Liberal Democrat illusions

THE LIBERAL Democrat Party annual conference in Birmingham this week has been a pathetic exercise in self-delusion. After decades without so much as a sniff of power, the party’s leadership fell for the illusion of power in a coalition with the most right-wing Tory government in generations. They kid themselves that their presence in the coalition is ameliorating the worst excesses.

But the Bill that will spell the end of the NHS as we know it, the cuts that are ending hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs, the savaging of services for the elderly and disabled are happening anyway.

There has been a little dilly-dallying on the NHS bill for a sham “pause for thought” but the essence of the Bill remains unchanged.

There has been no noticeable amelioration. Applications for entry to further education colleges this year are significantly down now that Education Maintenance Allowance has been abolished.

This was the allowance that made it possible for bright teenagers from poor homes to stay in education and have the chance of a stab at university. Now for hard up youngsters no amount of brains and ability will make up for lack of money to live on while they study.

The Liberal Democrats are talking of taxing the rich and raising the taxation threshold to incomes over £12,500-a-year. This will have little effect on the poor; most under that income already pay very little or no income tax. But raising the tax threshold will significantly help the rich by removing a huge chunk of their income from being taxed at all and raise the threshold at which they pay higher tax.

They would help people on low incomes more if they would defend the social wage — the public services for the elderly and disabled, youth services, childcare provision, the state pension, legal aid and advice, which help the poor claim their entitlements.

But all these services are being swept away in the name of cutting the huge Government spending deficit caused by bailing out the banks three years ago.

The cuts go way beyond what is necessary and many, in the long term, will incur more government expenditure. For example, when people with disabilities get no support they will end up in residential care; when public sector workers have their pensions cut they will end up having to claim on extra benefits when they retire.

The Liberal Democrats talk about taxing and regulating the bankers. Vince Cable wants to give workers and company shareholder powers to limit boardroom pay. For a start workers and shareholders have a permanent irreconcilable conflict of interests — higher pay and higher dividends are not compatible. And the top capitalists will always find other ways to channel money into their pockets as allowances, expenses and so on.

It is a dream. The bankers run this government and for their own benefit — as they are trying to run the whole world. Regulations on bankers could only be effective if every country in the world agreed to implement them at the same time.

But Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg needs to foster this silly dream. He cannot admit how powerless he is, that he has led his party into a disaster where its only role is to enable the Tories to carry out a massive onslaught on the living standards of nearly everyone in this country, to destroy jobs and to privatise education and the NHS.

The only way the Lib-Dems could prevent this is to quit the coalition and bring down this government as quickly as possible.

Cameron, Osborne and the rest of the gang are not going to change their minds.

For that matter petitions, marches and demonstrations are not going to change the Tories’ minds — unless they build up into a giant mass movement including serious all-out strikes that will bring this government down.

This must be our aim now in all our political activities.