I wasn’t able to get to the Liberal Democrat party conference this year, which is
a shame as it is probably the first time it’s been interesting since Jeremy Thorpe’s mate shot that dog. There is an irony in the fact that the least compelling Liberal leader of the
last fifty years, and the one who presided over the most disappointing election result, given the expectations, is nonetheless the first to have some form of role in government. Of the previous six
leaders only Thorpe, I think, would have signed up to the current coalition, largely out of vaulting ambition. Despite his protestations of support, it is hard to think of Ashdown doing such a
thing, and impossible for Kennedy, Steel, Campbell and Grimond. Owen, however, would have done so, I suppose, if you want to count him.
And so we have a rather wonderful false reality, with leftish Lib Dems screaming blue murder about “cuts” which do not exist (see Jeff Randall’s recent piece in the daily
Telegraph for more about this) and Clegg and co claiming credit for having shoe-horned Lib Dem policy into government, despite there being no sign of it being enacted. It is slightly easier to
believe that this coalition will sustain for more than a couple of years than it was back in May, if only because of the endless capacity for self-delusion which exists within Clegg’s party.
Or realism, which ever term you prefer.