Why Are the Lib Dems so Shit?
In the lead up to 6th May, DAN WALKER asks why the Lib Dems aren’t the clear front runner.
As we rapidly approach May 6th, one question plagues my thoughts: why are the Liberal Democrats so shit? Yes, they’ve done fairly well out of the election debates and they are now level pegging with the other parties, but this simply isn’t enough. How can a party that has come out of every major political event of the last decade smelling of roses not be miles out in front?
They are, seemingly, in a perfect position. They’ve got the rational ‘middle-of-the-road’ policies that most people can agree with, they’ve got the right people: straight-talking and newly popular Nick Clegg and the supposed economic sooth-sayer Vince Cable. They’ve even got the squeaky-clean track record that Labour and the Tories would kill for. It would appear that the Lib Dems were far too busy drinking green tea and hanging up Guardian wall-charts to consider fiddling their expenses. Nick Clegg’s only notable expense was a biscuit tin, for Christ’s sake.
Along with these perfect conditions, they’re up against two deeply unpopular rivals. On the one hand we have Gordon Brown: a man once respected as a ‘serious’ politician who has now taken to courting the vote with cringe worthy, gurning smiles, terrible jokes, and tear-filled sobathons with Piers ‘I published fabricated photos of British troops abusing Iraqi civilians’ Morgan. David Cameron, meanwhile, has invented the oxymoronic ‘Progressive Conservatism’, with its ‘big society’ and ‘real change’, and yet no one is buying it. How on earth could they while he’s championing an inheritance tax change which will leave the top 3,000 richest people with an extra £200,000 pocket money? Not to mention how voting for a party which has been in government for nearly 60 out of the past 100 years represents any kind of ‘change’.
The political atmosphere should be wholly in the Lib Dems favour, and yet they are only just about managing to clinch second from Labour. Part of the problem seems to be that the Lib Dems are simply incapable of pushing their own advantage. Even the recent success was not of their own making; Nick Clegg ‘won’ the election debate purely by not being as awful as the other two. His performance was, objectively, pretty mediocre. He often failed to get his point across and mumbled for half of his answer before he got to anything worth saying. Most of the positive reaction seems to be based on the public finally sensing the opportunity to vote for a new party and giving the old ones a bloody nose. The public, in fact, seem to be doing most of the legwork for the Lib Dems.
A good example can be found in the reaction to the wide-ranging assault of Nick Clegg by the right-wing press last Thursday. After a whole week trawling through his history, impressively the most Fleet Street could come up with was a not-dodgy-at-all expenses ‘scandal’ and a perfectly rational newspaper article written by Clegg more than 5 years ago, which emphasised that we can whinge all we want about ‘two world wars and one world cup’ but Germany is still in a much better economic and social position than we are. What was the Lib Dem response? A quiet mumble that it was all above board, thank you very much. The proper response was left to the public, who rather deftly took to using the hashtag #nickcleggsfault to ridicule the absurdity of the right-wing press to great success.
The public cannot do it all, however, and it seems the Lib Dems are a major factor in their own lack of success – they just don’t seem to believe in themselves. A recent Yougov poll for The Sun found that if people believed Nick Clegg stood a realistic chance of becoming Prime Minister, 49% of the electorate would vote for him (compared to the current 30% or so). Given that Clegg only needs 42% of the vote to become Prime Minister, this is a far more realistic possibility than the Lib Dems will even admit publicly. Yet, instead of screaming this from the rooftops, plastering every spare bit of wall with a poster, and flooding Youtube with viral videos, what are the Lib Dems doing? Well, when they’re not too busy defining under exactly what conditions they would make either David Cameron or Gordon Brown Prime Minister in a hung parliament, they’re completely silent on the issue.
It’s been the problem at the heart of the Lib Dems all this time. They kept quiet after the expenses scandal, they kept quiet about the economic collapse and they kept relatively quiet about Iraq. They seem completely incapable of landing a killer blow on the other parties due to timidity or some kind of undue respect. Rather than bow to opposition shouts of ‘Vote Clegg get Brown’ or ‘Vote Clegg get Cameron’, where is the poster campaign ‘Vote Clegg get Clegg’?
At the first chancellor’s debate, George Osbourne smugly remarked that a Lib Dem government was not a realistic possibility, and given the complete apathy of the Lib Dems it’s hard to see how the cocky bastard is going to be proved wrong. The Lib Dems have all the ingredients of a great party, and yet they are still, undeniably, shit.