There's something of the Greek tragedy about the Liberal Democrats. A fitting fate, you might say, for that most European of British politicalparties but their present predicament of being torn apart by that whichthey desired most - namely, government - is irresistibly reminiscent of King Midas.The shock of
, too, (in which the party actually supersededLabour in a couple of opinion polls) and its crashing obliteration at thepolls is just another rerun of the classic Lib Dem 'so near, so far'melodrama. And, while the millions of cold feet at the ballot box werearguably not their fault, Lib Dems, like the great panda, seem to have acurious preponderance towards their own demise.The party's Liberal predecessors wer masters in this regard, of course,having cast Liberalism into the political wilderness some 90 years ago. And, while it's true there are a number of historical factors behindtheir third-place relegation, it is fair to say many of these were, if notorchestrated by Liberal politicians, certainly exasperated by them. At the end of the nineteenth century, for example, the party'spredominantly middle class leaders consistently ignored calls toincrease the representation of working people in the party and to field working class MPs. Naturally enough, these activists eventually decided they had had enough and established the LabourRepresentation Committee, in 1900.Given the political context of the time it was an understandable, if notentirely agreeable, position for these bourgeois industrialists to takeand the LRC could have withered into historical insignificance. But,rather than ruthlessly wiping out a rival (as Labour would do 20 yearslater), the Liberals actively nursed the LRC's nascent spark with a Lib-Lab electoral pact in 1903 that increased the number of socialist MPsfrom two to 29.