What's the point of the Liberal Democrats?

Posted by Alexander Hay

Compromised once again, is it time to kick the Lib Dems to the kerb?

The Liberal Democrat party, yesterday

The phone-hacking scandal continues to reveal harsh truths we all sort of knew to begin with.

Yes, we already accepted that many of the news-gathering tactics of the tabloid press were corrupt and criminal. Yes, we did already suppose that David Cameron was risking far too much by being involved with Andy Coulson, Rebecca Wade and the rest of the Chipping Norton set.

And yes, the insatiable public demand for grubby trivia was in and of itself a corrupting and demeaning force, the raking through a celebrity's bins and the callous spying on grieving families merely separated by several logical, inevitable steps.

What's not being noticed, for the most part, is that the scandal reveals once again how utterly worthless the Liberal Democrats are. Last Sunday's Observer had two depressing revelations.

Firstly, Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown admitted voicing concerns about Cameron's hiring of Coulson, but was so keen for the coalition between Conservatives and his party to go ahead that these (well-founded) fears were not made public.

Secondly, the current Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, also had 'concerns' (or, as they are known in the trade, 'a deep awareness of the blindingly obvious), but washed his hands of the affair.

He claimed his position was too weak (despite being responsible for keeping Cameron in No. 10) and that it was none of his business who Cameron hired as his Communications Director in any case(!) Vince Cable's loose lips, meanwhile, seemed to have all but guaranteed Murdoch's takeover of Sky regardless of any scandal.

This poses a rhetorical question - 'what are the Lib Dems for?' At present, it seems only craven opportunism, bumbling naivety and cowardice in equal measure, and a complete lack of moral and political leadership. Given a taste for power, and the third party has revealed itself for what it is, and it is not something to be admired.

But while Labour leader Ed Miliband sticks the knife into Cameron and Rupert Murdoch scrambles to protect his still considerable political influence, the part played by the Lib Dems (or lack thereof) in the scandal is overlooked.

Ever the opportunists, the party will, of course, happily hide in the Fog of War. They have also jumped on the bandwagon by being first to offer to support Labour's parliamentary motion calling for a delay in Jeremy Hunt's final decision on whether Murdoch's News Corporation can take over Sky, inspiring the equally as opportunistic Tories to do likewise yesterday.

And yet the Lib Dems are culpable not by what they have done, but what they have not. In doing so, the party has exposed itself as being every bit as bankrupt as Cameron, Murdoch and everyone else tainted by this affair.

Perversely, they seem the least likely to suffer any repercussions (though with approval ratings of only 8%, this will hardly help them either.)

Besides, in terms of credibility and standing for something, the Lb Dems have, in any case, nothing to lose.

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Alexander Hay

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