Confirmation that the Lib Dems are the political equivalent of something you'd rather not get on your shoes came with their opposition to Labour's parliamentary motion against the Bedroom Tax earlier this week. Apart from Tim Farron and Andrew George, Lib Dem MPs swung behind the Tories and have thus condemned the hundreds of thousands impacted by this callous, cruel, and contemptuous Tory tax throughout the country to at least two more years of misery and despair up to the next general election in 2015.
The 31 Lib Dems who voted with the government were joined by a further 21 who avoided the issue by failing to vote. Making this latest betrayal even more staggering is that it came in defiance of their own party, which condemned the Bedroom Tax at their party conference in Glasgow in September.
What motivates a person to go into politics fuelled not by principle but rank opportunism? What is that gets such a person out of bed in the morning? Hopefully sometime in the future psychologists will explore the mindset of your average Lib Dem MP in an attempt to understand the minds of those who embrace betrayal as a virtue rather than, as with normal people, rejecting it as a vice.
Since joining with the Tories in a coalition government of the bad and mad, the Lib Dems have done politics a huge disservice, responsible for deepening people's cynicism and disdain for the political process. Russell Brand's recent interview with Jeremy Paxman, during which he articulated this disdain as the reason why he's never voted, spoke to the huge gulf that exists between a growing constituency of people and those meant to represent them.
Step forward the Liberal Democrats.
At least with the Tories you know you are dealing with a party of unreconstructed class warriors. At least they make little effort to conceal their feral hatred of the poor and working people. In contradistinction, however, the Lib Dems fought the last general election on a manifesto that was broadly progressive.
Recall for a moment the excitement surrounding Nick Clegg as the coming man of British politics, a breath of fresh air who in the televised debates against David Cameron and Gordon Brown emerged as a young leader with fresh ideas, 'integrity', 'honesty', and a strong sense of social justice. Indeed Clegg succeeded in inspiring thousands of people, especially young people, to campaign and vote for him. Remember his pledge on tuition fees?
Not long after the last election a Newsnight poll of Lib Dem voters recorded that 40% felt betrayed by Clegg. This translates to some 2.7 million voters. You would think it would have made uncomfortable reading for any party, yet three years on it is clear that the collective mindset of the Lib Dems is one of 'nobody likes us and we don't care'.
But this is not a game. The Bedroom Tax exemplifies the worst excesses of a government intent of using an economic recession caused by the greed of the rich as a pretext for effecting the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich by slashing public spending regardless of the human or social cost. The lives of the poor and economically vulnerable matter not a whit in this process. On the contrary they have been demonised, dehumanised, and slandered under the rubric of austerity, which translates to a mass experiment in human despair.
According to the National Housing Federation just over half of all social housing tenants had been pushed into rent arrears just weeks after the Bedroom Tax was rolled out in April. In September an investigation by UN special rapporteur on housing, Raquel Rolnick, ended with her calling for the tax to axed on the basis that it "could be a violation of the human right to housing".
For her efforts she was dismissed and derided by the Tories as a crank.
The lack of affordable social housing in Britain has long been a badge of shame, reflective of the apathy of the entire political class when it comes to the needs of the poor. Here, as with too many issues, we see evidence of hardly a sliver of difference when it comes to the Tories, Lib Dems, and Labour. With thousands of families forced to rely on bed and breakfast accommodation, wherein they are crammed into one room, and with a private housing sector enjoying the fruits of exorbitant rents due to demand outstripping supply, the idea that those who happen to have an extra bedroom within the social housing sector should have their housing benefit cut or move into smaller accommodation is barbaric.
The size of the housing benefit bill is not the fault of tenants, it is the fault of greedy landlords charging extortionate rents. Rent control within the private rental sector in conjunction with a national housebuilding programme designed to meet the demand for social housing needs to be implemented as a matter of urgency. It is the only rational solution to the crisis. Sadly, the words rational and Tory do not belong in the same sentence. Putting it even more succinctly, men and women whose collective moral compass is stuck in the mid 19th century are about as rational as a box of frogs.
The Lib Dems were given the opportunity to go some way to salvaging some political credibility this week by voting for a Labour motion against one of the most vile policies ever visited on the poor and economically disadvantaged in many a year. They chose not to and hopefully now political oblivion awaits.
As the man said: "Treason doth never prosper".