Across the board the Liberal Democrats have had a political thrashing. Nick Clegg stands there, says they've had a bad result, but declares it is time to "move on". It is not for him to say "move on" with such personal arrogance. He doesn't get it, and because he doesn't get it the electorate will wait until the General Election - like it does - and deliver another thrashing.
It is not simply about the Liberal Democrats dishing out cuts to public services along with Conservatives. To some extent, Labour recently even lost the economic argument, and the Liberal Democrats could get away with changing their minds on this one. This is because of Greece and Portugal, though I still say you have to have some maintenance of growth along with cuts because that will help pay for the debt reduction; ram the economy against the wall and all you get is a bad head. We shall see whether exports from a tiny manufacturing base make any difference.
The real reason for electoral punishment is twofold. First, in the General Election Clegg went around causing virtual litter about others' broken promises and made a solemn pledge about student fees. Not only did he and others break that pledge on achieving office, but they planned to break it even before entering into any coalition. So he and they lied, and did precisely what all that waste paper said others did.
Secondly, instead of entering a coalition to do a job, he turned into a Cameron Mark II, in other words he went native. Many of us voted Liberal Democrat because we would not, and would never, vote Conservative. Since the days of Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrats have appealed to the broad left, even protecting public services against the privatisations of Labour, even considering the unemployed when Labour with its 'son of a Manse' engaged a Protestant Ethic of Work Makes You Free.
Suddenly the Liberal Democrats voiced the Tory ethic, never mind Labour's, of economic individualism and only social liberalism where it supported economic individualism.
At the very least, this coalition has to change character. The reforms on the National Health Service are the toucstone. Yes, Mr Cameron, there should be a "policy for policy exchange", because the NHS reforms were never part of any agreement and no one wants them. Leave the NHS alone or have it best placed to have planned collaborative purchasing according to needs in an area. General Practitioners are not running businesses to bring in private contractors. The NHS will be the test for Liberal Democrats: no MP should be voting for this policy.
Most of all, however, is that Nick Clegg, because he is the public front of lying, must go. He must give way to a leader in waiting who can start to reformulate policy that is clear, and policy that learns from the mistakes of this cosying-up coalition. If he doesn't go, he needs a political assassination. If the Liberal Democrats haven't the courage to remove him, then the General Election will be another version of the local elections.
I've already said to friends that at the next General Election I shall (probably) vote Labour, but I certainly won't vote Liberal Democrat if Nick Clegg remains as leader. He has to be the sacrificial goat and signifier that the Liberal Democrats have ended their phase for good as a right wing party.
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