As I (and a few others) have been saying for a year or more, once the autumn party conference season was over,the coalition partners have been going their own ways in the run-up to next May's General Election. Thus it comes as no surprise to find 'big name' Liberal Democrats putting out their party's lines, and indeed it is what I'd expect them to do.
There are, however, difficulties inherent in this approach if it isn't handled well – and it seems to be being poorly managed, at least in places. There is one glaring example of this that has come to media notice and which could be very damaging for the party's chances in the election – and their hopes aren't exactly high as it is.
This is the case of David Laws, the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury who was compelled to resign from that position owing to what might be termed 'expenses.irregularities'. It is not a good idea to deploy him so publicly in the first place, as his past will be brought up in hostile reporting, but even worse when he has to trot out his party's lefty-at-heart lines about 'the cuts' to public expenditure.
What he has apparently been saying completely contradicts his (very public) stance while he was in that former office and, then, in a position to know the reality. He isn't now, except second-hand from his replacement, Danny Alexander. He will now be perceived as two-faced, and putting party dogma above truth and the interests of the country. This will also most likely curtail his political career.
I'm sure Lib Dems reading this will try to find ways to disagree; but if the boot were on the other foot and they were aware of someone in another party doing exactly the same, their attitude would suddenly be very different. That, I believe, is more-or-less the dictionary definition of hypocrisy.
However, apart from David and Danny, they have no authoritative-seeming voices on economic matters; and if they tried to push this topic onto another member of their senior team it'd come across as odd and with less 'clout' – so they are rather stuck!
Of course, if they were to grow up as a party and throw out the Lefty dogma, then this issue vanishes – and they can still maintain their essential differences from other parties on a number of important issues, which is healthier for British politics as well. I can't see this happening, sadly, so again they are going to come across as a party of deceivers and will fare badly next May, probably losing a number of parliamentary seats in the process.
The national approach is also likely to harm the chances of local council candidates who are standing this year, including in my own home borough of Medway. They are already down to three members here, out of the 55 councillors we have – easily their lowest proportion (below six percent) of the available seats since the current council was created (and first elected for) in 1997.
They could be wiped out by their party's national perception caused by their campaign methodology for the General Election, doing a disservice to their local members, candidates and supporters. We already saw very recently, in the Rochester & Strood by-election, just how few votes they are now get, even when fielding a long-experienced candidate who has been the leader of their council group for years.
Once they gofrom the Council, if that does indeed happen, it will be very difficult to come back in future: it is essentially a one-way street to oblivion. Only they can do something about that, by I don't think they will.