Enigma Variations

by Quinn

I’m well aquainted with the format used in the Liberal Democrat leaflets round our way; for one thing, I used to deliver the things during my formative years. They never used to waste much time fannying about with criticising the Labour party (or “Labour can’t win here”, to give them their full title). Even when Labour was in power in central government, those Liberal Democrat leaflets would concentrate their fire on the Conservatives. Sure, Labour would cop a bit of the flak and rightly so, but it was the Tories, being the main opposition on the local council as well as the challengers and former incumbents of the parliamentary seat that the Lib Dems would focus on. And this suited me fine, being a generally pro-Liberal but definitely anti-Tory kind of guy.

Which brings me to the latest Liberal Democrat leaflet, which dropped, through my door the other day. And what do you know? Now it seems that all of the world’s woes are Labour’s fault after all, while of the Conservatives we hear nothing much at all. It’s an understandable air-brushing of course; now that the Liberal Democrats are part of the national government in coalition with the Conservatives it’s no surprise that the tune has had to be changed. But seeing as this leaflet is billed as a “Local News Extra” (my emphasis) it would be nice if it perhaps featured some succour for locally born-and-raised rabid Tory haters such as myself.

But no, instead we learn about how the “Liberal Democrats in Government have been working hard to tackle the shocking legacy of debt left by Labour”. Which is fair enough. But I must have missed the bit where the Lib Dems continually complained about the gradual growth in public debt under Labour prior to the recession, then opposed the fiscal stimulus afterwards. I certainly remember them explicitly stating before the election that we should wait a while before tackling the budget deficit lest such a fiscal tightening should snuff out any nascent recovery. In all, it’s hard to see how the level of the debt today would have been all that different if the Lib Dems had themselves been in government for the last few years. So what has changed since the election and now? Oh, yes. Power.

Nowhere, I think, better shows the logical contortions that being a Liberal Democrat now necessitates than when the leaflet comes onto the subject of the Nimrod aircraft programme, which employs (or employed) hundreds of highly-skilled workers at the BAE Systems factory in Woodford within the Cheadle parliamentary constituency. Says local Lib Dem MP Mark Hunter

I am bitterly disappointed that Labour overspending has led to the MRA4 Nimrod Project being cancelled. It makes me so angry that people in this area are having to shoulder the burden because Labour spent and promised money they didn’t have.

But as it says elsewhere, “Mark has consistently supported the Nimrod project at BAE Systems in Woodford”. Doesn’t that mean that he himself has consistently supported at least that part of Labour’s monstrous overspending, which has led to that “shocking legacy of debt”? If Nimrod is an example of Labour spending money it didn’t have, why didn’t he oppose it all along? Unless, of course, he doesn’t consider Nimrod itself to be a waste of money, in which case why the hell is the coalition cutting it? Why not continue to support Nimrod since it is an example of good spending by the last government, oppose its cancellation by this current coalition government, and campaign instead for those many and varied wasteful projects to be cut instead?

Can you have it both ways, really? Is Nimrod a waste of money or not? If it is, why did you support it in the first place? If not, why are you cutting it now? Oh, who cares, let’s just blame Labour and be done with it.

As I said, locally the Conservatives are the Lib Dems electoral opposition; as you can see above, the leaflet even includes a handy graph to show you just what that means. So, while tediously predictable, it still seems daft that in a local leaflet the Conservatives get such a free ride; Labour, meanwhile, get both barrels, despite the fact that they don’t have a hope in hell of winning here at the next election. But then, if my current voting intentions are in any way indicative of wider opinion, neither do the Liberal Democrats.