Friday, April 16, 2010

UK elections - Liberal but Democrats, so what are they this time?

I had the great fortune of missing the debate between the two men who will be Prime Minister and Nick Clegg on British TV - largely because I was on one of the last planes out of Heathrow before the volcanic ash cloud plummeted the country into environmentalist heaven.

The Liberal Democrats are deserving of attention for three reasons.

Firstly, the original "Liberal Party" once governed the UK and once proudly embraced free market capitalism and social liberalism. When it waivered from this, it moved to the centre, embraced Keynesianism and the Labour Party supplanted it as a major party, from which it has never recovered. Until the merger with the Social Democrats (a breakaway from Labour when it was avowedly Marxist).

Secondly, as the third biggest party, with 66 seats, it has the potential to be a kingmaker if neither major party wins an outright majority. This has happened last time in 1974, on that occasion the Conservatives came second, but Ted Heath tried to remain in power through support from Ulster Unionists. They had demands Heath was unwilling to agree to, so Harold Wilson from Labour formed a government with support from the Liberals, but the majority was so slim he called another election that same year. Labour won an small majority, which itself disappeared over the next few years as Labour lost by-elections and formed a pact with the Liberals. The possibility is real that this situation could be replicated.

Thirdly, with Nick Clegg allegedly the "winner" from the first leader debate, the poll ratings of the Liberal Democrats have soared. With both the Conservatives and Labour losing support to the Lib Dems, making it more of a three way race.

So should lovers of freedom embrace the presence of the Liberal Democrats, given their consistent support for civil liberties and suspicion of state interference in the rights of citizens? Or is it simply a wolf in sheep's clothing?


Sally O'Brien said...

This from the Adam Smith Institute would be a godd sum up I fear:-

Well, Nick Clegg was judged the winner by the commentariat, and opinion polls back them up. I don’t disagree – his anti-politics, ‘let’s-be honest here’ shtick worked well – but Clegg still left me cold. For Clegg is not what he claims – a new kind of politician – but rather just a fresher face in a different tie. And despite his party’s liberal heritage, Clegg is every bit as statist as his opponents. His policy platform is grounded not in principle, but in crude, bash-the bankers, soak-the-rich populism.


Indeed, Clegg is pro Europe and would adopt the euro.
He is more pro -immigration and would give am amnesty to a million illegal aliens.
It is bizarre that the British people have supposedly fallen for his charms when his policies are the very opposite they want.
Is looks now everything in a British election?.
No wonder Brown is buggered, unless Clegg saves him, which he probably will.
But how long might a Lib-lab pact last this time?
Could it be eternal, screwing the Tories for ever? Or would it collapse by Christmas like some righties believe and hope.
They say the Tories would thrash the left under a new leader, and possibly in alliance with UKIP.
Could this happen?

StephenR said...

LS, regardless of how little this election will affect me, I look forward to your look at the LDs similar to what you've done with Labour and the Conservatives. Oddly isn't that much coverage on the NZ blogs - of course I could just get out and look but I enjoy your perspective.