The rise of the Liberal Democrats?

Britain’s Chernenko: the dead leader of a dead country

Gordon Brown and David Cameron are so pathetic and contemptible, and Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, apparently did such a “sparkling” job in the recent three way TV debate in the British parliamentary elections (which probably means that he was marginally less pathetic and contemptible than Brown and Cameron), that the Liberal Democrats in a major surprise are now leading the polls: Lib Dems 32, Tories 31, Labor 28.

As the Mail tells us:

[Y]ou have to go back to 1906, before opinion polls or television existed, for the last time the Liberals had the most popular support.

They won a landslide Election under Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and polled nearly 50 per cent of all votes.

I didn’t realize until reading that passage, and then checking Wikipedia, that the Liberal Democrats—that irrelevant leftist third party whose leaders we’ve heard wasting oxygen in the House of Commons the last twenty years—are descended from the old Liberal Party, one of the two main parties in Britain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when it was led by such notables as Gladstone, Asquith, and Lloyd-George. As mentioned in the Mail, the Liberals reached their apogee in the huge election landslide of 1906 and ruled Britain for the next decade. They went into eclipse after about 1920, when the Marxist-based Labor Party replaced them as one of the two major parties. However, the Liberal Party did not (as I had thought) go out of existence, but remained as a third party in the House of Commons. Then in 1988 it joined with the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a Labor breakaway group, to form the Liberal Democrats. (Also, there is a tiny Liberal Party which never accepted the merger with the SDP and remains in existence to this day.)

Like its descendant, the Liberal Democrats, the Liberal Party itself was formed by a coalition of parties, in the mid 19th century, between the Whig Party and the Peelites, a group led by former Tory Prime Minister Robert Peel who had broken with the Conservatives by supporting free trade. The Liberal Democrats thus have a descent that goes all the way back to the Revolution of 1688, when parliament displaced the monarchy as the ruling power in Britain and the Whigs, who had led the revolution, largely ruled England for the next century.

But, as I always say, liberalism keeps moving to the left, and I have no notion of how the Liberal Democrats, a party of the left, differ in any significant way from Labor. For that matter, I have no notion of how the Conservative Party, which is now a party of the left, differs in any significant way from Labor.

The emptiness of the Liberal Democrats is brought out by Thatcherite Norman Tebbit, quoted at the Corner:

Some of the Lefties’ triumphalism at the public reaction to The Great TV Debate was wildly overdone. You might have thought that Cameron broke down and cried, or shouted “We’re all doomed”. He didn’t. He held his own and scored points on the NHS and even, unlikely as it was, on immigration.

None the less, once again the lesson to be learned is that he who lives by the sword dies by the sword. David Cameron claimed the leadership of the Conservative Party as the new broom that would sweep away the old Thatcherite guard who used to go around winning elections and talking about hard choices. His new Conservative Party would be no longer “nasty” but modern, new, compassionate and untainted by the past.

[Liberal Democratic leader] Nick Clegg played the same game and played it very well. Mr Clegg bundled up Mr Cameron with Mr Brown as joint leaders of the nasty old two-party racket that had mismanaged Britain for the last 30 years. He, Mr Clegg, assured us was more modern, more compassionate, more new and utterly uncontaminated with all the nastiness of recent times. Left to him, all soldiers would have all the kit they had ever dreamed of, the poor would be made rich, the sick restored to health, the national debt washed away with no cost or inconvenience to anyone except the very rich. The Lib Dems, he explained, would deal with immigration without stopping people coming here, they could deal with corruption because they were not corrupt, and bring in a honest electoral system which would ensure that a lot more Lib Dems would be elected.

And he got away with it!

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 18, 2010 03:17 PM | Send

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