So the Liberal Democrats, to nobody’s real surprise, did very badly in last week’s local government elections.
Part of it is down to the fact that government parties always do badly in mid-term council elections, and this is a new experience for the Liberal Democrats having not been in government before. It’s unfair on hard-working local councillors who lose seats through no fault of their own, but sadly that’s the way that it is as long as voters are more interested in “Sending a message to Westminster” than they are about electing a local council over local issues.
The Tories did badly as well. Nadine Dorries, recently described as the “Tories’ equivalent of Lembit Öpik”, is taking of leadership challenges, and demanding the return of traditional Tory values of anti-Europeanism and homophobia, oblivious to the fact that the Tories didn’t actually win the last general election, which is precisely why we have a coalition government.
Some sectarian Labour types are gleefully prophesying the end of the Liberal Democrats altogether “So that we can get back to proper two-party politics”. But The Liberal Democrats are not going to disappear any time soon, no matter what the tribalist wing of the Labour party would love to happen. It’s precisely because of their tribalist machine-driven politics that a party like The Liberal Democrats are necessary in the first place
But I do think this may well mark the turning point in the coalition.
The coalition hasn’t worked as well as many people had hoped. LibDem blogger Jonathan Calder, who enthusiastically supported the coalition in the early days rightly says
It was inevitable that the Coalition would run into trouble. One of the constituent parties had long been out of power, had leaders with no experience of government, and hordes of backbenchers and activists with bizarre views and little concept of party discipline.
I’m talking about the Conservatives.
To quote a former US president, “It’s the economy, stupid”. And the Very Big Stupid in question is Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, whose policies have failed in a way just about everybody but himself had predicted. If there is one thing Nadine Dorries is right about, it is that it’s time for him to go.
George Osborne is facing a double-whammy here. Not only is he hopelessly compromised by close association with the Murdoch clan in the still-unfolding scandal which may yet engulf the Prime Minister himself, but he’s proved himself spectacularly incompetent at his job. And the entire country is paying the price.
The way he allowed himself to be “intellectually persuaded” by ideological nonsense about Laffer Curves shows far out of his depth he is. Osborne doesn’t just not know the price of milk, his understanding of economics is reminiscent of the typical 17-year old libertarian troll on the internet. He comes over as a prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect in action; he understands so little he doesn’t realise how little he understands.
At this point, the Liberal Democrats in Parliament have reached the point where they have nothing to lose from rocking the boat. The price of their remaining in government must be the removal of George Osborne as chancellor, and his replacement by someone who is both experienced and a pragmatist rather than an intellectually-challenged ideologue.