Introducing… Lib Dems Against Factionalism

Today marks the foundation of Lib Dems Against Factionalism, a place for all Liberal Democrats who believe that the current upswing in sub-party organisations that purportedly represent ‘differences of opinion’ is a menace to all right- thinking undifferentiated Lib Dems everywhere.

We have formed this new group because we believe the following to be true:

  • That the public have a clear and coherent understanding of what the Lib Dems stand for and will in no way be confused by a new group putting clear tangerine water between itself and the rest of the party, and besides, the public loves internecine conflict;
  • That our current low poll ratings are clearly the result of the minor policy differences between ourselves and the other factions, and that as soon as our preferred policies are made official we will shoot back up again to the heady heights of 15%;
  • That the word ‘Liberal’ is ours, because people can totally own words, and look, we’ve got this pamphlet from the 19th century in which a guy uses ‘liberal’ in a way that sort of sounds like we do, if you squint a bit;
  • That this isn’t the party we thought we joined, even though the other people in the other factions have been members about as long as we have and clearly must have joined the wrong party back in the day;
  • That no-one should have to choose between equally delicious types of confectionery, indeed, we can be friends with cabbage too;
  • That our version of Liberalism has FIVE corners, so it must better, and only through the fifth corner of ‘indecision’ will we be able to appeal to floating voters again;
  • That we didn’t join a party with a tradition of individualism to not subsume ourselves beneath a group identity, and if we don’t have a separate identity people might think we’re like those horrid other Lib Dems;
  • That, most of all, arguing with people who nearly agree with us is far more fun than doing anything like community organising or campaigning, and the more effort we can spend talking to ourselves the better.

If you want to join this exciting new organisation, email [email protected] with your name, membership number, and a denunciation of all the other factions, including personal invective if possible. Our official launch event will be at Gateshead Conference where we will be determinedly staying on the south side of the river, because god forbid we could be right next to the nightlife capital of the UK and actually host fun events there. In the interim, we call on all Liberal Democrats to stay true to the traditions of our party by tweeting abuse at people we’ve discovered we don’t agree with.

* Adam Bell is a member of the Islington local party and works in the wind industry

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33 Comments

  • Ed Maxfield 16th Feb '12 - 8:36am

    I do wish LDV would get up to date and add a ‘Like’ button.

  • Lorna Dupre 16th Feb '12 - 8:51am

    Hurrah! Let’s all join in!

  • “Lib Dems Against Factionalism”….I’ll join, providing I can be part of its ‘left of centre’, ‘leftish’ section…

  • LondonLiberal 16th Feb '12 - 9:09am

    Brilliant!

  • I’ve started a faction called

    Economically
    Pure
    Internationalist
    Cadre of
    Fairly
    Angry
    Independent
    Liberals

    (and we REALLY hate the Romans!)

  • Thank you. This is the group I’ve been saving myself for all these years. I am now complete.

  • No one could ever be disappointed by John Thurso.

  • Tracy Connell 16th Feb '12 - 10:19am

    I don’t see them as faction, except for Liberal Left, but that has it’s own agenda requiring the ousting of members of the party and a long term attachment to Labour.

    As for the others. It is healthy to debate in small groups. I see them more as policy – making or policy-analysing groups rather than anything else. Their aim is not to split the party, but to move the party on with policy discussion. Policy can never be static and you can’t really have a discussion twice a year in a huge hall with thousands of delegates.

    I don’t really see a need for a Lib Dems Against Factionalism group – as when it comes down to it that just amounts to the “Liberal Democrats”. :)

  • The People’s Front for the LiberalDemocratisation of Judea, at our Supreme Council meeting on 14th February, unanimously declared our support for LibDAF.

  • “…except for Liberal Left, but that has it’s own agenda requiring the ousting of members of the party and a long term attachment to Labour.”

    Utter, utter nonsense. Have you actually read the group’s stated aims?

