Another day, another LibDem party leader. The news wires have been hot with the news: Ed Davey has been chosen, at last, at long last, as the new Leader of the Liberal Democrats, and edits are wiring back to ask “Who is he?” and “Liberal Who?” Such is the fate of a forgotten party.
There should be room for the Liberal Democrats: they or rather their predecessors the Liberal Party were one of the duopoly of parties which held government in strength before the Great War, and now the lunacies dominating the Labour Party are manifest to all that ought to mean that Labour are the ones squeezed out and the Liberals favoured to rise, but it has not happened, and in the meantime in a search for relevance the LibDems have become a satire of themselves: democrats to a degree beyond decency except where they do not like the result, but liberal? Wanting to ban and tax everything in sight is not liberal in a way Gladstone would have recognised (though even he had his moments; it comes with that arrogant assumption of ones one righteousness).
There is a need for a party which just echoes Guardian headlines without engaging reason or moderation, as a sump for people of that turn of mind, but such a party will just have to stay where the LibDems are.
It is a pity to see them become like this, because an actual liberal party might lighten the vigour of debate. The current lot are not that – if that greatest of liberals, John Stuart Mill himself, were to rise up and speak to them, he would be condemned, trolled, barred and no-platformed.
Still, they are there, and they have been choosing a leader. Had Layla Moran won it, the one who wanted to ban Easter eggs, then the Liberal Democrats could have risen to the height of the funniest act at the end of the pier, but instead they chose a traditional leader – one who can sound normal.
So who is Ed Davey – Sir Ed Davey indeed? Well, he was a minister in the coalition government in charge of climate change – it is not clear whether he was tasked with changing the climate or just managing it, but the climate did not change noticeably which makes you wonder what he was doing with his ministerial salary. Since then he has basically been looking after the Liberal Democrats between leaders, which has been remarkably frequent. I suppose the members thought he ought to be given the job he has been doing for years. I expect that he is clever and better still knows how to sound clever, but we are unlikely to find out.
He can give him a moment in the sun, then all is forgotten – go back to your constituencies and – well – you might as we stay there.
If anyone does come up with a genuine, sensible new Gladstonian Liberal Party, good luck to him, or her. For now, the headline has already become chip-wrapping and so we pass on.