Julian Huppert MP writes…..The Preamble, 25 years on

25 years ago, our party agreed its new constitution – and the preamble to that constitution, setting out our core values and vision.

Many of us will know some of it – ‘The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, … in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance, or conformity’.

This extract – the bit that appears on membership cards – is in my view truly poetic, and captures brilliantly what we are trying to do. We are concerned about people, and empowering them to do what they can and want to do. We are concerned about poverty, not just because we want people to be above an arbitrary financial line, but because we want to ensure that they are not held back from achieving their potential in life because of lack of money.

I frequently refer to that passage in talks and on leaflets. I think particularly now, when we are being questioned as to what we stand for, it is especially important to emphasise our core underpinning values, not just the policies we support as a way of achieving them.

However, until very recently, I had never actually read the full preamble. I suspect many of you haven’t either – in which case pause for a few minutes, and read it in its entirety.

What struck me when I read it, was both how much I agreed with it, and also how much it is still relevant. Sure, a couple of phrases are a bit clunky, and we’d probably say a bit more about climate change – but the importance of the environment is still mentioned. We talked about well-being before it was fashionable, and kept talking about workplace democracy when no one else did.

25 years on, it is still a well-written, clear, positive vision of what we stand for. A great tribute to the writers of the time!

It also sets us apart from the other parties, who quite pointedly don’t start with a statement of values, but of power and existence.

Let’s take Labour – there was much debate around clause 4 and Blairism – but I think the key to understanding the Labour Party is seen in Clause 1, the very beginning of their constitution. Here it is:

— Clause1 – Name and Objects   1 This organisation shall be known as ‘The Labour Party’ (hereinafter referred to as ‘the party’). Its purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.

2 The party shall give effect, as far as may be practicable, to the principles from time to time approved by party conference. —

The purpose of the Labour party is … wait for it … for there to be a Labour party! Clause 1.2 then admits it should try at least a bit to have some principles, but that is clearly secondary to the main purposes of existence and power. I think this says quite a lot about New Labour and Blairism.

The Tory constitution is rather hard to find, and is also rather self-referential. It starts:

Part 1 – Name, Purpose, Objects and Values

1 This is the constitution of a political party which shall be known as ‘The Conservative and Unionist Party’ (referred to in this Constitution as ‘The Party’)

2 Its purpose is to sustain and promote within the Nation the objects and values of the Conservative Party.

I’m proud that we start with a statement of values, rather than a statement of existence. We went into politics to achieve things, to make things better, to help people – not for power or political might.

But to build the free, fair and open society of our ambitions, to safeguard it, and to free people from their tripartite enslavements, we have to be able to actually do something about it. Our preamble quite rightly doesn’t encourage us merely to argue our values – but to try to deliver them as best we can. Let’s hope we are in a position to do so more often in the next 25 years.

* Julian Huppert is Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.

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54 Comments

  • Alexander Whattam 3rd Mar '13 - 4:11pm

    @James Graham
    I got my membership card a few months ago and the full quote is on there. I think Julian Huppert was just saving space.

  • Sorry to go off track – but back in early Feb – a certain Julian Critchley offered a bet of £50 to a charity of choice that the Lib Dems would lose Eastleigh – he hasnt posted recently – but I took him up on it. Could the moderators please contact him and ask him to do the decent thing? They can send him my email address and I will give him the name of the charity – a childrens hospice I am currently raising money for at my school.

  • The words are wonderful and inspiring. What would be almost as wonderful would be if the leadership of the party could conduct themselves in accordance with those words, or at least offer some sort of justification of how their actions are supposed to comport with those words.

  • Hi Everyone

    The jobseekers allowance is only £71 a week for an adult. Due to cuts and the housing benefit cuts, a substantial part of this will go towards paying rent levels.

    This means we do not have a free society. This level of income barely covers bills and inadequate food. People can hardly afford to leave the house. There is nothing left for such “luxuries” as a bus, or a coffee.

