‘Not Me, Guv’: LibDems Claim Innocence Shock Horror

September 19, 2013 10:33 am

Settle down there at the back. No sniggering. Yes, it’s THAT time of year again when our political parties get together for their conferences. First up among the three main parties are the Liberal Democrats – or, as many people refer to them these days, ‘the FibDems’. 

You remember why they got THAT label. They’re the ones who PROMISED to oppose tuition fees for university students. Thousands of students struggle with thousands of pounds of debts around their necks, often the price of a small mortgage, even before they take their first steps on their career ladders.

nick cleggLibDem leader Nick Clegg’s stance earned himself so much kudos that, during the 2010 general election campaign, his stock rose way above those of the Tory leader David Cameron and the then hapless Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown. It looked like the LibDem’s electoral fortunes were on the rise. Yet, barely within sight of gaining office, tuition fees were here to stay. In fact, not only were they here to stay, they were TRIPLED from £3,000 per year to £9,000. Never saw that coming, did you?

Our current crop of politicians had their tuition fees paid for and received a living grant (instead of taking out student loans) when most of them were at university. Unless, of course, wealthy mummy and daddy picked up the bill. Once the elections were over, they saw fit to kick the ladder away for the next generation. Small wonder then, that university applications have decreased by 55,000 to accompany a sharp increase of student drop out rates.

Well, we’re all in it together, folks.

It’s particularly galling then, to watch as LibDem after LibDem mounted the conference podium to do their utmost to distance themselves from their partners in government, the Tories. Listening to them, you’d think they were the Opposition and not part of a coalition that has consistently slashed the benefits of the most vulnerable people in our country while presiding over a 5% tax cut for the richest. It’s a surefire case of: ‘Not Me, Guv.com’.

And let’s not forget the bedroom tax.

Biggest growth industry

Where were they when THAT was introduced? It’s a particularly vicious cut in housing benefit where a ‘spare’ bedroom is deemed a bedroom too far (if you live in social housing). Anyone of the 660,000 it effects can lose from £14 to £28 per week to be made up out of the meagre benefits they need to live on. Many are faced with the stark choice of either putting a meal on the table or paying the exorbitant gas and electricity bills (courtesy of the privatised utility companies, of course).

The largest percentage of those on the receiving end of these cuts are disabled people. Small wonder then, that one of the biggest growth industries is food banks. Yes, in Britain. Yes, in the 21st century. I know.

Clegg, in his set piece speech, designed by every party leader to rouse their troops to battle (and, boy, do they need rousing?) declared that his party had been responsible for ‘holding the Tories back’. He claimed to have prevented Cameron and Co. from doing their worst. With 2.5 million unemployed (1 million of them young people under 25), 1.5 million people underemployed, and a million experiencing ‘zero hours’ contracts, it makes you wonder exactly what else the Tories had in mind. (I think we can guess, but I’ll save that for their conference report).

Musical chairs

The LibDem leader called on us all to ‘put them back into government in the upcoming 2015 general election’ so they can ‘curb the excesses’ of either Labour OR the Tories. In short, he is calling for the continuation of coalition government of one political hue or another. Yet our three main parties are so close in policies – indeed, Labour has already told us they ‘have no choice’ BUT to stick to Tory policies – what we have is one grand coalition already in place at the top of the pile playing political musical chairs to see who is going to be in the driving street.

students tuitionIt was a mere jockeying for position by Clegg and those around him and they are staking out their claim for the ‘centre ground’. Neither leftwing or rightwing, they say, they are on the middle ground.

You could have fooled me.

Anytime they wanted the LibDems could have stopped the benefit cuts, the job and service cuts simply by refusing to support such policies in Parliament but, no, they went along with it.

Some among them, like Business Secretary Vince Cable and LibDem president Simon Hughes, would secretly like their next coalition to be with Labour, sensing the imminent demise of Tory power with its deep unpopularity. While the LibDems flounder in the opinion polls at 8% – even lower than the despicable UKIP –  they see their only hope of staying in office is to cosy up to the ‘Miliband Tendency’ of the Labour Party. Power at any price, I call it.

Accordingly, we had the spectacle of Simon Hughes attempting to woo the trade unions in his speech. Unions have recently found themselves under attack from Ed Miliband around party funding. “We must not turn our backs on the trade unions,” Hughes said. “We have a tradition of working with the trade unions.”

They certainly do. The old Liberal Party, from where the LibDems morphed, used to make all sorts of promises to ordinary workers way back in the Victorian days, anything to get their vote. Then, once in power, they betrayed them (from a great height). That was exactly why the trade unions funded and formed their own  political vehicle – the Labour  Party – way back in 1900.

Shameful episode

Why should people believe Nick Clegg? He is on the right of the LibDems and shares much of the Tory outlook. Why should we have faith in the likes of Vince Cable or Simon Hughes who are closer to Labour?

Simon Hughes, incidentally, took his parliamentary seat in a by-election victory in Bermondsey way back in 1983. The Labour candidate was one Peter Tatchell, yes, the now renowned gay activist. Tatchell was openly gay and much was made, predictably, about his sexuality in the Murdoch press to smear his campaign. Even his own party leadership did little to defend him. A local fellow party member broke ranks to campaign against him, splitting the Labour vote. It was a shameful episode.

cameron cleggHughes himself never criticised such underhand tactics at the time. There was only silence from his corner. One of his own campaign leaflets read: ‘this election is a straight choice between Simon Hughes and Peter Tatchell.’ Little did we know then that Hughes was himself gay and stood by while Tatchell was attacked in the press. It was only recently that Hughes was forced out of the closet when it was revealed he had been using the services of a ‘gay chat network’. The sheer hypocrisy was breathtaking even for Westminster standards. He has since expressed his regrets, yet you can’t help thinking of the words: ‘barn doors’, ‘horse’ and ‘bolted’.

But he chose to remain silent during that shameful episode – some would say understandable in that less enlightened era – but, no, that’s not good enough. If we can’t expect our representatives to stand up for what is right…well, I guess that brings us back to tuition fees, doesn’t it?

Like Hughes’ silence back then in 1983, so too the u-turn on tuition fees by Clegg and Co. thirty-seven years later. The simple fact is…they sold their principles, and us, so cheaply for power, and a good little earner.

No wonder people despise politicians.

I think we should expect more of those who want to represent us. I think we deserve better.

Don’t you?

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