For idealists like me the last 4 and half years have been deeply unpleasant. Compromise at every turn. Disappointment on so many fronts. Proportional representation deep in the long grass, House of Lords reform stalled, removal of tuition fees scrapped. The list of things I thought (and still think!) are important which failed to come to be is long (and covered in unhappy smileys).
Of course very well-meaning (and mostly correct) Lib Dem loyalists with tell you how the Lib Dems didn't win the 2010 election, had to compromise in Government, made tuition fees less onerous and did lots of amazing things as part of the Coalition. All this is very good, but I've yet to see any unconvinced person who's frown gets turned upside down by those arguments.
Those arguments are rational. But they don't appeal to me. And despite my gratitude for the income tax changes and for the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act they aren't reasons for me to vote Lib Dem in 2015.
It is what is happening right now that leads me to continue to support the Lib Dems. The Tories and Labour are currently suffering from extreme weakness. Polling shows they are nearly neck and neck once again and they are desperate to gain any extra votes they can. Meanwhile both parties suffered shocks in recent by-elections at the hands of surging UKIP support and, rather than standing up to them, both have let the tail wag the dog by beginning to contemplate policies that will attract UKIP voters. David Cameron is leading the Tories back on an anti-EU campaign whilst Labour have decided to throw away any pretense of being a progressive alternative by hardening their stance on immigration.
How did the Lib Dems react to UKIP? Well MONTHS ago Nick Clegg challenged Nigel Farage to debates on national television. Clegg put forward our case for free movement of peoples and for Britain within the EU. Sure, it didn't have any effect on the subsequent EU elections but at least someone stood up and gave an alternative to UKIP's message.
Whilst Labour and the Tories try to out UKIP each other, the true believers of UKIP aren't going to be convinced. Why would they vote for the two parties who have so utterly failed to do anything about their main concerns? Meanwhile Labour and Tory voters will find themselves with "I can't believe it's not UKIP" after the next election if they aren't careful. Voting for the Lib Dems allows me to say: Not in my name. I don't want any part of an attempt to undermine the freedom of movement of EU citizens nor do I want to see us out of Europe.
Worse... Labour seem to have completely failed to learn the lessons of their 13 years in power and continue to support anti-liberty "surveillance state" initiatives whilst the Tories are eagerly planning to repeal the Human Rights Act (just keep reading that, it only gets worse with each re-read). No, the Lib Dems have not been perfect on the liberty agenda in this current Parliament. But they are streets ahead of the two main parties. They blocked the "Snooper's Charter".
And Labour and the Tories are engaged in self-interested attempts to ensure that any future constitutional arrangement for England, following devo-max in Scotland, falls in their favour. Labour won't support English votes for English laws because it'd mean they'd struggle to maintain a majority on English laws if they were in Government. The Tories oppose regional devolution because of ideological "little Englander" reasons as well as because it doesn't favour them in several regions. The Lib Dems plans for a federal United Kingdom might be wishy-washy at the moment but at least they are trying to be consistent to all constituent parts without self-interest.
So yes, it is the Lib Dems still for me. A party that defends free movement, the EU, human rights and constitutional stability.