What does it mean to be a Liberal Democrat today? Essay eight

Those pesky Lib Dems. Why won’t they curl up and die? They’re up against a distorted voting system, a hostile press, and all our money. We’ve stolen their messages, their campaigning techniques, their votes and now most of their seats. Whenever they’ve threatened to break through, we’ve knocked them back. Thatcher beat their predecessors by letting Argentina invade the Falklands. Under Major we got people to stand against them as Literal Democrats. Blair and Brown promised electoral reform. We used the coalition to pretend to be Liberal Conservatives, while getting our friends in the press to smear their leaders, and unleashing the threat of English and Scottish nationalism. Now we’ve bullied the BBC into giving them far less airtime than any other party. Even the Daily Mail gets more panellists on Question Time. They should give up now.

We wiped them out in 2015. During the coalition we kept the Lib Dems busy rescuing the economy, protecting schools and hospitals, promoting renewable energy, breaking down barriers for minorities, and making our taxes fairer – in the face of opposition from our right-wingers. We just sat back and claimed the credit. We targeted their seats ruthlessly with scare stories about foreigners, Labour, the SNP and even UKIP. We got our friends in the polling agencies and the media to make it look like Labour might win. We fudged all the big issues like Europe and airports, and how we were really planning to cut the cost of welfare benefits, while parroting Lib Dem proposals on mental health, school meals and housing.

We refused to debate national issues with them unless UKIP, the Greens and two sets of nationalists were there too. And we distracted Lib Dem voters, through phoney ‘Labour’ or ‘Green’ leaflets attacking them for compromising their principles – by putting public before party and going into coalition with us!

But still they keep coming back – like yellow cockroaches, banging on about fairness and freedom, the environment, transparency, civil rights and democracy. As if we don’t care about all that crap too. Or at least we say we do.

And it’s frightening how quickly they can come back. It’s not just tens of thousands of new members, they’ve started winning council by-elections against us, sometimes with huge swings. They’ve won against Labour too and they’ve even beaten our SNP friends. They keep delivering their damned leaflets and their canvassers can open doors where Tories or Labour would be sent packing. By 2020 none of our safe seats can be regarded as safe. Just look at what happened in Canada where their sister party came back to win from third place.

So what’s their secret? They champion unpopular causes. They won’t scapegoat minorities. They won’t be bribed. They won’t flip-flop over policies. They’re not ambitious for themselves. They just want to build a fair, free and open society, in which nobody is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. And they really seem to mean it. They put their community and the environment and international cooperation ahead of selfish vested interests. They enrage our hardliners by preaching moderation, tolerance and proportionality. They challenge tyranny, but without wanting to replace it with a tyranny of their own. They seek power not for its own sake, or as a means to an end, but so they can give it away. They reject the easy career option of joining the Tories or Labour and just doing as they’re told.

Who do these selfless individuals think they are? Mandela, Gandhi, the Buddha, Jesus Christ, Aung San Suu Kyi? Don’t they understand the realities of privilege, of patronage, of power? These people and their liberal ideas are dangerous. They must be crushed.