Somewhere, someone is laughing nervously.

April 18, 2012 3:06 pm

I’m sure the laughter of people up and down the United Kingdom could be heard from Australia today, as David Cameron claimed in the first cabinet meeting since the Easter recess that the current coalition government “works well together”. Indeed, out of all the things that politicians have said in my measly nineteen years, nothing has struck a chord with me in the sense of its obvious inaccuracy quite like this has managed to. Indeed, the conservative agenda of this government is extremely clear to everyone who takes the slightest interest in British politics. The recent controversial health legislation passed through parliament with support from only a quarter of GP’s, or the trebling of university tuition fees in England are clearly conservative-leaned policies. However, if you were to ask Joe Bloggs on the street about the influence of the Liberal Democrats on this government, you would be met with an awkward silence as he tried to work out just what they had done. You see, unfortunately for the Liberal Democrats, a recent YouGov poll has shown that 63% of people aren’t sure what the Liberal Democrats stand for anymore, 57% of people agree that they’ve ‘sold out’ for a position in power, and 59% believe that the Liberal Democrats aren’t a suitable party for government. And if this wasn’t enough for Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime-Minister and Liberal Democrat leader, the survey also shows that the Liberal Democrats are on target to lose FIFTY of their FIFTY-SEVEN seats in parliament. That type of loss would go down in parliamentary history as one of the biggest defeats of all-time.

So, this begs the question. Why are the public so angry towards the Liberal Democrats? Some would argue that as junior coalition partners, they have little overall influence in policy direction. Indeed, in the wake of the student protests regarding the raising of tuition fees, the Liberal Democrats argued it was something they didn’t want to do, but had to as a concession for their place in government. However, their argument, for many, simply does not cut it. Many Liberal Democrat supporters were Liberal Democrats because they felt it was the only party that stood up for them. Previously, students were a key pool of potential votes for the Liberal Democrats. However, in the space of less than two years, the words ‘Liberal Democrat’ have transformed in the student community from thoughts of heroic, exciting, forward-thinking politics to a response most likened to a child-catcher or pantomime villain. Not since the days of Jamie Oliver banning Kit-Kats in the school lunch-hall have the youth of Britain had such a target to aim their disgust and anger at.

I argue that the public do not dislike Nick Clegg or Vince Cable because they are bad people, but merely because they feel let down by a party who used their vote to put through legislation that they most probably did not vote for. Indeed, it’s a well-known fact that Liberal Democrat supporters, at a push, would be more left-leaning than right -leaning. Subsequently, a whole group of potential voters have become disillusioned with Nick Clegg and his party. Indeed, this comes just days after the Liberal Democrats were shunted into fourth place in the national political opinion polls for the first time behind UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party). This, for me, is a turning point. Throughout late 2010 and 2011, I felt that the Liberal Democrat reputation amongst their alienated target electorate could be restored partly to how they were before. However, something tells me that it’s too late now. The Labour Party are riding high in the national opinion polls, seemingly on the wave of alienated voters who feel they have nowhere else to place their vote. Indeed, if Labour can gain a 10 point lead with a leader who many deem to be ineffective, imagine how much they can improve on this as the months go on and more unpopular defect-reduction policies are passed through parliament. For Labour, the next six months are key in determining their future electoral success. However, the future is certainly looking bright.

Therefore, when David Cameron said that the coalition works well together, he may have meant with each other. He surely couldn’t have meant they work well for the people of the United Kingdom? The people obviously disagree.

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