  • Great idea. Of course we can’t actually join it:)

  • Tracy Connell 16th Feb '12 - 12:28pm

    @mike cobley – I know some of the people behind Liberal Left. I know their true views which are not explicit on their website. Don’t believe everything you read and maybe try reading between the lines.

    And don’t call my comments nonsense when you don’t know who or what I actually know!

  • Roger W

    I’m not disappointed by John Thurso,

    John is an excellent constituency MP, and incredibly kind and helpful to me in my bid to get elected to the Highland Council in May. I just hope I can justify his faith in me.

  • Jackie Pearcey 16th Feb '12 - 1:39pm

    I wish to violently disagree and point out that Liberal Democrat Friends of Cabbage can not possibly coexist in the party with friends of assorted baked products!

  • Tim Nichols 16th Feb '12 - 1:59pm

    How concidental that you should launch your organisation on the same day that I am launching my campaign ‘Lib Dems Against Plurality’.

    Our core demand will be the formation of a central Poliltburo to better ensure the dictat of policy to the ranks and oversee the explulsion of dissenters.

    It would take over the current roles of FPC and FCC to prevent debacles like the expression of the democratic will of party members on the issue of abritrary time limiting of ESA, which was rooted in a dangerously subversive belief that party members have a right to any say on policy.

  • Ruth Bright 16th Feb '12 - 2:29pm

    Tracy Connell – why so coy? Pray share your inside information.

  • Tony Greaves 16th Feb '12 - 3:36pm

    Ah, but you cannot ever win the argument against the person who says “I know for a fact but I can’t tell you because it’s all secret”. It’s called the Abu Qatada syndrome.

    Tony Greaves

  • mike cobley 16th Feb '12 - 3:49pm

    “…don’t call my comments nonsense when you don’t know who or what I actually know!”

    Er … if it looks and sounds like nonsense, thats the way I’m gonna call it. But hey, if you know summat of crucial moment in this matter then its time to spill the beans. Incidentally, as a long-time party member I have not travelled all this way, worked in various campaigns, made innumerable contributions in time, money and argument to the fundings and workings of the party only to shrug my shoulders, resign my membership and walk away. Clegg and his coterie in my view are an aberration, and I wont back down and will not stop fighting for the principles I believe in.

  • LondonLiberal 16th Feb '12 - 4:07pm

    “Clegg and his coterie in my view are an aberration, and I wont back down and will not stop fighting for the principles I believe in.”

    good on you, mike. that almost makes me want to rejoin. as indeed, does the formation of LL, as i now see that there are people who are more than slightly peeved at the coalition (which is what the SLF seems to be) but are instead out and out angry.

  • Ruth Bright 16th Feb '12 - 4:25pm

    Point taken Tony – it reminds me of the Tory opponent who intially refused to shake my hand at the count because our leaflets had queried his attendance record. According to a member of his team he was sometimes away on important business but could not elaborate because it was all terribly “hush-hush”.

  • It’s a shame LL and SLF don’t have each others names, for then it would be appropriate to call them Sore Losers’ Forum.

  • I’m going to be frank, as amusing as this article is, I think it is supremely unhelpful and I think it is trivialising what is a real problem for the Liberal Democrats.

    Liberalism encompasses a wide range of views, from very left-leaning strains of social liberalism to out-and-out right-libertarianism. Social democrats should also be able to find a place in the party, given the history of the Lib Dems. Often I find dyed-in-the-wool Lib Dems saying that all liberals are liberals and that economic liberals and social liberals still agree on more than they disagree. I really have to question this.

    Put bluntly, I don’t think that economic liberalism and social liberalism are particularly compatible. Okay, liberals from these camps agree that they like liberty very much. However, does this include economc liberty? Does liberty imply intervention to allow people to maximise their opportunity to actually exercise their liberty? This is a very big question and I don’t think a social liberal would be comfortable in an explicitly economically liberal party, or vice-versa.

