The Liberal Democrats are the political equivalent of the guitarist in Spinal Tap who added an extra digit to his sound control, so he could ‘turn it up to eleven’. Rather than sound, their scale measures bare-faced political audacity and, this week, they cranked it up to new levels.
Remember this is the Party that claimed, with some force, that they were at the vanguard of a new politics. They gained the votes of many who were persuaded by the idea that they were different from ‘the reds’ and ‘the blues’. Political and electoral reform – bringing fairness to Westminster – was central to the pre-electoral pitch from ‘the yellows’.
Of course, much was jettisoned by the Lib-Dems in the name of coalition Government (there is a file gathering dust in Cowley Street, Lib-Dem HQ. It’s marked ‘proportional representation’).
Yet one thing the Lib-Dems doggedly clung on to – as they entered Government for the first time in donkeys years – was the idea that they were still in Opposition.
This takes some doing, but since forming a coalition, the Lib-Dems have also been trying to claim (unsuccessfully it turns out) £1.7 million in ‘Short money’ which is provided to Opposition parties (it helps them oppose Government, to carry out their own policy work and to question and challenge Government plans. Good, vital, democratic work).
The Lib-Dem claim to be both friend and foe is utterly nonsensical.
‘Short money’ simply does not go to the Government. For the simple reason that Government has the Civil Service – just shy of half a million of them – to do their policy development for them.
But in the land of ‘the yellows’, new politics means you can somehow be both Government and Opposition, simultaneously. Extraordinary. It marks a new summit on the ‘bare-faced political audacity’ scale.
At least we knew there wasn’t a dial marked ‘twelve’ on the Spinal Tap amp. I wonder just how high the Lib-Dems can go?