Liberal Democrats from root to branch have been engulfed in a sense of victimisation all week at their party conference in Birmingham. Anyone who heard the Lib Dem audience on Monday's Newsnight will understand the logic of how the Lib Dems became the: 'voter's victims'. Apparently, they were forced against their will to go into this Coalition. It is all down to them pesky voters you see. In what seemed like a bizarre media strategy of effectively saying: "it's all your fault vote for voting for us".
Just look at any of the Lib Dem speeches. Tim Farron the Lib Dem president told the conference delegates that they had "no option" to enter government, but not to worry, as "divorce is inevitable". However, he forgets that the Rose Garden was not a shotgun marriage; in fact they held a special conference of Lib Dems members to confirm the Coalition Agreement.
Even more confusing, were both he and Vince Cable claiming that the Coalition Government would have been far worse without the Lib Dems. Somehow they have forgotten that without Liberal Democrat MPs there wouldn't even be a Coalition Government at all. After all, there was an alternative.
If the proposed rainbow coalition of smaller parties and Labour was not possible it was not the only option. The Lib Dems could have told the Tories to go it alone as a minority Government. The Lib Dem defence for entering Coalition instead of remaining in opposition is bazaar, as it is big headed.
They claim it would have sent the country's economy over a cliff, but this is simply absurd. One just has to look from Australia to Austria to see minority governments don't equate to financial Armageddon. It was a political not economic judgement the Liberals made, and it was the wrong one.
However, this Lib Dem conference has seen them try to justify this error by pointing to things - like the Pupil Premium and scrapping ID cards - as the achievements they have won in the Coalition, despite many being shared policy goals with the Tories. And when Nick Clegg champions Free Schools it seems like the political equivalent of Stockholm syndrome.
Nevertheless, all of these achievements could have been reached from the opposition instead of government benches by doing smart deals with a minority Conservative government. As a result, they would have received far larger credit and could have rightly claimed that the Tory Government were kept in check by them alone.
Just think about it, a Tory minority government would have had to horse trade with the Lib Dems to a far greater extent than they are now. Otherwise every parliamentary vote would have been unpredictable. Take the issue of tuition fees for example; they would not have had to even occur. We could have seen a minority Conservative government forced to work with and tailor their policy on fee rises with those Labour MPs who support tuition fees. Something that could, in all likelihood, have mortally damaged Labour and driven a wedge in Labour ranks if it had happened.
Under a minority Tory government, Labour would have had to compete with the Lib Dems for who was the true or rather the best opposition party in the eyes of the public. The mantle as the chief opposition party and the real government in waiting was under threat for the first time in a generation.
The big reward if the Liberal Democrats had become the main opposition party would have been just one, admittedly long, step from forming their own government. And with them only two million votes and 6% behind Labour at the last election, and Labour leaderless for four months; the path was open for a Lib Dem party on the rise with a then charismatic and popular leader to steal Labour's position.
Instead, they are the unsightly barnacle on a Tory dreadnought; and once the Conservatives have dislodged them at the next election they will fall back down to the political depths. The best they can ever wish for now is being the stepping stone to power for one of the two major parties in a future hung parliament. And their approach of blaming the public for their ministerial cars will only push the electorate towards one party government.
So if the Lib Dems want anyone to blame for their current state of affairs, it is neither Labour nor Tory; but solely themselves.
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