It’s been so long.
Do you remember this? On Wednesday 28th April 2010, Nick Clegg began a final push for students to vote for the LibDems.
“Labour and the Conservatives have been trying to keep tuition fees out of this election campaign.
“It’s because they don’t want to come clean with you about what they’re planning.
The next General Election for the UK will be on 7th May 2015. In Scotland, we’re all looking at 18th September 2014, but for the Westminster parties, the general election campaigning has already begun.
At the 2010 general election, the results were Conservatives 307, Labour 258, Liberal Democrats 57: the LibDems dashed into a coalition with the Tories, and the hugely unpleasant mess that followed is still miring us up.
It’s fair to say that without the LibDem decision to join the Tory party and keep them in government (despite Tories not having won an election since 1992) – there likely would not have been a majority-SNP government in Holyrood: conceivably, if enough Scots had voted LibDem in 2011, there might not be an independence referendum this year.
For about fifty years, until Nick Clegg agreed to a coalition with the Conservatives, probably most people would have agreed that LibDems or Liberals, the third party in UK politics, were “for” providing an alternative to Labour or the Conservatives: a party basically on the left in politics, but edging towards the centre. Sometimes letting Tories be elected on a minority of the vote, since left-wing voters split between Labour or the LibDems.
Since May 2010, Liberal Democrats have voted to support massive cuts to funding for public services, terrifying attacks on support for the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, in favour of retroactive legislation on money due for unlawful workfare sanctions, and of course the privatisation of the NHS, and now are expected to vote for selling off the Post Office.
Support for the Liberal Democrats has crashed. To win back even half their seats in 2015, the LibDems will have to treat every maybe-winnable constituency as a by-election like Eastleigh – will have to recruit massive numbers of volunteers while their party is losing memberships. The current prediction is 23 LibDem MPs in Parliament after May 2015, while Labour should have a majority of over 100.
If you’re a Conservative/LibDem supporter, this must be like watching Titanic, except that Nick Clegg and David Cameron and Ed Miliband aren’t even as appealling as DiCaprio, Winslet, and Zane. The iceberg has hit, the ship is peeling apart and sinking, and yet you know the end of the movie is ages away and already seems to have been going on for far too long.
For the rest of us, though, things as much worse than simply enduring a long, long movie in the cinema as being on the Titanic was worse than taking part in the movie.
Paul Goodman, executive editor of ConservativeHome, offers four reasons why he does not believe the Tories can win a majority in 2015.
There is really just one reason, but it’s a shattering iceberg:
Austerity: The proclaimed conviction that if only enough people are unemployed or in work but struggling on a low income, plus essential services cut to the bone and cut again, then the economy will improve.
The belief that the economy must be destroyed in order to save it is essential to Tory thinking and was adopted by the LibDems with hardly a gulp. Labour can only lose if they adopt it too.
Nick Clegg’s New Year message leans heavily on things he had less than nothing to do with:
“The last twelve months have been lit up by moments that will stay with us forever. When Mo Farah approached the final stretch of the 10,000m final, who wasn’t up on their feet, screaming at the TV?
“When Nicola Adams beamed at the crowd after winning the first ever women’s Olympic boxing, who didn’t smile back? I was lucky enough to be there, and that’s one I’ll never forget.
“Was there anything more British than that drenched choir in the Jubilee River Pageant, singing Rule Britannia! in the pouring rain?
“Incredible images. Spectacular shows. Jaw-dropping personal triumphs.”
Sadly, none of them involved the Liberal Democratic party or its leader.
To be able to form a government the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons needs to be able to count on a minimum of 326 votes: otherwise, as soon as the government does something which the opposition cannot approve of, they can hold a vote of no confidence which the government will lose: Parliament is dissolved, a general election occurs.
The median age of the population of the UK is 40.2: the last time there was a general election called in those circumstances was October 1974. Over half the population are not old enough to remember this except as a historical report: no one under 56 is old enough to have voted in 1974, the year of two elections. Gordon Brown would have been 23 that year.
Ed Miliband wouldn’t yet have been 5: Nick Clegg was 7: David Cameron would have been 7 at the time of the first General Election in 1974, and the second happened the day after his 8th birthday.
I woke up yesterday to a Tory on Twitter accusing all of us who have protested the NHS Reform of being “hysterical”. A Lib Dem suggested that we really shouldn’t call it privatisation because that’s just a dystopic fantasy. She and another LibDem were telling me that I shouldn’t blame the Liberal Democrats or the Tories because this was all Labour’s fault really, I ought to be complaining about what the Labour government were doing back when they were in power, not about what the Tories and LibDems are doing now.
[And by Friday, Lord Ashcroft had published a concern troll at ConHome: update below.]