    It is not fair, because everyone pays National insurance on all their past and future earnings. This should ensure an adequate level of support until people find their next job.

    It is not an open society, because of the severe restrictions that this level of poverty places on people.

    Schemes such as “work for your benefit” and “workfare” mean that the poorest people who need to use support such as JSA until they find their next job are exploited by companies and immoral “charities”. It is quite clearly enslavement by poverty.

    Julian thank you for this article and your work in parliament against the abuses above. I only wish all of the Liberal Democrat MPs followed the core Liberal Democrat principles, and voted accordingly.

  • Anthony Hawkes 3rd Mar '13 - 5:29pm

    Still makes me tingle when I read it. It probably ranks with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as one of the most uplifting things written over the last 100 years.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Mar '13 - 5:40pm

    We need a constitution change: the line about promoting “the widest possible distribution of wealth” is just nonsense. We need a greater emphasis on economic liberalism and a constitution that plants our flag firmly in the centre/common ground of politics. We cannot allow a repeat of the New Labour years where we are pushed aside.

    The Conservative Party are going through an existential crisis and it looks like they too are going for the centre ground; we must not allow ourselves to lose this battle.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Mar '13 - 5:54pm

    This bit, near the end, seems to have not received the attention it deserves:

    “Setting aside national sovereignty when necessary, … Within the European Community we affirm the values of federalism and integration and work for unity based on these principles. ”

    and here is something we might want to think about concerning our apparently cavalier dogma on sovereignty
    http://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/28/business/dambisa-moyo-africa/index.html?hpt=hp_c5

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Mar '13 - 7:03pm

    Geoffrey, I believe in spreading wealth and power just not to the same extent that some others do. This is because I believe in a bit more of an emphasis on rewarding success and having internationally competitive tax rates.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Mar '13 - 8:22pm

    Can people please stop asking me stupid questions. Liberal Reform, Centre Forum and much of the party leadership share similar views regarding centrism and our party.

  • Interesting to see that Max Hastings quoted the Lib Dem preamble in a typically balanced and objective Daily Mail article on Saturday 2 March. He said:

    “Meanwhile, the party that triumphed at Eastleigh has a coherent message only for inhabitants of Narnia. The Lib Dems’ chosen role in the Coalition Government is to be for ever softening ‘brutal’ Tory policies, stopping spending cuts, loving Europe, paralysing energy policy and blocking a showdown on human rights or immigration.

    Consider their mission statement, proclaimed on the party’s website … This banquet of vacuity captures the authentic spirit of Cleggdom. Nowhere does it mention economic growth, profit, a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, low taxation, limits on state largesse, promotion of excellence or admission that, if our society wants winners, it must also have losers.

    The Lib Dems’ whole being is rooted in evading tough choices. The fact that they have 57 seats in the Commons sadly reflects the willingness of a frightening number of voters to endorse blancmange governance … the Lib Dems constitute an embarrassment to democracy …”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2286767/Democracy-peril-This-week-Britons-finally-despaired-leaders-It-remembered-disastrous-turning-point-history.html

    The Daily Mail are of course an embarrassment to journalism, and very bad losers to boot. It is ironic that the article includes a photograph of Mr Blancmange himself – Boris Johnson, and that he accuses the Lib Dem constitution of vacuity when the Tory constitution says nothing at all.

    But there are some right-wing organisations which do venture some “principles”. Consider these chilling examples from the Thatcher-Reaganite Conservative Way Forward group (endorsed by David Cameron in 2009) – I have annotated and added quotation marks to highlight the scope for abuse:

    Freedom = For “responsible” individuals, guaranteed by the rule of law administered by an independent judiciary and minimal state activity.

    Democracy = The exercise of political power [presumably by the same responsible individuals and vested interests described above], with the “consent” of the people – through regular elections on the basis of universal suffrage and a secret ballot.

    I suspect Presidents Mugabe, Assad and Putin, Dear Leader Kim and other corrupt dictators would have little difficulty signing up to these principles!

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Mar '13 - 9:42pm

    Moving taxes away from the poorest and onto the wealthiest can not be deemed to be centre-right. We all desire a world with greater equality.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Mar '13 - 9:57pm

    In a way, the Preamble is the most illiberal document imaginable, since it prescribes what the Party Must Believe. The Tory and Labour preambles that were quoted don’t do that at all – they leave it up to the membership to decide.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Mar '13 - 10:01pm

    Eddie Sammon

    Can people please stop asking me stupid questions. Liberal Reform, Centre Forum and much of the party leadership share similar views regarding centrism and our party.

    They may do – this just indicate the extent to which there has been a concerted attempt by infiltrators to take over our party.

    When it was formed those words were not controversial. They were as much, if not more, part of the Liberal tradition as part of the Social Democratic tradition. Anyone who wants to change them is therefore NOT in the traditions of our party. They are trying to change it to something different. They pretend they are carrying on some sort of Liberal tradition, but they are not.

  • Richard – that is one of the weirdest comments I’ve seen. The preamble is something which is agreed as a statement of values by the party members (or at least conference). It can be amended in the way any aspect of the constitution can.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Mar '13 - 10:11pm

    Geoffrey, yes I am in favour of redistribution of wealth, just not “the widest possible”. Perhaps I should have made that clear.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Mar '13 - 10:16pm

    Matthew, point taken but I have no further comments to add :).

  • Richard Dean 3rd Mar '13 - 10:32pm

    @Hywel.
    The Preamble provides us with a box outside of which we may not go, if we are to remain “LibDems”. It’s a prison. It defines Libdems as people who have accepted limitations on where their thoughts can go – and my observation on the statement about Europe show that some of the limitations may be rather severe. A prison is not liberal at all!

  • tonygreaves 3rd Mar '13 - 10:35pm

    Fascinating discussion – as one of he people who put the preamble together, I do think it is a very Liberal document that has lasted. The process of writing itg is interesting in retrospect – as a negotiated document it is certainly beter than most. You can read an acocunt of the process in Merger the Inside Story by Rachael Pitchford and myself ( I still have copies available for a fiver post free from me at [email protected]). The book also includes an appendix with four versions of he preamble as the negotiations went on.

    The “poetic” bits are an amended version of the Liberal Party constitution’s preamble written in the mid 1930s by Ramsay Muir and Eliott Dodds. The reference to “conformity” was added as part of a review of the constitution of the Liberal Party in 1969 and the inspiration of Nancy Seear and Michael Steed. Until almost the last moment the new constitution was going to say simply “based on liberty, equality and community”, community being a modern replacement for “fraternity”, and the “balance” bit was inserted after an intervention by Russell Johnston.

    Tony Greaves

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Mar '13 - 10:37pm

    James Graham

    “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

    At the time of the merger, the addition of the phrase in bold to the phrase “none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity” from the Liberal Party constitution (the change of “none” to “no one” is a clunky bit of modernisation, I much prefer the older version) was disliked by many Liberals. The argument was not that they were opposed to equality and community, but that they did not like the implication that equality and liberty were opposites, so to have more of one you would have to take away some of the other.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Mar '13 - 10:54pm

    Richard Dean

    The Preamble provides us with a box outside of which we may not go, if we are to remain “LibDems”. It’s a prison. It defines Libdems as people who have accepted limitations on where their thoughts can go.

    No, it’s like a boundary around our land, or a deed of ownership – it’s a way of protecting what is ours. As I’ve noted, perhaps that’s what you did not like, it’s a way we can identify those who are trying to take what we have built from us for what they are. If I start an organisation with some definite aims, invest my time and money into it, then I need to protect it. I need to have some way of stopping people with different aims destroying what I have built by coming in and making it into something else.I know when it comes to personal property you can see that – why should I invest in building up some business or enterprise if someone else, perhaps the state, could come in at any time and take it away from me?

  • The preamble is inspiring and in its way empowering, and in itself ought to bring together the self declared ‘wings’ of the party reminding them of what it means to be a Liberal. . It is philosophy, not policy, not dogma, and so allows liberals to respond to issues by reference to it, not to what is popular. It seems to me to be very Millian, and the liberalism it describes is strong, humane and human.
    I can’t imagine that any other political movement could be so well rooted.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Mar '13 - 11:40pm

    That boundary keeps people in, but doesn’t do much to keep people out or to keep people form coming in and taking things! And the boundary and its contents haven’t been changed in 25 years , which means it’s probably out of date , plus people are writing about “tradition” as if it was some kind of God.

    I reckon almost every sentence could be open to criticism, and could be improved. Certainly there are a whole load of rather flexible words in there, like fair, strengthen, just, representative, interdependence, strong, necessary, wealth. The last paragraph in particular has a somewhat colonial and outdated feel to it.

  • David Allen 3rd Mar '13 - 11:50pm

    Matthew Huntbach:

    “Many Liberals… did not like the implication that equality and liberty were opposites, so to have more of one you would have to take away some of the other.”

    Well, they were flying in the face of simple logic, then. Total equality could only be imposed by a dictatorial government. Total liberty would allow the strong to dominate the weak.

  • David Allen, I can’t make sense of your last two statements. How could “total equality be imposed by a dictatorial government”? Obviously, if some are dictating and others are dictated to, there is no equality at all, let alone “total equality.” Likewise, if the strong are dominating the weak, then the weak hardly have “total liberty.” Liberty is freedom from domination, not the freedom to dominate. Equality means that each individual has the same legal and political rights and privileges, and precludes a dictatorship in which some have all rights and others have none.

  • David Allen 4th Mar '13 - 12:28am

    There are massive differences between the principles which have guided us for 20 of the last 25 years, and the practice followed by our leadership over the last 5 years. Until recently, we really did want to see wealth distributed as widely as possible. We recognised that substantial inequality was inevitable, could not realistically be abolished, and was to some extent a necessary consequence of freedom. But subject to those caveats, we truly believed there could be no valid reason for arguing that the poor should be kept poor.

    Eddie Sammon is quite correct, however. The current leadership, and the think tanks set up by the hedge funds, would contemptuously dismiss these beliefs as expressed in our Preamble. Like the Tories and New Labour, they believe in increasing social inequality. That is why social inequality has consistently increased over the last thirty years. The policies adopted by successive governments have achieved what they set out to do. It is true that all governments have sought to camouflage these beliefs by adopting a few eye-catching “egalitarian” policies, such as Cameron’s support for overseas aid, Clegg’s pupil premium, and New Labour’s child poverty targeting. Meanwhile, inequality has remorselessly increased, and rich political donors have gained power and influence.

    To be fair to Blair, when he first started out, he was a pretty straight kind of a guy. He saw that Labour did not (as Julian wrongly suggests) have a constitution lacking in principles. On the contrary, its Clause 4 contained powerful socialist principles which he profoundly disagreed with. Being a straight kinda guy, he challenged those principles head on, held a democratic vote of his members, and won it.

    Can anyone imagine Clegg daring to match those standards of honesty? No chance. Clegg will simply seek to let our historic principles wither on the vine.

  • David Allen 4th Mar '13 - 12:44am

    David,

    I am talking about equality of outcome, you are talking about equality of opportunity, a much more restrictive concept.

    You say “liberty is freedom from domination”. But to achieve that freedom from domination, you must have extensive state controls over capitalism, to prevent big businesses and the rich who gain the upper hand from exploiting their power to dominate and effectively enslave the poor. You might or might not think that such controls are a good thing, but they are not “total liberty”!

  • Richard Dean 4th Mar '13 - 1:45am

    Actually the Preamble is a mess, with subjects repeated and in a fairly random order. Here is my initial suggestion for a possible improvement. As promised, almost every sentence has been changed …

    The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, with a proper balance of the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance, fear, disease, falsehood, or conformity.

    We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, and we support those restrictions and rules of society which can best achieve this. We believe in the value of diversity and creativity. We believe that all persons have a right to participate in the direction of society, a right to act in accordance with conscience, and a duty to act responsibly in respect of others. We believe that the role of the state is to assist and enable all persons to attain their full potential, to contribute fully to their communities and to take as full part as possible in the decisions which affect their lives.

    We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of humanity’s needs with those of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms. We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which different cultures will be able to develop freely, in accordance with these aims and principles. We reject all prejudice and discrimination including that based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, culture, sex or sexual orientation. We will at all times defend the right to speak, write, worship, associate and vote freely, and we will protect the right of citizens to enjoy privacy in their own lives and homes. We support social mobility as a moral and economic benefit, and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

    We believe that democracy is the only fair form of government, and that authority in a democracy derives from the people. We acknowledge their right and duty to determine the form of democratic government best suited to their needs. We commit ourselves to strengthening the democratic process to ensure that there is a just and representative system of government with effective Parliamentary institutions, freedom of information, access to information, with as much power as feasible and appropriate is exercised by the nations and regions of the United Kingdom, and with decisions that are informed from all levels but taken at the lowest practicable level , and with voting systems that are determined by the people to be fair. We thus commit ourselves to the promotion of a flourishing system of democratic local, regional, and national government in which decisions are taken and services delivered at the most local level which is viable.

    We believe that democracy must be protected wherever necessary by an appropriate system of policing, justice, and military force. We promote human rights and open government, sustainable economies which serve genuine need, public services of the highest quality, and international action based on a recognition of the interdependence of all the world’s peoples and responsible stewardship of the earth and its resources. Within the UK and in partner nations, we will foster a strong and sustainable economy which encourages the necessary wealth creating processes, develops and uses the skills of the people and works to the benefit of all, with just distributions of the pains of failure and the rewards of success. We want to see democracy, participation and the co-operative principle in industry and commerce within a competitive environment in which markets operate freely where possible but where the state intervenes where necessary to protect rights or other of our aims. While respecting environmental, religious, and other factors, we will promote scientific research and innovation and will harness technological change to human advantage.

    We will work for a sense of partnership and community in all areas of life. We recognise that the independence of individuals is safeguarded in part by their personal ownership of property, and we shall not support actions that result in unfair removal of this safeguard. We also recognize that markets alone do not usually distribute wealth or income equally, and that this can result in unfairness. We support the widest possible distribution of wealth and promote the rights of all citizens to social provision and cultural activity. We seek to make public services responsive to the people they serve, to encourage variety and innovation within them and to make them available on equal terms to all.

    We support the European, African, and United Nations Declarations of Human Rights, and will seek to extend such systems of rights in terms of both scope and global coverage. Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; nor can it be allowed to disrespect the sovereignty of other peoples. We are committed to assist in fighting poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services. We will work with other countries towards an equitable and peaceful international order and a durable system of common security. Within the European Community we affirm the values of cooperation and integration, and will work for unity based on these principles.

    We will support armed conflicts where these are necessary and effective to achieve our aims. We will contribute to the process of peace and disarmament, the elimination of world poverty and the collective safeguarding of democracy by playing a full and constructive role in international organisations which share similar aims and objectives. These are the conditions of liberty and social justice which it is the responsibility and duty of each citizen and of the state to protect and enlarge.

    The Liberal Democrats consist of women and men working together for the achievement of these aims.

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Mar '13 - 7:01am

    Geoffrey, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. I’ve made my position on equality and wealth redistribution clear enough and do not wish to go back over it.

