The Guardian backed the Liberal Democrats in last year's general election, along with the party's subsequent decision to enter a coalition with the Conservatives. That government has hardly proved a triumph for its parties or the people. So it was hardly surprising to see the paper in a leader today urging the Lib Dems to fight for what they believe rather than staring at their feet whenever the government does something unpopular or unjust.
Cynics have, unsurprisingly, condemned the Guardian's assertion that the Lib Dems have no choice but to stick with the coalition.
I too backed the Liberal Democrats at last year's election. I too saw little option but the current coalition, given Labour's rejection of an alternative partnership - and the fact a so called progressive alliance would need every other party in Commons to support it. (Oh, and Labour's crushing electoral defeat.) But Nick Clegg and his party have played their hand disastrously badly since May 2010. They've allowed the Tories to break an election pledge not to reorganise the NHS. (A stupid move not included in the coalition agreement.) They've cheered on the biggest public spending cuts since before Hitler's war. And their most respected leader, Vince Cable, is hugely diminished after falling for a crude trick and losing the chance to decide the outcome of Rupert Murdoch's bid to create an even more dominant force in British broadcasting by taking over the whole of BSkyB.
Above all, the Lib Dem leaders seem far too comfortable in their ministerial limos and offices, and far too little concerned about the catastrophic rush to slash and burn public services. Small wonder we hate and distrust politicians when all three main UK parties rushed to reassure us during the election that services wouldn't be axed right left and centre. Now, we face the mad axemen and the usual pointless, expensive reorganisations. We see a government in disarray, acting as arms seller to Middle East dictators while trying to talk up democracy in the region; trying to flog off England's forests to the highest bidder while pretending to be green; and generally getting many other things so badly wrong.
It's not too late for the Lib Dems. The next few years will be tough but if they start asserting themselves, they stand a chance of avoiding oblivion in 2015. And Britain would be a slightly better place to live as a result.