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So long, farewell ….

In beginning today’s post – a brief comment upon the resignation of Lib-Dem Norman Baker from his role as a Home Office minister – I should perhaps begin with a declaration of (non) interest.

I have never voted in any political election, I am not a supporter of any of the three main – sorry, five if you count UKIP and the Greens – parties and I regard myself as an agnostic on principle as regards the concept of coalitions in British politics. In addition I hold a particular lack of respect for all members of the Lib-Dem party, purely on the basis that they stand for everything that I feel is wrong with Britain’s political class.

Those attracted to the Lib-Dem party – it seems to me – are primarily those who, (I grudgingly grant) interested in politics, are keen on being part of the ‘Westminster bubble’ but (and this is the crucial point) not actually interested in being in power.

They cannot admit this, of course, because – to justify their tiny but oh-so-privileged seating at the top table of politics – hypocritically, they have to pretend that they are, simply because you could hardly go into any election trumpeting the essential Lib-Dem truth: “Please vote for me because I want to be able to be a part of Westminster political scene for the next five years”.

The fact is that, inevitably, political principles and ideals tend to get parked at the door whenever an elected politician gains power. Simply because that’s a fact of life.

You can have all the liberal and ethically-sound aspirations you like about not dealing with dictatorships which oppress their own people and/or whose attitudes to gays, women and other minorities might not meet those which (in an ideal world) might be your preferred and politically-correct ones, but when your embattled home defence industry might lose tens of thousands of jobs if (say) their aircraft and armaments are not sold to some Middle East potentate or corrupt African dictator, you’ve got some difficult choices to make.

Because – if you don’t sell them those arms – then perhaps China, France or some other (less politically-correct, but perhaps more practical) country, which is also perfectly happy to pay bribes and backhanders if required, will be only too happy to do so in your place.

The bulk of world statesmanship and diplomacy is always to do with trading away your principles in the bigger quest to be seen to achieve something – anything – potentially positive in the geo-political field.

Which brings me to Norman Baker – by nature a quirky, vaguely entertaining, political mediocrity – who (inevitably) found his natural home in the Lib-Dem party, i.e. the perfect repository for those ambition is to achieve Britain’s highest form of comfortable ‘power without responsibility’ and thereby the opportunity to appear in, and/or be approached to provide for a quote by, the media.

Baker is the type of maverick who – in any commercial business worthy of the description – would never be promoted to any position of responsibility, well perhaps beyond that of making an annual appearance as compere of the firm’s Christmas staff party.

In his resignation announcement, it was telling that Baker described working under Home Secretary Teresa May as akin to “walking through mud”. It wouldn’t have occurred to him – being a Lib-Dem – that, in government (irrespective of its hue), that is exactly what the exercise of power is all about.

If you cannot stand the heat, either get out of the kitchen (as the saying goes) or else hold your head up and admit “Sorry chaps, I’m just not up to the job – I’ll only get frustrated as being both out of my depth and unable to cope with the responsibility. I’m doing the decent thing and declining the offer …”

By definition, for fifty years and more, no Lib-Dem has been fit to serve in a government – a situation that endures to this day even though, of course, they are in the current Coalition government. People like Norman Baker are far happier being in British political opposition where they had hold forth about how the current incumbent government is doing everything wrong and how they’d do everything so much better if they were in power … all the while safe in the knowledge that they never will be.

By instinct the bulk of the Lib-Dem party would always prefer to be in opposition. The trouble with the 2010 General Election result was that it effectively – by complete happenchance – gave them the balance of power and (what at that stage seemed) a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be in office. What were they going to do? Stay in opposition forever … or take that extraordinary option of ‘being in power’.

Vanity decided their response.

Even if in 2015 they return to the oblivion of permanent political opposition, at least the Lib-Dems will be able to tell their grandchildren “I was part of a government once”. What’s not to like about that? It’s akin to being one of those mascot kids that walk out holding hand with members of the England soccer team before an international at Wembley. Even if England went on to lose 4-0 against Italy on that occasion, at least you can say you were once a participant in a Wembley England home international.

Goodbye Norman. May you enjoy your long retirement on the back benches at the British taxpayers’ expense. That’s assuming you hold onto your seat in 2015, of course!



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About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts