Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Setting out a Liberal Future

I wrote in June about the challenges that faced Ming Campbell in renewing the Liberal Democrats. Those challenges will not be less under a new leader. In fact, although the media circus has painted the leadership in the blackest terms, Ming Campbell has many substantial achievements under his belt. He has renewed much of the organisational side, and most importantly he created a more open and collegiate leadership style. Whichever leader now emerges ought to continue those positive developments.

Sir Ming is a transparently decent and honest figure- and his competitive streak is for the pursuit of Liberalism and the success of the Liberal Democrats. I hope and believe that he will continue to put his immense talents and experience to the service of the party.

Ming Campbell deserves all the credit, for putting the party and its principles first.

Now, however, we must work out how the political battle must be rejoined.

From the beginning of his leadership David Cameron has tried to "put his tanks on our lawn" by insisting, not particularly credibly, that he is a new kind of Conservative- indeed a "Liberal" Conservative. In fact, as I have written here many times, he is intellectually incoherent, and this can only lead to an inconsistent "liberalism", at best- and at worst, sophistry and dishonesty.

The challenge for the new leadership must be to maintain the rigour of the liberal agenda, while at the same time communicating in clear and simple terms the essence to the electorate. It is a question of conveying the message of Liberalism.

Until we know who is standing for the leadership, I will keep my thoughts to myself- I am open minded about the strengths of any of the potential leadership candidates. However, the challenge of intellectual honesty, based on firm principles is one that no leader of the Liberal Democrats can afford to duck.

At a time of spin and "triangulation" the Liberal Democrats now have a chance to put forward our nuanced and thoughtful policy agenda.

Let battle commence- and with relish let us return to the fray, with a new leader, and a renewed and restored party. There is all to play for.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

J,

You usethe term 'intellectually incoherent' in such a pejorative fashion. We Tories do not require intellect, indeed clever chaps are far to bustling and inclined to change things to be good Conservatives. Please buck up your ideas in future (if I can write that phrase without endorsing the whole spurious notion of ideas as worthy).

Chin, Chin,

Wheatley

Cicero said...

Well, only one response for that:

"Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservative." - John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

Anonymous said...

He also described progressive taxation as a 'form of robbery'. I trust therefore that LD policy, or at least your own posting, will be thus influenced by the great man! Otherwise, you might conceded he was oft times wrong.

Tristan said...

One might argue that all tax is robbery (it is at least demanding money with menaces).

Taxation is however deemed necessary (except by anarchists) and it is the only acceptable form of robbery in a liberal society (and then it should be kept to a minimum).

To tax the poor the same amount as the rich is (rightly) seen as unjust, so surely progressive taxation is the least worst option.

(Of course, Mill was not perfect, only a fool would ever claim that - we are all human)

Martin Veart said...

Cicero, you well know my view on Sir Ming's leadership and role in the party. It is true what you write that he has achieved many creditable things in the party and have given us the foundation to press ahead. I sincerely hope Ming offers his services to the new leader for a front-bench post. Ming was not the man to lead us in the country though. Our party's visibility has shrunk since he took control. You are right in saying that the new leader has much to do. It will not be enough for him (or her?) to look the part but we as a party have to capture peoples' attention with our ideas and policies.

Anonymous said...

It shall be interesting Consul, I doubt you'll be back to taxi meetings like Baxter suggests (we can dream!), but you are rapidly making the Tories look a paragon of loyalty. Everyone raves about Clegg but I suspect Huhne is the man he just has that weight that Clegg lacks, plus of course he can appeal to both sandal wearers and Orange bookers. But unless you can take seats off Labour you were always going to be vulnerable. You have not after all broken your Historic Tory link


Lepidus

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the LibDems have lost their raison d'etre. The roots of the SD side of the "alliance" was created when Labour went left and there was no one to fight the centre. Now you have Gordo and Flake fighting over the centre to the anger of both of their cores.

The best path the LibDems can pursue is pure liberalism, and shed as much of the SD as possible. Unabashed liberalism, which will give the electorate a REAL choice.

Whoever the leader is makes less of a difference if the party continues to pursue this insane hybrid liberalism/socialism that has been its staple since its merger.

Cicero, sure, you can argue these things at a higher, philosophical level. But remember the average electorate in Buxton, Ullapool, Rye and Llangollen. They won't want a debate, they want a better future. If you and the party truly believes in liberalism, it has to be pursued with less inhibition.

Then, perhaps, the leadership battle would mean a lot more.

Unabashed liberal

Martin Veart said...

Unabashed Liberal - or should I call you Classical Liberal?

You are totally incorrect in your analysis that the Liberal Democrats have lost relevance in politics. We are the only party who are offering a vision of a country with a real conscience and direction instead of just managing the status quo. What other major party is actively trying to stop the replacement of Trident? Who puts human rights forward, starting in the UK but not ending there; and has for a long time realised that the environment is at the centre of all policies? The Liberal Democrats. You would have us return to the days when Andrew Undershaft would be proud to be called a Liberal.

You are right though that the other two parties are scrambling for when the largest concentration of votes are thought to be. Just like the Republicans and Democrats: two parties with one idealology. That is not democracy and must be avoided here at all costs.

I would advise you to try pouring your words into the ears of the Tory Party instead although I'm sure Gordon Brown would also give you a fair hearing.

Anonymous said...

Just for you Cicero:


Party 2005 Votes 2005 Seats Pred Votes Pred Seats
CON 33.24% 209 39.61% 271
LAB 36.21% 346 37.83% 338
LIB 22.65% 66 12.39% 0

This last bit is wonderful isn't it. Lol

Lepidus

Cicero said...

Oh dear Lepidus- how old are you? You really would be a prat if you beleived that- even at worst we have generally retained some seats.

In any event, we have two years with very different conditions ahead. So. he who laughs last, laughs loudest- BTW if you were actually serious when you talked about the Lib Dems being closer to the Conservatives then you might try to engage your brain a bit.