19 December 2007

The Failure of the Liberal Democrats 1988 - 2007

As A Dodo regrets to announce The Failure of the Liberal Democrats has unexpectedly passed away after 19 sorry years in the shadow of parliamentary power following the election of David Cameron lookalike, Nick "Calamity" Clegg, as the new leader of the LibDems.

The Liberal Party had had a long history before its last glorious leader David Steel led it into obscurity with an alliance with the infamous Gang of Four. Unhappily, this association with the left-wing, new wave band failed to sweep the party to power, forcing them instead to form an alliance with the SDP, the infamous Single Doctor Party led by Dr David Owen. When that alliance proved to be about as popular and as useful as the proverbial chocolate teapot (or, indeed David Owen and David Steel combined), the two parties realised it was time to do the decent thing. At the last moment, however, they changed their minds and merged, giving birth shortly thereafter to the Liberal Democrats.

Led by former Special Boat Squad member Paddy Ashdown, the Failure of the Liberal Democrats got off to a cracking start as the party was beaten into fourth place in the European elections and, at its first general election in 1992, won an astonishing 20 seats. Despite such bright beginnings, The Failure had a scare when, in 1997, Mr Ashdown boosted the tally of seats to 46 a feat attributed by psephologists to Mr Ashdown's hands-on (and pants-down) approach to publicity. Luckily for the failure, after an abortive attempt to form a pact with Labour, Mr Ashdown decided to hang up his leadership pants in 1999 and pass the poisoned chalice of the Failure of the Liberal Democrats to popular Scotsman, Charles Kennedy.

While pretending to be the leader of a rejuvenated party hoping to challenge the bi-partisan stalemate of parliament, Charles Kennedy was secretly drinking deep from that poisoned chalice at every opportunity and quickly established a reputation in the House as the leader who put the Party into Liberal Democrat. Thus the Failure prospered - missing meetings, slurring its way through press conferences and taking a frank approach to the hustings (who can forget the great 2001 election campaign "We've All Had A Drink, Vote LibDem"?). Despite this there were signs that all was not well with the Failure of the Liberal Democrats as the party increased its minority first to 52 in the 2001 general election and then to 62 in 2005.

With the possibility of success for the LibDems beginning to hove, however distantly, into sight it became plain to all that it was time for Mr Kennedy to step down (an impressive feat given that he was already in the gutter). The resulting leadership election proved the beginning of a golden age of the Failure of the Liberal Democrats as first they washed their dirty linen in public (quite literally in Mark Oaten's case) during the leadership election and, secondly, elected as leader a man with years beyond his wisdom.

Sir Menzies "Ming" Campbell rose simultaneously from the grave and to the challenge of continuing the Failure of the Liberal Democrats. With Labour mired in sleaze and the Conservatives flirting disastrously with eco-friendly policies, Ming Campbell's failure to raise the profile of his party above cheap jokes about his advanced years led to more and more calls for his resignation - none of which he heard because he'd left his deaf-aid in his room at the residential home.

Eventually persuaded to spend more time with his jigsaws, Ming was gently led away, leaving the Failure in the seemingly safe hands of a man only two years his junior. But acting leader, Vince Cable, surprised everyone by proving himself an able and quick-witted leader - refusing to meet the Saudi king and comparing Gordon Brown to Mr. Bean (thus not only imperilling The Failure but also threatening to put hundreds of satirists and parliamentary sketchwriters out of work).

The Failure struggled to keep going by organising a leadership contest between two men who weren't Vince Cable. But despite the contest between Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne attracting less attention than one of Sir Ming's speeches, the Failure of the Liberal Democrats was mortally wounded when Clegg limped past his rival at the post by just over 500 votes - thrusting his party into the headlines once more and creating the real possibility that the public might, at some time in the future, begin to speculate about the possibility of one day, maybe, considering putting a vote in the box marked Liberal Democrat.

The Failure of the Liberal Democrats will be buried at St Paddy's Church of the Fallen Pants. The service will be conducted by the Reverend Charles Kennedy (just as soon as he can be prised away from the communion wine), and the congregation will sing hymn 392, Stuck in the Middle with Huhne.