How do we assess the role of the Lib-Dems in the coalition? The Liberal Democrats are now making a sustained effort to tell us that the actions of this ideologically driven Conservative government are being moderated by their influence. Their argument seems to be - if it were not for us, it would be even worse. I think even this modest claim is dubious.
Would this government have gone much further with their austerity programmes, that are sucking the oxygen of life from the economy, without completely scuppering their chances of re-election? I think not. There is a better way of judging the Lib-Dem influence:
Let us look at the situation had the Lib-Dems not formed a coalition government with the Tories, opting instead into supporting or opposing a minority Conservative government according to their manifesto and their genuine beliefs.
We know that they would have opposed the trebling of university fees; after all many of their MPs including Nick Clegg signed a pledge promising not to support an increase. A minority Conservative government would not have dared introduce it.
What about the Health and Social Care Bill? I do not believe they would have supported that either; it was not in their manifesto and it is opposed by their membership. It was not even in the Conservative's manifesto. The government would not have dared introduce it, knowing that they would face certain defeat if forced to call an election on the issue.
On the economy and taxation, would they have supported a tax cut for the 1%ers paid for by pensioners? Again I think not. Putting the dogma of the "market knows best" above reason is manifested in the Conservatives' rejection of a number of sensible suggestions made by the Business Secretary Vince Cable.
In his leaked letter he states the obvious, namely that: "market forces are insufficient for creating the long term industrial capacities we need." He chastises the government for lacking "a compelling vision of where the country is heading beyond sorting out the fiscal mess". He goes on to suggest that RBS, a bank largely owned by the taxpayer, be converted to a "British Business Bank", and be used to support industrial objectives of "strategic importance". All these ideas have fallen on deaf ears.
Wouldn't his ideas have had more traction if the government had felt they risked defeat in the House if they completely ignored his suggestions?
An objective assessor of the Lib-Dems in the coalition can only conclude that their leading lights have sold their membership, and their voters who believed their words, down the river for ministerial posts in government.
The principled stand by the party against the Iraq war under Charles Kennedy earned it the respect of the majority of the electorate; I was one of them. All that has now been squandered under the leadership of Nick Clegg.
Lib-Dems, you have missed a great opportunity to genuinely rein in corrupted capitalism and with it improve the future economic prospects of Britain. You could also have spared the country the virtual privatisation of the NHS. The electorate will not forgive you for that.
Entering a coalition agreement with the Conservative party was a strategic blunder that is going to take you a long time to recover from. It may even be terminal.