I went down to the allotments just before 10.00pm last night to check the hen-coop locks. I was greeted by a wondrous sight, dozens of lights were pointing at the ground over the whole area, and all were moving as if held by human hands. Martians? No, why the hell would they come to this godforsaken spot. Lib Dems digging their own graves? A real possibility. In fact it was a ritual of placing flower pots over tender plants by plot-holders who had just picked up the last-minute warning of severe frost from the Met Office. This morning they were all there on a giant flower-pot hunt punctuated by the occasional obscenity, the frost having failed to materialise.
But the Lib Dem theory was not as daft as it sounds. We codgers are surprised that they are surprised, given that their identity has become completely submerged beneath a bumbling pile of Old Etonians. And now things are likely to get a good deal worse as Cameron’s critics on the right wing of his party feel emboldened by the electoral thrashing to demand that such policies as the Lib Dems have demanded (Reform of the Lords, same-sex marriages, closer EU ties et al) be tossed into the bin. If Cameron continues to offer a deaf ear expect demands for a leadership election, especially if, as expected, he is exposed to more revelations about his relationship with Rebekah Brooks.
But the Conservatives will recover, not least because their golden boy has seen off surly Ken in the London mayoral election. If a leadership vote took place today Cameron would be on Norman Tebbit’ bike, and the mad but endearing Boris would be inviting ‘totty’ to 10 Downing Street. If the polls do not improve the only politician to provide our laughter medicine will be on his way. He may be to the right of Ghengis Khan on policy, but he has the common touch. Who will ever forget his chaotic performance as chairman of ‘Have I got News for You’.
But it is the Lib Demmers who face permanent obliteration unless they take dramatic action. Lord Oakeshott, the former Lib Dem Treasury spokesman and mouthpiece for Vince Cable, said; “We have got to face it..our crucial activist base is being wiped away. What matters for me is whether we can fight the next election as a nationwide, independent force. If we have another year like this we won’t be able to”.
John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said that if the present trend continues the Lib Dem 40 years of steady gains and progress will be “totally wiped out”. In Sunderland, one of the many places where the party was routed, Paul Dixon, who lost his seat to Labour, said that the blame rests firmly on “Clegg and his cronies in government”. He added that “Clegg should take a real hard look at what he is doing”.
He probably didn’t realise that what Clegg is actually doing is planning a repeat of his Rose Garden love-in with Cameron. Perhaps our Nick has finally flipped, for powerful voices in his party are now demanding that he stands down. Yesterday Lembit Opik – him of the gorgeous ‘totty’ that even Boris envies – called on Clegg to quit. He claimed that many members have privately declared that Clegg cannot possibly be allowed to lead the party at the next election. He may be reflecting wisdom, for this morning’s polls show that had the Lib Dems been led by other than Clegg their performance would have been significantly better.
Had that been the case, they might even have beaten the man dressed up as a penguin in the Edinburgh elections. That hilarious incident summed up the Lib Dem dilemna. A large swathe of their previous support has drifted away, they are despised by their Conservative ‘partners’ and laughed at by almost everyone else.
Only one thing can save the Liberal Democrats from becoming a minor fringe party trailing along with Ukip and the rest. They have to exit the coalition, jettison Nick Clegg, and face an election with a new leader capable of making clear that the party’s beliefs must from hereon be sacrosanct.
They probably won’t, in which case another author can produce an update on Dangerfield’s “Strange Death of the Liberal Party”, the story of the original Liberals who also failed to come to terms with the reality of a leader who climbed into bed with creatures of the right. That was Lloyd George and in his case he had a much more powerful base. Mind you, he probably literally did the bed-sharing bit.
We codgers take no pleasure in this obituary. Several of us wore ‘I Agree With Nick’ sweaters at the time when he routed Cameron and Grumpy Gordon in the TV debates. He promised a new approach to British politics, and given the national disillusionment, heaven knows we need one. What he did was to lead his party down the hill, at the bottom of which wait lots of geezers dressed as penguins!
SOME THINGS SHOULD NEVER CHANGE!
When my sons were young Cup Final Day was a unique ritual in our household. They watched hours of ‘build-up’ nonsense, and their excitement reached fever-point as the magical hour of 3.00pm neared. Even adults felt some sense of magic in an age when live football on the box was as rare as hen’ teeth.
Of course times change. But surely some traditions should be inviolate. Yet today’s big match kicks off at 5.15pm. I shall watch it but it will not seem the same.
What Liverpool supporters feel about it is easy to guess, especially since the railways have decided to close over half of the network. But what the punters feel has long since ceased to matter!