Dancing on a tightropeI am positively overjoyed to see the liberal democrats doing well. They will not, of course, form the next government, but if they gain sufficient momentum they may be a part of it, and hopefully push this country into some form of electoral reform.
I do wonder how permanent the liberal democrats support is, however. A you gov poll gives them actually leading, but we discover as we scroll down that on several policies they support, most people are opposed. A lot of people are sadly reactionary in this country, so when they see a proposal to ban penal sentences less than 6 months they are instinctively opposed. Same with an amnesty for 1 million illegal immigrants who have been present in the UK for over ten years.
Both these policies are excellent ideas, by the way. We have a serious problem in this country with politicans talking tough talk on drugs and crime rather than making policies based on facts and pragmatism. We KNOW prison doesn't work- the reoffence rate is absurdly high, but rather than sensibly thinking of ways to reduce this, we spout out about more policemen, more prisons, longer sentences. If we're going to let people out of jails, then its probably for the best that we encourage them NOT to reoffend, yes? Rehabilitation is not a wishy washy liberal goal, its a pragmatic goal which aims to see less crimes on our streets. There will be a hard core of criminality, this I am sure of, but we don't need to write off everyone, and we need to realise that the vast majority of prisoners will be coming out of prison at some point.
The second policy is just as sensible. If there are a bunch of illegal immigrants working in this country, we could either
a)spend a fortune attempting to get rid of them, causing untold distress and doing nothing to help our economy
b)make them citizens, meaning that we then TAX their income, AND stop employers from getting round charging less than the minimum wage.
These arguments are sensible, pragmatic, and the right thing to do. I am very glad that the liberal democrats are willing to make those pledges. I worry, however, that the television debates are not a good place to defend them. The leaders have a minute each to defend their policies, and its much easier to focus on crowd pleasers (more police on the street), than genuine reform which might make a difference.
so Nick Clegg's goal will be to offend as few people as possible, as all must leaders must do. Trying to make radical, yet sensible arguments during an election is probably suicie- theres no chance that it will win many votes. The time to make the argument is possibly AFTER an election, ridiculously enough.