Sunday, May 31, 2009

Observer says vote Liberal Democrat

From today's Observer leading article:

Nick Clegg is the most instinctively European leader at Westminster. That is currently a lonely position, but the Lib Dems have a decent record of taking minority stands that are later vindicated. On the environment, on civil liberties and on the mounting debt bubble, the Lib Dems were quietly but consistently ahead of the Westminster curve.

Likewise on transparency. In 2007, they opposed the Conservative move, tacitly encouraged by Labour, to exempt Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act. The Lib Dems alone took a party line for openness.

That is worth recalling as Mr Cameron and Mr Brown engage in an unseemly scramble for reformist credentials. Also to the Lib Dems' credit is their long-standing support for proportional representation. Of course, electoral reform is patently in the interests of a third party seeking to disrupt a duopoly, but that doesn't make it a bad policy.

The case for the current system generally coalesces around the idea that, whatever its faults, it is a trusted old friend of stable government. But in the wake of the expenses scandal, arguments that amount to defence of the status quo ring especially hollow. And it is the expenses scandal that will decide how most Britons vote on Thursday.

While MPs from all parties are tainted, the parties themselves are not equally guilty. A credible record of support for transparency and for constitutional reform reflects well on Nick Clegg's team.

This Thursday's vote is being held in a uniquely febrile climate. It should be about Europe; it will be about the expenses scandal. On both counts, it is a moment to reward the principled consistency of the Liberal Democrats.

As they say in the trade, I would like to associate myself with the views of the previous speaker.

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