Swinson: The Principle is Power, All the Rest is Propaganda

The Principle is Power, All the Rest is Propaganda

Jim Grundy

Politics attracts a diverse group of people. They include those motivated by a genuine desire to do what is best for the community, focused on the issues, to the rather larger group of those who want to do what’s best for themselves, focused on, er, themselves. And we could scarcely have that latter tendency better illustrated than by the current crop of politicians.

Of course it is very far from true that those who get actively involved in politics are all self-serving, power-hungry ego-junkies but the fact has to be faced that a disproportionate number of them are. It can be seen at local and national levels: no principle can be too important to be dismissed; no (relative) triviality built up to be so essential, as long as it serves their path to and the retention of power.

That kind of ‘flexibility’ on the issues engenders, and quite deliberately so, a kind of world-weariness in the public, content to accept that lies and hypocrisy are simply part and parcel of the common currency of all politicians. What might have caused outrage in the past barely raises a shrug in some now, accepting that all politicians lie, so their choice is simply between the lies they like the best. Opinion is given equal status with fact and Fred down the pub’s view is as valid as that of a Nobel Prize-winning economist.

Volumes could be written of the current Prime Minister’s statements that he has since contradicted, denied or been shown to have simply lied about. But what should have rendered the individual unfit to clean the lavatories in Lambeth is casually accepted as the norm. But he is too soft a target. Let’s consider the exemplars of the tendency under discussion: the Liberal Democrats.

A former colleague taught me an important lessons once: that there are some people who will attach themselves to an issue because it is the right thing to do; and there are others who will do so because it will enhance their own careers. And that brings us to consider the conduct of Swinson and, before her, Clegg.

Right now the Liberal Democrats have pinned their colours to Brexit, an issue that they believe will attract support away from the two main parties (I had written ‘rivals’ but that doesn’t quite work). While past track record is no guarantee of future performance, as any investment advisor will caution, it is worth looking at.

In 2010 their big idea was to scrap tuition fees. What did they do once in Government? Treble them…. Compromises had to be made, etc., etc. Their commitment vanished in the blink of a jaundiced eye once their real goal had been obtained – Nick Clegg getting a ministerial car to play with.

Now in 2019 Swinson claims to want a second referendum on Brexit. Despite there being a clear means of bringing it about by joining in with all other ‘Opposition’ (tricky concept for her, I realise) parties, she has refused to do this. Why if that is truly her objective? For the simple reason that that would not deliver what she and her party want most – power.

But, as in 2010, since their aim was not to improve access to further education but to get into Government, in 2019, Brexit is simply a cover for the same ambition. Ok, all politicians want power and influence but what kind of leaders do we want who are content to treat any promise as such an easily disposable commodity? Voter fraud would be nearer to the truth…. (But that’s another subject.)

The recent ‘acquisition’ of former Labour and Tory M.P.’s should demonstrate just how flexible the Liberal Democrats can be on any point of principle. But they all have one thing in common – a search for the line of least resistance to their own path to government. The Liberal Democrats offer a less crowded field than either the Tories or Labour. It is certainly a field clear of any tricky matters of principle.

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