Over on LibCon at the moment the resident Lib Dems are having a bit of a recruitment drive, suggesting that the Lib Dems are the true home for socialists and for the liberal left more generally. Naturally, I disagree with this viewpoint.
Reasoning seems to be along the lines of:
- Labour are generally a bit of a busted flush, they've let us down and implemented some very authoritarian policies.
- The Lib Dems are commited to a large number of goals similar to socialists, in particular the commitment to easing taxes on the poor while increasing them on the wealthy.
First, I reject utterly the idea that Labour are a busted flush. This years conference did a lot to renkindle the flames. In particular two very important statistics, first education spending per pupil has more than doubled under Labour, second the number of people who have to wait more than 6 months for NHS treatment is down from 284,000 in 1997 to virtually no-one. Despite the current anti Labour mood music Labour have actually done a good job.
Second, we come to the Lib Dems themselves, some people wonder why people display tribal loyalty to Labour rather than making judgements based on policies. I would say this is due to a trust Labour have built up that the Lib Dems no longer have, people expect politicians to disappoint but at least remain true to their values, the Conservatives cut taxes Labour help the poor. The Lib Dems in government are an unknown quantity, no one's sure what they'll do.
In my view the Lib Dems don't help their case through their inconsistency, the party is made up of a combination of Social Democrats and more traditional Liberals. Currently the classic liberals seem to be in ascendancy, meaning tax cuts and a smaller state, but you don't have to go back far to see the Lib Dems backing poicies to the left of Labour. They seem to be very much followers of fashion when it comes to policy, for example they originally said that the government's road tax measures on gas guzzlers were too tame and put forward a £2,000 road tax for gas guzzlers, more recently Nick Clegg is on record as being in favour of eliminating the tax altogether. Until the Lib Dems pick their ground and stick to it I think they'll have a hard time winning over tribal Labour voters.
Finally, I'll come to my personal reasons for disliking the Lib Dems and that is their policies of efficiency savings on government spending and cracking down on tax evasion. I take the view that such promises should never be taken seriously. These two policies are no brainers, a government would be mad not to implement them. Savings are, in my view not something that can be achieved easily with the levers available to a Minister and are threfore not to be trusted as serious policies.
So, all in all then, nice try, but no cigar.