It’s no secret that the Lib Dems are doing better right now than they have since the early 80s heyday of the SDP, nor that the Tories and their friends in the press have gone into serious and sustained brick production as a result – something neatly demonstrated by the picture to the right of this paragraph.
I’ve grabbed the picture from @JonathanHaynes which I hope is okay with him (I’ve dropped him a line). I wouldn’t normally do it, but I figure this is the sort of picture that we want spread far and wide. You can see the full size original here.)
Now when it comes to reasons not to vote Lib Dem, people tend to come up with two broad objections:
1) It’s a wasted vote because the Lib Dems can’t win.
2) There’s no point because all politicians and all political parties are the same. They’re all just corrupt and after power.
Point 1 is easily proved with basic maths and logic. The Lib Dems will win the same way as everyone else – by getting lots of votes. If the Lib Dem share of the vote pushes into the high thirties then Nick Clegg will be our next Prime Minister; if it pushes into the forties, he’ll most likely end up sitting on a huge majority.
Point 2 is perhaps harder, because it’s based on opinions, and prejudicial ones at that, rather than facts. But it too can be strongly argued against.
I should declare a bias here. I’m a Lib Dem supporter, though rather lapsed, and I come from a strongly Lib Dem, and Liberal before that, family. My grandfather was a Liberal all his life. My mother has a been a Lib Dem activist since 1974. So what? Well let’s think about what that means…
Take John O’Farrell’s admittedly entertaining book about his time as a Labour activist in the electoral wilderness: “Things Can Only Get Better: Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter, 1979-1997”. Eighteen miserable years? Eighteen? Try ninety-four fucking years in the wilderness, and then maybe you can whine about how crap it was. My grandfather was born in 1908, lived until the age of 82, was a Liberal all his life, and yet he died not ever knowing, not even once, what it was like to wake up the morning after a general election knowing that his party had won.
And yet, he stuck at it.
Like I said, my mother because a Liberal activist in 1974. A good chunk of my childhood memories involve being dragged around delivering leaflets or helping out at jumble sales. (Yeah, it wasn’t glamorous – it was pretty much all delivering thousands of leaflets and doing lots of jumble sales to pay for them).
When she joined the Liberals, her local constituency party – which covered ten council wards returning thirty councillors – had a grand total of no MP and no councillors. In 1985, eleven years later, they got a councillor elected in a bye-election. And that win wasn’t just the first time she’d been involved in a winning election – they’d never previously achieved better than a poor third.
And she’s still at, with my dad, aged 76 and 71, in a Labour-Conservative marginal in which the Lib Dems are a distant third place, in a local party that after up and downs is now back down to just a couple of councillors, and perhaps none come 6th May. In just this one election these two pensioners will deliver literally several thousand leaflets themselves, because there’s no one else in their ward to do it.
My parents are not corrupt, but they’re not stupid either. They both passed the 11+ and got A Levels in an age when only the top 12% did so. Trust me, if power was what they were interested in, they’d have picked a better way of achieving it.
And that’s the root of my argument. People can’t have it both ways. They can’t dismiss the Lib Dems for having picked what is clearly a very long, hard route to power, but then accuse those who’ve taken that long, hard route as being interested only in the greedy pursuit of personal glory and self-aggrandisement.
What has kept Lib Dem activists and Liberal party activists before them going for ninety-four fucking years since the last time there was a Liberal Party in government?
Whatever it is, I find it hard to believe it’s the naked pursuit of power.