Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne, is a Liberal Democrat Minister. He has presided over policies that inflate electricity prices (by forcing power companies to spend money on highly expensive "sustainable" power stations and charging consumers for it) and constrain the British economy so that China, India and the Arab oil sheikhdoms can increase CO2 emissions as much as they want. A month after the general election last year, when he campaigned with leaflets showing him with his wife and family, he was found to be having an affair. His estranged wife has claimed he pressured people to take penalty points for driving "for him", this matter is still with the Police. So he's quite a character.
Now he has attacked the "Tea Party tendency" in the Conservative Party, and so is calling up the demons painted by many others on the left, assisted by the left-leaning media (The Guardian, The Independent, BBC, ITN), that the Tea Party is a group of racist, theocratic, gun-toting nutters. What he says he means is opposing those who want to renegotiate the UK relationship with the EU. Yes, astonishing stuff - especially given the Labour Party in the early 1980s wanted the UK to withdraw completely. That's called the Tea Party to the Liberal Democrats!
There are many Tea Parties, but their common theme is not racism against Barack Obama, it is not religious fundamentalism, it is not ultra-conservative views about sex, sexuality or religion. It is a belief in small government, fiscal responsibility and lower taxes.
Daniel Hannan, rightly identifying himself as the most like "Tea Party" oriented elected Conservative, says:
The Tea Party, perhaps more than any other contemporary movement, brings out the 'Yeah, but what they're really saying…' tendency...Many Lefties pretend – or perhaps have genuinely convinced themselves – that the Tea Party is clandestinely protesting against immigration or abortion or the fact of having a mixed race president; anything, in fact, other than what it actually says it's against, viz big government. The existence of a popular and spontaneous anti-tax movement has unsettled the Establishment. They'd much rather deal with a stupid and authoritarian Right than with a libertarian one. Hence the almost desperate insistence that the Tea Partiers have some secret agenda
You see to argue against smaller government and lower taxes would require some thinking, and justification as to why government is better at doing some things than the private sector, and why politicians and bureaucrats are better placed to spend your money than you are. That requires arguing on a point of principle. Far easier to just engage in scatological rhetoric, just make things up, or to claim it is some sort of corporate conspiracy that has fooled the stupid (or rather the poor bedraggled working classes the left love - when the vote correctly).
A solid argument between more and less government, more or less taxes would be healthy, and would involve challenging status quo politics. It hasn't been had in the US, as Ronald Reagan was severely limited about what he could do, as he had a Democrat House of Representatives, and both Bushes have been decidedly uninterested about shrinking government.
So the left should embrace that debate. Give up its cheap empty and childish shots of racism and jingoistic smears and their own form of bigotry against ordinary people (many with limited education) who actually want to be left alone by the government. Their patronising disdain, and unconcealed hatred for those trying to change the terms of political debate (the Vice President called them "terrorists" for wanting to constrain government spending), shows fear about engaging with the fundamental point. It should be the core issue about politics in any liberal democracy. It isn't minutiae about education or environmental or health or transport policies.
It is - what should be the role of the state?
From that, come the question about whether there is too much or too little involvement in specific areas. However, that is the debate that is the nexus dividing politics in the US today.
It is about time that it became the very issue that politics elsewhere was based upon as well.