“Here is one man … selling Liberal opinions with his left hand and Conservative opinions with his right hand … That is an extraordinary spectacle …
“If such conduct were developed in private life or by politicians in public life every man and woman in the country would say ‘That is very double-faced. You cannot believe the two.’ … He would be regarded as coming perilously near a rogue.”
These extracts from a 1922 speech come perilously near describing the behaviour of the Liberal Democrats in 2011. They were made by Winston Churchill, MP for Dundee, in a speech to constituents at Broughty Ferry. It was directed at one D.C. Thomson, the proprietor of twelve newspapers, who had been attacking him in print. (Oor Wullie and the Broons were still a long way off in 1922).
It didn’t do Churchill much good – he lost the election to a teetotal candidate, which must have been the ultimate insult to Winston, who could bend an elbow with the best of them.
I have a shameful confession to make at this point. I was a lifetime supporter - but never a member – of the Labour Party until Iraq, and then spent four years in a political vacuum until voting SNP in 2007. I then joined the SNP. But they were the second political party I had been a member of, because I joined the newly-formed Social Democratic Party – the forerunner of the LibDems – in March 1981, as a founder member. I was into the middle of a major strike in the Newcastle Breweries in Newcastle, and I joined in a mood of frustration with Labour and with organised labour, so to speak.
My membership lasted a matter of weeks, with question marks forming after attending my first branch meeting in Durham, then dealt a terminal blow to my choice by attending a meeting at which David Owen was the speaker. The entire feel was one of expediency, and of a middle-class group with zero understanding of working people, and precious little concern for them, except as voting fodder. I never in my wildest nightmare thought that the Labour Party, especially the Scottish Labour Party, would reach the same point. I was still locked in cognitive dissonance over Labour’s proclaimed values versus the sordid reality of Labour in power as I had experienced it in Glasgow throughout my life there up till 1974.
The future is now a bleak one for ordinary LibDem voters who mistakenly placed their trust in this party. The politicians they elected have traded integrity and values for ministerial salaries, cars, and the illusion of power, and by God, what a hollow illusion it has been!
They cannot bring the Coalition down because they would face electoral oblivion in a general election. They have taken the toxic shilling, and they must play the game out to the bitter end – bitter for the people of England, and deeply damaging for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – but not for Clegg and his team. If they can hold out for another three and a half years, the directorship, the consultancies and even the Lordships beckon – they’ll be OK.
So Clegg (already rich) and Huhne, and Hughes, and Cable, et al will be alright financially. The noble Lords Steele, Ashdown and Campbell, et al have already made their escape to the unelected, undemocratic, lucrative bolthole of the ermine. Only poor, bemused Danny Alexander, and the last Scottish Colonial Governor, Michael Moore, might have cause to regret flying too close to the Westminster flame
Of course, a membership revolt could change things, but LibDem grassroots members are not the revolting kind. But their leaders are utterly revolting, indeed truly disgusting in their betrayal of all that LibDems held dear, if indeed they ever held anything dear …
Thank God, Scotland had a choice, made it decisively, and now has an infinitely greater choice to prepare for, and to make equally decisively.