The leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats is a fairly standard, unexceptionally oily, and fully paid-up member of Europe’s professional political class with opinions to match. His ideology may be self-serving, wrong-headed, and, in the end, profoundly destructive, but it’s not particularly startling. The same cannot said of the viewpoints of some members of his famously flaky political party.
Normally that wouldn’t matter too much, but if the Liberal Democrats are — as they appear to be — on the edge of serious political power, it will be worth taking a closer look at what some of them actually believe.
If Jenny Tonge is any indication, Britain may be in for a surprise or two. She was a modestly prominent Liberal Democratic politician, fired by Nick Clegg (to his credit) as his party’s health spokeswoman in the House of Lords in February. A Guardian report from back then has the details:
The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, has sacked his health spokeswoman in the Lords after she called for an inquiry into allegations that Israeli soldiers were involved in organ trafficking in Haiti. Clegg described Baroness Jenny Tonge’s remarks about Israeli troops sent to the earthquake-stricken country as “wrong, distasteful and provocative.” It is the second time Tonge has been fired as a Liberal Democrat frontbencher for making controversial comments about Israel. The latest row followed accusations in the online Palestine Telegraph – of which she is a patron – that members of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) had been harvesting body parts in Haiti. She subsequently told the Jewish Chronicle: “To prevent allegations such as these – which have already been posted on YouTube – going any further, the IDF and the Israeli Medical Association should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names of the team in Haiti.”
Now, most political parties will have a nutter or two in their higher ranks. The problem for Britain this election season is that voters usually have the chance to discover who the oddballs are before they have a shot at real power. That may not be the case with the Liberal Democrats, a party that remains something of an unknown quantity. That needs to change.