Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Slowest Man On Earth?

66 years old is fine, returning
to the politics of the 70s isn't
First of all I must apologise for to the many very decent Lib Dem supporters I know both personally and on-line because this being conference season I fear it will be your party that shall be attracting the bulk of my ire over the next few days, and, if I'm honest I do think there are signs of things going very wrong with the Lib Dems that go far beyond questions of leadership.

I was very disappointed to be working today at a site where nearly all on-line media access is banned, as I had hoped to catch up on some blood letting at the Lib Dem conference.

I have to admit to having some small sympathy for Menzies. Yes he is relatively elderly by the standards of recent party leaders, but that is no bar to high office. I don't think any have really claimed it is, but some of the cheap shots both in the mainstream media, and the online alternatives have left a bad taste in the mouth. It may even be true that his restrained, measured approach appeals to some segment of the electorate. It clearly didn't work for Iain Duncan-Smith and the polling data suggests it isn't working for him either, but it isn't, in of itself, a ridiculous proposition to put to the electorate.

It is in his attempts recently to raise his profile that my sympathy has started to dry up. His position on a referendum on the European report treaty stood in stark contrast to his ridiculous parroting of the 'real party of opposition line' on TV on Sunday, aping the government's discredited line poodle-fashion.

The Sunday attacks on the government had little substance and those against the Conservative party had none, being little more than ad hominem attacks on David Cameron. It was rather ironic to hear the standard 'lacking substance' line being trotted out against someone who is involved in a very substantial policy debate within one party, by a man who appears to be making his own parties policy up on the hoof.

I shall be kind about his suggestion for a referendum on the whole issue of the UK's continuing participation in the EU. Yes it is possible that it was just another knee-jerk, badly media managed response to the negative reaction to his earlier referendum position. Yes it is possible that he believes deep down that it was a safe line knowing that, as is allegedly the case with Blair on the same topic that, be it because of pressure from Brussels or the British Civil Service, that no such poll will ever take place anytime soon.

For all of that, it is now his position, on the record, period and he deserves the benefit of the doubt, and the assumption that he indeed does understand the need of the electorate to be consulted if we are ever to treat the open sore of our relationship with the EU.

Whatever credit that brought him though, must surely be wiped out entirely by his new idea that any household with a combined income of over £70,000 must be taxed until the pips squeak, as they have, apparently done 'rather too well' of late. In this we see the ravages of adult-onset leftism on the mind at their very worst. As ever, the hate and envy shone through first before any suggestion was made of what might be done with this new levy on hard working people, and what might be achieved by stripping them of yet more financial independence.

A rearguard attempt to wipe up the mess was made by an official spokesman, who pointed to a majority saying in a poll that they would support more taxes on the rich. Well, yes, but even leaving aside the fact that such polls always suffer from the 'Do you like clubbing baby seals?' syndrome, the one in question asked about those individuals earning more than £100,000, not say a middle ranking teacher married to a nurse who could easily fall in to Sir Menzies' definition of those who have done 'rather too well'.

It looks on the surface that Campbell has embarked on the writing of a suicide note to rival Neil Kinnock's in length. The key beneficiaries should by right be the Conservatives, but to harvest this windfall they will have to do a lot better job than in the past, of making plain at election time, the links between genial, reasonable sounding local Lib Dem candidates and disastrously wrong-headed national policy.

I have a Lib Dem front bencher for my local MP, he seems to be a genuinely nice man, and by all accounts a good local MP for all his party duties. If he should stand again and the current Campbell agenda becomes manifesto policy, I'm sorry but he must be tarred with it, for all that he may personally be of a different, and in my opinion truer, strand of liberalism.

The Lib Dems can put forward any policies they wish to the electorate, but they must expect their opponents to fight their chimeric presentation on the doorstep more strongly than ever before.

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