What I wrote at Lib Dem Voice

November 27, 2005

Left or Right...? Bored now.

I have slated the media before for their tired attempts to polarise British politics into sterile 'left' or 'right' cliches.

So it's been with escalating exasperation that I've followed the letters pages of Liberal Democrat News, in which various correspondents - over several monotonous weeks - have been knocking seven shades of shite out of each other over the party's future direction. Indeed, they've driven me to write in myself:
Dear Madam,

Enough already! Can Liberal Democrat News correspondents – whichever ‘wing’ of the party they have chosen noisily to represent – please call a truce to the increasingly petty tit-for-tat sniping in which they have been indulging via your letters pages?

I am bored with reading our party must either ‘drift left’ or ‘lurch right’ if we are to stand any chance of appealing to those who have voted Labour or Tory in the past. This is a false choice. As members of a party which rightly disdains the ΓΌber-simplistic binary labels of ‘left’ and ‘right’ we really ought to know better.

Let us all have the self-confidence, please, to champion liberal policies that will appeal to liberal-minded voters. And leave worrying about their previous party allegiance to EARS.

Yours faithfully,

Cllr Stephen Tall
Oxford

It is of course vital that the party has a serious debate about its future direction. Not to do so will see us eclipsed either by Gordon Brown’s New-ish Labour or David Cameron’s Tory-lite brand. But the debate must be on our own terms.

At its heart must be how the Liberal Democrats would run the economy better. From this will flow how we can afford our priorities. What would a liberal health service look like? Surely not Labour’s centralised state-ist monolith? What would a liberal education system be? Surely not Labour’s prescriptive micro-managed curriculum? What would a liberal pensions policy be? Surely not Labour’s over-complex means-testing, or compulsory retirement age? And so on…

My point is simple: let’s work out our liberal response to the problems facing this country. Then we can worry about our targeting strategy confident that we have a manifesto which puts forward a liberal vision.

4 comments:

(Mostly) silent majority said...

Here here!

Glad someone talking sense!

Anonymous said...

Stephen this is a pathetic letter. The debate between the left and right of the party matters quite a great deal in respect of which future liberal voters or otherwise we will be able to attact.

The right of the party believe that the best coalition is of social and economic liberals, that tends to include a lot of left-wing Tories and disgruntled centrists who currently vote for Labour.

The left of the party belivee the best is one of social liberals, social democrats and liberal socialists, broadly a coalition of the left or charitably a progressive coalition.

What you can't have though is a sort of catch-all spanning the lot. socialists and eocnomic liberals are opponents on most tax and spend matters. They can agree tactically on civil liberties, but that's rather small beer in the policy portfolio of a future government compared to doing a budget.

In fact it's wet centrists like you sitting there whining passively about why we can't just all get along, rather than taking difficult decisions is precisely why we are in this situation today. The leader being the worst offender.

MatGB said...

Anon@ 2.22pm
I think, essentially, you miss the point. We're Liberals; that means we oppose the authoritarianism running NuLab and that has at times taken over the Tories in the past first, and fight over details second.

We need electoral reform, until then, the party has to be a broad church. If it isn't, we haven't a chance in hell, after we get it, all bets are off anyway.

Anonymous said...

Yes Matt, but that also means we oppose the nannying authoritarianism of the Old Left, the racism of the BNP, the anti-progressive rhetoric of the Greens etc. and yet you can find a little of all of those things in some local Lib Dem parties.

That's not a broad church so much as a coalition of the willing. Very much like Labour before Blair, but with even less electoral success.