Someone on Twitter (sorry, I would have given you a name-check, but your tweet has vanished down the timeline), is speculating on just how much the Liberal Democrats care about actual people as opposed to politics for its own sake, given their support for voting reform and reform of the House of Lords, but total lack of support for the Welfare State or the NHS.
I think I have the answer to that.
Around 1992, in a fit of pique over the Labour Party’s inability to stop tearing itself apart, I joined the LibDems. I even contacted the local group, asked what I could do for them, and was asked to deliver their newsletter in my area.
Which I duly did, trundling round the streets, whatever the weather, on my newly acquired mobility scooter.
And then the letters from head office started rolling in, interested not in me as a new member who, perhaps, could be nurtured to become a LibDem activist or, perhaps, even someone who might get involved in local, or even national, politics, in time, but a steady stream of begging letters, treating me as a cash cow to be milked to the last drop. Not that they actually succeeded in squeezing any money out of me, as I rapidly came to resent the frequency with which these missives arrived.
And so it went on, for over a year, and pretty much the only contact I had with local party members was if I bumped into them in the pub, or when they delivered the newsletter for distribution, usually the same people. Oh, almost forgot – they did ask me to do a stint at a polling station, asking people how they’d voted (this information is vital for getting a feel for how things are going), and putting up with their hostility – I didn’t understand why a supporter of a political party would be reticent about disclosing the fact that they’d voted for them to a party member, but the Labour and Tory people were treated with equal contempt.**
Anyway, back on topic and, almost inevitably, my health eventually took a nosedive, and I wasn’t able to carry on delivering the newsletter.
So I wrote, explaining the problem, and apologising for having to pull out, expecting, as a basic courtesy, a note thanking me for my help and, maybe, wishing me well.
Nothing. Not even a phone call. Bumped into them occasionally in the pub – not even a mention.
Disheartened, I let my membership lapse. In most organisations this would generate a reminder or two. Again, nothing. The only sign that I was no longer a member was that the begging letters stopped – eventually.
So, in answer to the opening question, I can say, based on previous personal experience, along with the egregious, dishonest, self-serving and gutless conduct of the LibDems in the current Parliament, that, on the whole, they care nothing at all for the people, but are in it purely for themselves.
That’s an attitude most people believe will consign them to well-deserved political oblivion in 2015 when, having sown the wind, they will surely reap the whirlwind of the electorate’s anger. Me, I hope so, but I’m not so sure.
I’m pretty certain Clegg is history, and rightly so (though I suspect he’s hoping for a peerage for his support, if Cameron gets back in – good luck with that!), but I have a very strong feeling that the party as a whole will pick up quite a few right-wing votes, maybe even enough to save them from being wiped out, or reduced to a rump, but I sincerely hope not. While I do feel for LibDem rank and file (though having failed to empty out Clegg, perhaps they, too, deserve what they get?), the LibDems in Parliament are beneath contempt.
**There is a strange and misplaced belief that voting in British elections is secret, which is as far from the truth as it can be.
When you present your polling card, they look you up on a copy of the electoral register for your area, then they give you a ballot paper which is stamped with a number – that number is then entered against your name. It follows, as surely as night follows day, that the votes of every person in the country can be known if anyone cares to check, and that’s been the case as long as I’ve been eligible to vote, and probably a lot longer.
There is absolutely no confidentiality in the British electoral system.