introduce a graduate tax long before most students have paid a significant amount of the money back.
(Labour's scheme to reduce the fees to £6 000 a year will benefit only the high earners. Those in the low earning professions - teachers, nurses, social workers - will never reach even the threshold accumulated at the £6 000 a year rate so will not benefit at all).
Much more serious is our connivance at the Tory austerity policy. We should have said that they have over 300 MPs and we have only 57 so we can't stop them, but were our situations reversed we should do things differently. But we didn't. But Labour were and still are committed to austerity too.
So there may be a case for tactical voting in those constituencies where there is a chance of stopping the Tories (if for no other reason than to prevent their handing over the BBC to their profit-maximising mates).
But where there's a chance of winning or retaining a Liberal Democrat seat, please, please keep a hold of the Liberal Democrat nurse, because the Labour alternative will be even worse.