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September 20, 2012 by Jake Cantona

They divide opinion. On the one hand, there are those who see them as cute, almost fluffy creatures who belong in the pages of Beatrix Potter. To others, however, they are harbingers of pestilence and a menace to their livelihood. It’s difficult to sit on the fence about the Liberal Democrats, unless of course you’re a Liberal Democrat, in which case the only tricky bit is choosing which fence to sit on.

No doubt there are plenty of badgers living in complete and blissful unawareness of the fate about to befall them, and a goodly number of LibDems seem similarly oblivious to their impending doom.

During the last big Foot and Mouth outbreak, the word ‘contiguous’ suddenly developed a life of its own[1]. Political crises and military operations seem of themselves to generate these quasi-euphemistic usages. You may have been killed by friendly fire, but that doesn’t make you any less dead [2]. A ‘contiguous cull’ was sanctioned to arrest the spread of the disease, making the mass slaughter of thousands of healthy animals because politicians had no real idea what to do next sound as if it was a scientific response to the crisis. Contiguous was also a good word because it hints at ‘contagious’ and the Great British Public had already shown its ability to rally round a misunderstanding when the good people of Portsmouth laid siege to a house because an alleged paediatrician lived there. Close, but no cigar.

The arguments for culling badgers centre on their contiguity, their closeness, to cases of bovine TB[3]. Supporters of the cull say that evidence proves that when badgers are in proximity to cattle, the incidence of TB is likely to be higher, whether or not the badgers themselves are infected. In the same apparent way, the major partner in a parliamentary coalition can push through whatever policy they want, whether or not their minor partner opposes it. It just needs the contiguity (and abject lack of principle) of that minor partner.

At the next general election, the LibDems are going to suffer a culling more radical than that facing badgers, but it will be for similar reasons. They may not be Tories themselves, they may have any number of good, healthy policies of their own, but the record will show that a Conservative government was able to act against the best interests of the vast majority of the electorate and the long-term interests of the nation as a whole because of the contiguity of the Liberal Democrats.

At the last general election, the LibDems pursued an anti-Tory policy in certain seats known as ‘the Decapitation Strategy’, a concerted push to oust senior Tories in either Lib/Con marginals or through coordinated protest votes in seats where Labour had no chance of winning. It wasn’t a great success.

For those in charge of the badger cull the question is now whether the animals should gassed or shot. The Liberal Democrats will probably get away with only losing their deposits, but what price Madame Guillotine?

[2] Describing the accidental bombing of civilians as ‘incontinent’ is another

[3] Tuberculosis, not Tony Blair


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