Saturday, 22 September 2012

Under Fire At Last...

Jo Grimond, leader of the Liberal Party in the early and mid-1960s, famously once told the Party's Assembly that the Party "had to march toward the sound of gunfire".

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg might consider that the "march toward the sound of gunfire" has been pretty much accomplished - the gunfire is now erupting around the beleaguered leader from both sad Left and pitiful Right.

From the Left comes the massed artillery of Labour - the Party and its supporters have never and will never forgive Clegg for going into Coalition with the Conservatives in May 2010. The fact that not only was any Coalition between the Liberal Democrats and Labour arithmetically difficult to maintain but also that the Lib Dems had no interest in propping up one of the most centralising Govenrments of recent times which, by the end of its thirteen years in office, had destroyed the nation's public finances in an orgy of spending after 2001 which left us vulnerable to the global financial crisis from 2007 onward. Labour's ordure would have more credibility if they accepted any responsibility for the economic disaster over which they presided and the complete absence of any coherent economic policy which characterises Ed Milliband's leadership.

From the Right comes the salvo of vitriol from the anti-Coalition Conservatives, a feckless a bunch of treacherous mean-spirited halfwits as it is possible to imagine, This group of malcontents owe no loyalty to their own Party leader and Prime Minister, David Cameron, who they blame not only for failing to win the last election but also resent for going into Coalition with the hated Liberals. The anti-Coalition Right support an economic plan which I've christened Plan C - this consists of tax cuts for the very wealthy and savage spending and benefit cuts for the rest of us.

This self-interested group of cretins rejoices in the delusion that somehow making the rich even richer will benefit us all even though the 1980s showed that the only beneficiaries of tax cuts for the rich were the rich and the concept of "trickle-down" was a fallacy, a thin intellectual veneer used as justification by the servants of the wealthy to justify and intellectualise an economic policy which impoverished the vast majority.

The one thing which unites these two treacherous groups is the desire to see the Coalition fail after which they will battle for the soul of Britian. They believe that if they can force Nick Clegg to quit as Lib Dem leader, the Coalition will implode and the future will be theirs.

For Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats, now is not the time to be panicked into change - this is the very sound of gunfire about which Jo Grimond spoke. The Liberal Democrats and their Conservative Coalition details are the best Government on offer for this country at present - the two alternative options would be ruinous for the vast majority of the country and for society.

It is vital for the Party to hold its nerve and stand steadfast behind the Party leader and the Coalition. The Government is less than 50% of the way through its life and its opponents on the Right and Left know that if the Coalition can survive into 2013, it's perfectly possible economic recovery will lead to a transformation of political fortune. If, by 2014-15, the economy is recovering and the public finances are looking much ealthier, Nick Clegg will be able to stand on a record of achievement and advance.

The fire will continue but it will be much less effective and the very real possibility of further electoral advances for the Party in 2015 will come into view. This may seem a pipedream now but sometimes politics is about "the long game". Jo Grimond understood this in the 1960s - half a century later, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrat activists need to appreciate the same lesson.

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