There has been a lot of reaction to the “Blues Under the Bed” editorial in the latest issue of Liberator Magazine. Part of Liberator’s mission is to stir things up from time to time and it seems they have certainly succeeded in some quarters with this.
Scarred as they undoubtedly are by the internal party battles of the 1990’s, I often think the Liberator collective display a degree of paranoia about dark forces at work within the Liberal Democrats. It is wise to be watchful. However, I think a lot of the concerns they have arise not from some sinister conspiracy, but from the impact on the party of the ‘Westminster Village’ culture which can have very pernicious effects on the sense of politicians from all parties.
Also, while there are those who would seek to shift the party to the ‘right’, their motivations often appear to be rooted in a frustration with the culture of the Liberal Democrats, not in some great ideological crusade. Their agitation is more the results of an allergy to ‘beards and sandals’ than to any particular brand of liberalism. To see the activities of Liberal Future, Liberal Vision et. al. as part of some great clash of ideas is to give those involved, particularly the likes of Mark Oaten, more credit than they deserve. I see no great organised conspiracy.
However, there are a lot of people who talk a great deal of twaddle. And the reaction to the Liberator editorial has generated some good examples of it. While Liberator’s call for classical liberals to put up or shut up, and then leave when they lose the argument, was unnecessarily provocative, they don’t really deserve in turn to be described as a “Hamas-like Commentariat” in this article on Liberal Democrat Voice. However, the claim that really incensed me in this response was the line that;
“Our constitution is in fact is so blandly hard to disagree with on almost any point that most members of all Britain’s major political parties could sign up to it without batting an eyelid.”
That could only have been written by someone who hasn’t read it, or doesn’t understand it. The Preamble to the Constitution, while it has its weaker parts, it is a set of ideas an principles that could only have been written by liberals, and by social liberals at that. Certain ideas and passages would be very hard, if not impossible, for a true Conservative or Socialist to sign up to. To dismiss it as bland shows a total ignorance of the power of the ideals that lie behind those words.
The Liberal Democrats are, and should remain, a diverse party. We should provide a welcome home to anyone of broadly liberal views who feels that they can support us. That includes those who describe themselves as classical liberals or libertarians. But, where Liberator are right, is that the party sits firmly within the social liberal tradition. We should seek to accommodate other traditions, learn from them, and be strengthened by them. Yet, attempts to move us away from our core social liberal values should be resisted.
We cannot become a classical liberal party. It would make us something we are not meant to be. A party which many, including myself, would not want to remain members of.
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.