Lib Dem scandals indicate deeper problems

After a mixed week for the Lib Dems, assesses whether the problems encountered by the party are indicative of deeper strife

Photo credit: Cabinet Office

Photo credit: Cabinet Office

Last week saw Nick Clegg’s credibility waver as he admitted that sex pest claims made against Lord Rennard was related with his resignation in 2009. The resignation, which was termed a ‘surprise’ at the time, was said to be on the grounds that Rennard had serious health issues.

However, it now seems that he left after claims that he had propositioned around 10 young Liberal Democrat supporters. In fact the Deputy Prime Minister himself has said that he knew of ‘general concerns’ about ‘inappropriate’ behaviour all along. The party itself has had a mixed response to the allegations with Paddy Ashdown, the previous Lib Dem leader, admitting he knew something about the case and Shirley Williams, an MP known for her integrity, defending Rennard.

With these facts in mind, it seems that the situation is not as clear cut as a simple action and allegation. Why would people like Shirley Williams call him a ‘fine man’ if she didn’t believe his innocence? With these conflicting views, and the media hot on the case, it seems Lord Rennard should be given a fair trial, something which hasn’t happened yet.

Another MP has claimed that the actions got ‘blown out of all proportion’ with one woman coming forward saying that Rennard touched her knee. I’m not saying that allegations shouldn’t be taken seriously but if they are to be taken seriously and a full investigation is needed, can we really judge without all the facts? Certainly Nick Clegg has been keen to cover up the story somewhat which has sparked distrust quite rightly. How can we trust a party who aren’t honest with the public? Who knows what other things they are hiding?

The question now is, what does this mean for the future of the party and even politics in general? This distrust for Nick Clegg will certainly see him lose some integrity, something which he can’t really afford. With cases such as Chris Huhne and even the fight on student finance which continues, the Lib Dems have lost key respect from their voters.

However, it is important to remember that although some MPs have displayed some very corrupt behaviour and mal-practice it would be unfair to say this was true of them all. The problem for the public then is how do we find the truth?

It is easy to get swept up in a media frenzy which may be exaggerated. Indeed, the Eastleigh by-elections show that the Lib Dems do in fact still have strong supporters. However, with UKIP gaining second position in the polls the position of the Lib Dems is not wholly stable. Certainly the public have shown some of their anger, with voters moving their loyalties and the Deputy Prime Minister has now got to be wary of instabilities emerging.

Indeed, last week the power of the people was highlighted in the Italian elections with the ‘protest vote’ causing a stalemate. It is important to remember that the Italians are used to a largely unstable system with often short leadership terms, but it will be interesting to see how the public and ultimately how the government react.

Although this is an extreme case it is clear that the Lib Dems will now have to be even more conscious of their policy making and public opinion being in danger of getting labelled as a party that focuses more on political management and cover ups than the needs of the people.

However I can’t help feeling that if they had kept their promises and been honest in the first place there wouldn’t be such a scandal. Shouldn’t we expect good government all the time? I would like to think that I wouldn’t exploit my expenses privileges, lie to the masses or go back on my election promises so why do they? If we can’t trust our politicians to make educated and appropriate decisions then what can we trust them with?