    The Liberal Democrats have to perform a very delicate balancing act to try and keep as many people as possible happy. Most people would be somewhere in the centre, believing in elements of both economic and social liberalism to varying extents, which makes life easier, but “left”/”right” slant of party policy and actions in government needs to reflect the proportions of social and economic liberals in the party membership and the LD voter-base as a whole. Not should, needs.

    The issue is that the Liberal Democrats in government don’t seem interested in maintaining this balancing act. Despite Cable and (until recently) Huhne in particular fighting the cause of the centrists in the party, I think it is very evident that the actions of the Liberal Democrats in government on the whole relfect the interests of the right of the party quite disproportionately. Many Liberal Democrats in government are pursuing their own personal view of liberalism, rather than the view of Liberal Democrat members and supporters as a whole.

    This is dangerous, a small elite within the party is effectively pushing it towards their own personal take on liberalism, ignoring the views of the membership as a whole. I don’t think this is malicious, I don’t even think it’s deliberate as I think the ministers simply think they are closer to the centre of grassroots opinion than they are. However, it’s not hard to see why many on the left and centre of the party feel alienated or why many left-leaning LD-leaning voters are leaving in droves to that mysterious “Don’t Know” party that appears in all the opinion polls.

    Perhaps Liberal Left is unhelpful, but its very existance reflects genuine and important concerns about the direction of the party. And, for everything divisive about Liberal Left I think that the criticism of it has been far more unhelpful than the organisation itself, as it trivialises these concerns.

    The great irony of this article is that in mocking factionalisation it actually makes it worse, as it fails to offer any solution to the causes behind it. The implication is “shut up and act unified”, as if all concerns of these factions are unjustified. I think that if history, and current affairs, can teach us anything it is that disunity reflects genuine concerns and it is extremely important to address those concerns as quickly as possible before disunity becomes distrust and separation.

    If the Liberal Democrats wish to remain a unified liberal party, instead of (eventually) splitting or losing a wing to another party, in the long-term then I think it is absolutely vital to accept that the different strands of liberalism are very different indeed and that the actions of the Liberal Democrats must always reflect a compromise between the different strands. A faction like Liberal Left arising indicates that this compromise is seriously inadequate and attempts should be made to find one that better reflects the views of the membership as a whole.

    I would argue that the best way to do this is to increase internal democracy within the party. Conference is, quite simply, not enough – more policy needs to be decided by the membership as a whole, the membership must meet (or interact virtually) for this purpose far more often and a system needs to be put in place to ensure that internal democracy can continue whenever the party is in government. e.g. in negotiating government positions the membership could be involved in setting out initial positions and accepting or rejecting whatever compromise is agreed by ministers. Perhaps even moving towards a variant on a OMOV system for determining party policy would be beneficial.

    For those of you who want a tl;dr version – the formation of Liberal Left reflects genuine concerns about the direction of the party. If the party is to remain united then these concerns should be addressed, rather than the faction criticised for being disunited – as important as unity is, you don’t achieve it by criticising those who have concerns. Comments like Tabman’s are particularly unhelpful.

  • Fiona White 21st Feb '12 - 7:58am

    I’m a bit of an idealist and I believe that challenge ultimately brings forward a better outcome. Therefore, I don’t see SLF or LL as damaging factions but a way of challenging the Party on policy issues. There is a dilemma where we have debated and formulated policy at our conference and then our MP’s are voting against it. It is part of being in a coalition but we have a right to challenge whether it is appropriate in every case. If they believe it is, then party members should be told why – in detail and with justification.

    Actually, I think a lot of the issues within the Lib Dems are due to a lack of proper communication. Party activists, who campaign through the year for the Lib Dem Party, cannot be expected to just blindly follow without knowing why. The Light Brigade will no longer charge unquestioningly towards the guns.

  • Robin McGhee 21st Feb '12 - 10:33am

    This = yes.

  • “Actually, I think a lot of the issues within the Lib Dems are due to a lack of proper communication. ”

    Indeed they are

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