3/05/2008

The slow, painful and completely avoidable accident that has done so much damage to the Lib Dems

The fiasco over the Lib Dem stance on the Tories EU referendum motion today was so clearly signposted, so easily avoided, so obviously could have been dealt with and perhaps most importantly was so widely challenged from withing the party that you have to question the intelligence and integrity of the party for it's decision, and in particular Nick Clegg has so mortally wounded his own standing that he will always find it hard to escape the criticism of this folly.

Sadly though, this policy was also supported during the leadership election so Chris Huhne would not have done anything differently from Nick Clegg. The two former MEPs ensured the party as a whole never got to make a choice in this issue. Perhaps this too highlights a weakness in both candidates who stood.

The debacle of three front bench Lib Dem MP's resigning, a number of backbench Lib Dem revolting against a three line whip, and almost universal criticism of the Lib Dems today was totally avoidable. Clegg could have allowed a free vote on the issue. He could have let the Lib Dem stick to the party's own manifesto pledge, or he could simply have told the party to vote against. But the colossal incompetence of ordering the party not to vote, to sit on their hands, to take part on a debate and not vote actually leads any sane voter to ask "What is the point of an MP who does not vote ?"

Everyone could see that this was going to happen, it didn't simply occur without warning, it actually reminded me of this clip from the film Austin Powers.




At the risk of repeating myself, today did not have to happen. It was all so easily avoided. Not a day that will fill anyone with pride in the Lib Dems.

4 comments:

Gerrard said...

It makes you wonder how those with the power to do so made this decision and just how detached they must be from reality.

There are suspicions that this was a deliberate wrecking strategy with the full knowledge of the Labour front bench, all aimed at ensuring the European 'project' continues without any mandate from the British public.

Daily Referendum said...

Nich,

I'm absolutely gutted. I wouldn't want to be a Lib Dem.

I feel sorry for you. Your party has let you and the country down.

It's good to know that your party has a least some decent members. I applaud you and the 13 Lib Dem MPs who took a stand.

Clegg?

Joe Otten said...

Nich, you can disagree with the policy, but I don't see how you can question the integrity of taking the difficult course.

Jock Coats said...

As you so rightly say, Nich, it was so widely trailed, six months ago, then again ad nauseam throughout the leadership election. It cannot have been to anyone's surprise that the party would have tried to stake all on an in or out referendum and, in those circumstances it is then a tactical judgment whether any other option was worth supporting. I don't think this was all down to the Lib Dems. It has been quite clear to me for weeks that the Tories have wanted to have some fun with us over this and they have made damned sure with their own rhetoric that they achieved their aim of shifting the spotlight onto the Lib Dems.

As a Lib Dem who currently finds it difficult to believe we can actually build a liberal Britain whilst members of a protectionist Europe, I personally supported the idea of an in/out referendum and would have happily joined the out campaign in such a case. Frankly, I cannot se the difference between holding a vote on whether to have decrepit pre-Lisbon Europe or decrepit post-Lisbon Europe.

In or out is the question I want debated.

But you are partly right. You can partly blame the parliamentary party for not having the collective balls to put up more than two choices in a leadership campaign if there was such strong feeling about this. In the event, the chosen leader did what he promised to do when you voted for him.

But it's not right to say there was no other choice - there was plenty of time in that campaign to make one's voice heard and seek to change your preferred candidate's minds, or at least hold the debate three months ago (instead of faffing about on whether or not to have school vouchers or pupils premia) and come to a compromise. Nobody did. We need to get over that. With, or, sadly, without, you.

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