Britain: the LibDems struggle to shore up support

Trailing in polls at 11%, the junior Coalition partners desperately try to distance themselves from the Tories.

It must be hard, I suppose. There they are, the minority voice in the Conservative-led government and the Liberal Democrats have witnessed their support collapsing to unacceptible levels. They lost the AV referendum, have suffered dire press due to scandals, and now stage their Conference in Birmingham where they plan to place clear Yellow water between themselves and the Tories. 

Sticking to the economic recovery policy agreed at the outset, they need to appeal to their core vote. And if possible re-attract some of the support which has drifted to Labour since Ed Miliband's election. So, Nick Clegg, their Leader, and Danny Alexander, their high-profile (and untainted) Treasury man, have spoken in ways bound to attract press coverage. 

Clegg has said he won't step down despite claims he's a Tory-in-disguise. Alexander has charged Eurosceptics (William Hague might be deemed as one) as anti-European and "enemies of growth". Tim Farron, their President, has described the Coalition arrangement as a "marriage" which won't survive the next election.  Although Farron remained committed to the debt reduction programme and stressed the durability of the Coalition until 2015. Bitingly, he also referred to the Conservative response to recent rioting as "reactionary Tory drivel".

Yet who can take these people seriously? To describe Eurosceptics as being enemies of growth is to misinterpret the facts. EU membership is damaging the UK due to huge and persistent trade deficits. It prevents the country from profitably re-engaging with former trade partners. And simultaneously thwarts economic and social development by issuing irritating and costly bureaucratic edicts from Brussels. Anyone with a modicum of sense would realise that an unfettered Conservative government could progress its agenda (including withdrawal from the EU?) should it become unshackled from the constraints of Coalition.

Interestingly, the LibDems' German partners in Europe, the Free Democrats (FDP), junior partners in the German Coalition, are becoming increasingly Eurosceptic. Following a drubbing in the September 18 poll for the Berlin state legislature, the FDP are likely to move "more anti-euro and destabilise Mrs Merkel's government" alerts the BBC. Apparently the LibDems are out-of-sinc even with their own key allies in the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party. 

In the UK, the Labour Party is not yet resurgent. By-and-large they concur with Tory thinking about the root-causes of the riots and the need for a forthright response to them.

The LibDems are out on a limb, and they know it. Are they so out of touch that they don't realise why the electorate has marginalised them? Unless things change dramatically, the UK will revert to squeezing Liberal votes at elections and seats will fall like nine-pins. Heady assertions of three party politics will be a distant memory. 

That's why they need clear Yellow water. But they're seemingly so divorced from reality that the volume of murky water being poured into the dyke will possibly drown them.

Clegg is unlikely to survive the next election as Leader. And the LibDems will return to the sidelines of politics where Europhiles belong in Britain's modern era. A collapse of the single currency might drive the final nail into the European integration project, a dream to which very few Brits now aspire.

Alexander and his colleagues would be well advised to think up alternative strategies and more relevant policies to attract the voting public. Or is innovation and change beyond the capacity of the current LibDem top brass?

I'd say bring back the brilliant David Laws. But he was the guy Danny Alexander replaced in the cabinet, wasn't he? And Laws had to resign over an expenses scandal, one resulting in a Commons suspension. A tragic result, really. An insightful thinker, Laws is sorely needed now. But are either the general public or LibDem membership that forgiving?

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