Lib-Dems the Shrinking Party
The prospect of the Lib-Dems being devoured by the Tories is greatly amusing this blog’s British Labour source. He reminded me the Lib-Dems went to the people at the last election with a manifesto that said, “We are the only party that is committed to scrapping tuition fees…Only the Liberal Democrats will cut debt by phasing out fees during the next parliament.”
Increasing fees is not just a broken promise but a blow to Nick Clegg’s character, as seen by the electorate. Voters have deserted the party, its support is down to nine percent. Its support is holding in the rural areas but slumping in the cities. It gets worse within days as the price of petrol, gas and fares goes up.
The coalition’s plan to reduce the prison population will run up against this bit of realism which any local police commander will confirm : the crime rate goes down when you remove from the local population hardcore repeat offenders by putting them in gaol. And it will start climbing again when you place hardcore repeat offenders back in the community.
On this and other policies this year the coalition this year gets mugged by reality. And in May the Lib-Dems will be hurt hard at elections for the legislatures in Wales and Scotland and local government.
My source says Clegg’s colleagues will have to campaign at the next election as Libs In Support of the Coalition and watch as votes hemorrhage to Labour and the Greens. The UK could then see a rise in Green Party support as in Germany. What remains of the Lib-Dems will get absorbed by the Tories.
It’s too easy for Third Parties in opposition. As with the Green Party in Australia nobody askes them tough questions. So there’s a great satisfaction in seeing them saddled with responsibility and see the process of self-correction set in as they are forced to defend a real record.
British Labour has recruited 50,000 new members since the election. As my source says, the sort of people who left because of dissatisfaction over one issue are coming back.
Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee outlines the devastating cuts to programs for children that the Tory-led Coalition is implementing. She says children will be the hardest hurt as a result of eighty one billion pounds of social destruction amid a wasteland of unemployment as Cameron torches universal free nurseries, subsidized child care, a baby trust fund and first books. She says these Blair reforms were “the sketched out start of a vision that valued and nurtured the nation’s children.”
It’s these sorts of programs that social democratic governments accumulate and get little credit for, even from their base. Think occupational superannuation under Keating. Conservatives easily let them slide or, as Cameron proposes, do them in all together.
Savaging public services like these, according to my source, is not enough to hurt the Tories. The public expect the conservatives to be heartless bastards. They vote for them because they claim to be the better money managers. The test for Ed Miliband will be to portray the government not as heartless but as incompetent. And this is the year – “Cameron’s Year of Living Dangerously”, as the Sunday Times puts it – he will have to make that image stick to them.