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Friday, February 10, 2006 

Lib Dems in meltdown!

The extraordinary by-election win for the Liberal Democrats in Dunfermline, with Willie Rennie turning a 11,500 Labour majority into a win for his party by 1,800 votes shows that the scandals and heartaches of the Lib Dems over the last month have not by any means finished the party. By contrast, in a constituency in which Gordon Brown has a house and where he himself campaigned for Labour 4 times, it makes clear just how much of a threat the Lib Dems still are to Labour.

While the turnout in the seat dropped dramatically and it seems that local rather than national issues played a major part, there's little doubting that many commentators have been far too quick to write off the party just because of the election of David Cameron and the near-coup which deposed Charles Kennedy. Last night's Question Time, which featured the 3 candidates for the leadership in a excellent debate, with Chris Huhne and Simon Hughes by far being the most impressive, (although Chris Huhne wasn't very modest in mentioning he was the apparent leader judging by a YouGov poll commissioned by a friend of his, Hughes getting bitch-slapped by Dimbleby for having quotes criticising Huhne in his leaflets and website, and Campbell being less than honest about his reasons for not wanting Kennedy to go on the anti-war march) must be a sign of things to come. Whoever wins the leadership election needs to keep the team together, and if and when Mark Oaten and Charles Kennedy are ready to return, they must be allowed to. The opposition of the Lib Dems to the most contentious and knee-jerk reactions of this Labour government have marked them out as the real opposition. As long as they continue to ignore the urge to lurch rightwards as both Labour and the Conservatives have, then the possibility of a hung parliament at the next election becomes more likely. If such a thing occurs, then the Liberals should go into a coalition with Labour with at least one key demand; proportional representation. Yes, it's a long way off and a lot can yet change. But the Lib Dems are now in the position to change British politics for good, and for the better from the dominance of the tyranny of the two-party state.

(Just for the record, I don't affiliate myself with any party. I voted for Labour (the local MP had opposed the Iraq war, although he was persuaded by the whips to abstain on the actual vote, a mistake he admitted to, and control orders) at the last election in an attempt to keep the Tory out. The Tory won. I voted Green at the European elections. What I do believe in is an opposition to what up till recently has been a Labour party that has ruled almost by decree, and the Lib Dems are by far the most effective opposition and the largest grouping in parliament which reflects my rather eclectic views.)

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