Respected opinion, backed by polling evidence, suggests that this Thursday will be a nightmare for the Liberal Democrats. Many decent councillors will be ejected, and those that do hang on will do so more through avoidance by the electorate of less palatable alternatives. Still enthusiastic Liberal Democrat supporters are very thin on the ground.
My home ward in Southend-on-Sea sees the Liberal Democrat group leader engaged in a neck-and-neck race with the Tory candidate. If Graham Longley survives it will be less a personal endorsement than the wish to avoid one more Tory in the council chamber. Were Labour a closer third place then I would have no doubt about our chance for a gain.
The Lib Dems had little choice but to go into coalition. The rejection of Gordon Brown and Labour made this inevitable. Very few Labour supporters believed a Lib-Lab pact was possible. The existence of the coalition is not what irks those of us on the centre-left, but rather its nature. Yellow claims that the a Conservative majority Government would have been far worse just does not wash – it seems that the coalition has been the cover to go farther right than even Margaret Thatcher would have dared.
There is much to be admired in good old-fashioned Liberal values – I am an electoral reformer and share the Howard League for Penal Reform’s beliefs on crime and punishment. Who would turn back the clock on divorce or abortion except those on the extreme right? And whilst the Labour Party was born from the failure by the Liberals to adequately represent the working classes, the early years were characterised by cooperation.
There is little evidence of liberal values in today’s party. Despite feeble attempts to distance themselves from Government on occasion, the reality is seen in the lobby. Liberal Democrats voted to cut police numbers, voted to cut taxes for the very richest, voted to privatise the NHS.
I see a long tradition of attempting to be all things to all men unravelling now that the light of being in power is upon them. Labour activists have long had the problem of campaigning against Liberal Democrat opponents who have been able to say, and until now get away with, all sorts of things in the chase for votes. Now there is nowhere to hide.
I shall answer my own question: they are villains. Their fingerprints are on every piece of damnable legislation being passed in this Parliament. I hope every one of them is shown the door this Thursday.