In pity of John Kampfner
When John Kampfner announced he was supporting the Lib Dems five months ago, I was angry with him.
Now I just pity him.
He has managed to write one of the most muddled apologia for a political misjudgement I have ever read: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/01/queasy-but-dont-regret-lib-dems
He dressed up his original defection by claiming he was being true to the political legacy of the late Robin Cook, whose biographer he was.
I can't claim to have known Robin as well as Mr Kampfner did, but I can imagine the disdain he would have felt for the Coalition government and its policies and horror he would have felt about anyone using his name as a justification for continuing to back the Lib Dems.
The nearest that John can come to criticising the Coalition or apologising for his own role in undermining Labour and making it possible is to say "a number of attributes and decisions of this coalition government have left me feeling queasy". "Feeling queasy"? "Feeling queasy"? Surely a slightly more profound reaction is required to the economic lunacy and sheer social barbarism of embarking on the fastest, deepest cuts to public services in post-war British history, bringing in regressive tax changes, and risking shutting down our fragile recovery. Surely the correct reaction of anyone from what Kampfner calls the "left-liberal" tradition in Britain is boiling fury and anger and a pledge never to forgive the Lib Dems for betraying their values, not "feeling queasy"?
I don't feel "queasy" about the schools that won't be built, or the jobs that will be lost, the lives ruined, the life chances rubbed out, the communities that will be destroyed by the Tories and their new Lib Dem sidekicks. I feel utter revulsion, contempt and a great desire for political revenge.
But wait... John has a list of things that he thinks balance out the minor quease-inducing matter of the total kicking being delivered to our economy and public services. Yup that's all worth it - a price partly worth paying - when you get fulfilment of a wish list that includes "the tone" being "more liberal" (when your kid's school doesn't get rebuilt or you lose your job, you will at least have the consolation of the announcement having had a "liberal hue"), "the abandonment of ID cards and the third runway at Heathrow" and the possibility that Trident, "this grandiose folly might over time wither away."
It must be really nice to live a life where your primary concerns about government policy are about airport runways, ID cards or nuclear deterrence, rather than the life most of us lead where not losing our jobs, and having local schools, hospitals, police and bin-collections that actually do the job they are supposed to are slightly higher priorities.
This may come as a surprise to John but there are lots of people in the Labour Party who share his views on the matters he cites. But they think the way to get those policy changes is by changing the Labour Party, not by getting into bed with the Tories. And they don't think that the destruction of jobs and public services is a price worth paying for their beliefs on other matters. And then there are some of us who can actually make a progressive, indeed a "left-liberal" case for knowing the identity of our citizens, deterring aggressors and boosting our economy through extra airport capacity. But that's another argument for another day...
John says Clegg "must have some battles and win them" with Cameron. But the ones he cites are limited to civil liberties and constitutional reform. Why won't Clegg fight inside the Coalition to reduce the cuts package or to protect social justice?
John asks is Labour "a tribe"? Yes. We have a tribal memory of what the Tories did in the 1930s and 1980s and that means that unlike the Lib Dems we would never acquiesce in a reenactment of those dreadful decades.
John concludes "so far, so bearable". He must be living in a different country under a different Coalition to me. So far for me, this is unbearable. I cannot bear the waste and senselessness of this government's policies. There are many millions of people who will have to bear the burden of John's conscience on "Iraq and banks" and its propulsion of him into the arms of the Lib Dems and via them the Tories through worse public services, unemployment, inequality, poverty, deprivation and possibly premature death.
He says he feels "comfortable, though not complacent" with the decision he took. He ought not to be able to sleep at night.