The Lib Dem conference: the ego has landed

Party conference season is upon us, the time of year when politicians make speeches aimed at pleasing their party’s base and the rest of us switch off. These are likely to be the last party conferences before the Westminster general election which is due next year, and the parties will be using their conferences as an opportunity to set out their stalls for voters in the “let’s get rid of the Tories election” that is anticipated. Unfortunately for everyone who is not an avid viewer of those right wing ‘news’ channels that are proliferating on British televisions like dog turds on a dog park, all the British parties are vying with one another to adopt as many Conservative policies as they can in order to minimise the attacks on them by the UK’s ludicrously right wing media which means that although we may get rid of the Tories by name at the next general election, their mean spirited and vicious politics of punishing the poor in order to reward the rich will very much live on.

First up it’s the Lib Dem party conference in Bournemouth, always guaranteed to be an exercise in grandstanding, futility, and irrelevance. Naturally BBC Scotland took advantage of the excuse to give airtime to party leader Ed Davey, who was allowed to prattle on completely unchallenged for several minutes about how much he hates the SNP.

Not to be outdone by Labour leader Keir Starmer in the right wing U turn stakes, Davey has a right wing U turn of his own to debate at his party conference. In interviews over the weekend to mark the conference Davey refused to say that the LibDems want the UK to rejoin the EU, although this remains official party policy, at least for now. However the Lib Dem website merely talks about “eventually” rejoining the European Single Market and adds that the party’s “long term ambition” is to see the UK “at the heart of Europe once more”, carefully avoiding the scary words “rejoin the EU,” far less giving a time table for doing so.

The Lib Dems hope to boost their chances at the general election by treating it as essentially a series of local campaigns, focusing on local issues in each constituency in the hopes of taking votes from disenchanted Conservative voters and not scaring away Tory Leave voters by talking about rejoining the EU. Davey even claimed in one interview that no one is talking about rejoining the EU, something which is certainly facilitated by the BBC choosing to ignore the large pro-EU demonstration held in London over the weekend even as it gave coverage in the main news bulletin to a much smaller protest against banning American bully XL dogs which was taking place nearby.

However the prize for delusion goes to Scottish Lib Dem groupuscule leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, the man who leads the smallest group in the Scottish Parliament yet who has the biggest ego and the highest estimation of himself. Alex doesn’t need a kindly granny to tell him how wonderful he is, he does that himself each morning every time he looks in the mirror. Alex thinks this counts as self-reflection.

Onieweys, Alex’s unintentional comedy sketch which passed for his speech to the party faithful was notable for the claim that Humza Yousaf was going to be the last “nationalist” first minister of Scotland. He asserted that the SNP is “haemorrhaging fair minded, reasonable voters” and that people were “looking for a party to inspire them again, adding: “We are the answer they’ve been looking for, and it’s why Humza Yousaf will be the last nationalist First Minister of Scotland.”

This claim is deluded on three counts, firstly because despite their recent political travails the SNP remain by far and away the largest political party in Scotland and recent polling suggests that the next Scottish Parliament is most likely to retain a pro-independence majority, meaning that Alex looks set to have to continue confusing his self-importance with political relevance.

Secondly, and perhaps even more delusional, even if the SNP were to be ousted at the next Holyrood election as the largest party in terms of MSPs by either Labour or the Tories, both these parties are now nakedly nationalist. Both fully support Brexit, both wrap themselves in British flags, both extol the monarchy, the armed forces and “British traditions.”

Just because a key tenet of British nationalism is an abiding refusal to acknowledge that it is in fact a species of nationalism, and a rather nasty and intolerant one at that, does not give British nationalists a free pass, a Labour, or may all the gods forbid, Tory first minister of Scotland will still be very much a nationalist first minister, just an Anglo-British nationalist one. British nationalists are the Christian fundamentalists of nationalism. Certain Christian fundamentalists typically refuse to acknowledge that they have a religion. To their mind they possess the absolute truth, “religion” is something that characterises lesser belief systems.

Thirdly, it’s delusional because no one is inspired by the Lib Dems, least of all Scottish voters who favour independence and a return to the European Union. The Lib Dem’s brand of muscular unionism is just as unappealing as that of the Conservatives, and their promise of a federal United Kingdom is so much pie in the sky with as much substance as their desire to rejoin the European Single Market “eventually.” I have as much chance of becoming the next first minister as Alex Cole-Hamilton does, I even know how to wear a waistcoat properly, [hint Alex, you shouldn’t see your shirt poking out between the bottom of your waistcoat and your belt.] but I’d rather poke my eyes out with rusty knitting needles than stand for Parliament.

However there is one way in which Alex’s, ahem, prediction may come true. Scotland could become independent and then we’ll have a Scottish Prime Minister and not the First Minister of a devolved parliament. But then Alex is the guy who told the Oxford Union that Scotland should not and must not exist again. Very few voters in Scotland will find that extremist sentiment “fair minded and reasonable.”

We are in for a lot more of this kind of – what we can kindly call comedy – from the parties of we’re not nationalists we’re British as the conference season progresses.



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