  • Richard Dean 4th Mar '13 - 8:20am

    The original Preamble looks more like a hastily assembled ideas-dump every time I look t it. It was perhaps done in haste by a couple of people having breakfast and rushing to get a party set up? It’s surprising it’s survived so long, but I guess that might mean that LibDems have had better things to do. But the complaints about divergences in the last 5 years do suggest it is high time it was revised.

    I think I’d only change a little from last night. I’d suggest changing”the same basic rights” to “similar rights”, to be consistent with our concepts of freedom and diversity. Maybe add border and security agencies in the list after the police, though that makes it a bit heavy. Include the emergency services, not sure where, and also the provision of adequate and continually improving free education. And change the sentence about armed conflict to something like “We support the struggles of peoples everyone to achieve similar freedoms, equalities, and personal and collective responsibilities we want for ourselves”.

    The Preamble really ought to be a living document, rather than an ossified one. As also should be the entire constitution. Are there not regular reviews?

  • boundaries?

    Affirmation of the phrase ‘open society’ infers we support openness, to new facts, new ideas, new experiences, new possibilities. We’re a welcoming party, open to new members because we’re a broad church with a full policy agenda.

    So it’s a paradoxic metaphor to talk about ‘boundaries’.

    I’m not afraid of people with strong views of any stripe joining our party, the fact that we’re all members of the same party gives me confidence that liberty will win the day, and we will decide together how we make it happen.

    Our platform is our statement of intent, and the preamble is it until someone can come up with something bigger, bolder and better.

    So long as we’re true to ourselves, whatever we do will be good.

  • Nigel Jones 4th Mar '13 - 9:34am

    Thanks Julian for raising this. It is high time we propagated quotes from the pre-amble much much more in our leaflets and public speeches. People need to be inspired by values and aims and that I suspect is why Ed Miliband is attractive to a large number of people who are anti-conservative, even though so far has he has not been able to say much about what his ideas actually mean in practice.
    If we back up our values and aims with a radical manifesto of far-sighted policies, unhampered by all the Tory policies that we have had to go along with in coalition, we could win great support.
    Let’s give people something really good to aim for in our political sphere, both for our communities, for our nation and for the world.

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Mar '13 - 10:48am

    We need to be medium sighted, it’s so simple. This doesn’t mean we can’t have long-term goals, it just means we don’t lose sight of people’s immediate concerns.

  • Richard Dean 4th Mar '13 - 11:08am

    I definitely hope we are not a church, broad or otherwise. As a secularist, I would leave immediately if we were.

  • Michael Clements 4th Mar '13 - 12:21pm

    Quoting the second paragraph of this post “Many of us will know some of it ” (i.e. the preamble to our constitution), is it not seriously disappointing that it may be the case that ALL of us do not know ALL of it? How can anyone be a true Liberal Democrat without such knowledge ?
    The document: says everything that has to be said and expresses it well but it is an A4 page long and the majority of people (myself included) have a short memory span with the consequence that even after reading it several times over we may not have taken in everything in it : on the other hand the one-line statement of belief printed on membership cards is not comprehensive enough..
    I would not wish to change the Preamble:it should be left as it is. However the admission quoted above that “some of us may know some of it” illustrates a need for there to be a parallel document, a shortened version of the original written without the poetic phrasing, using simple monosyllabic words and being economical in their use so that like a child in school we can learn it by heart to be quoted verbatim in the pub, on the doorstep or wherever politics may be argued . Then not only will members be aware why they joined the Party but also they will be able to tell anyone who challenges them what The Party stands for .

  • David Allen: What you seem to be saying is that we can force liberty and equality into a zero-sum framework as long as we choose to define liberty as “the right of the powerful to oppress the powerless”, and define equality as “slavery.”
    But that can’t be it either, can it? Because from where I’m sitting, those two concepts look completely compatible.

  • Richard, your mangled version of the Preamble contains language which boils down to this:
    We believe in repeatedly hitting other people over the head with sticks until they understand that we are right and they are wrong.
    Do you really believe that your version has a less “colonial and outdated” feel to it than the original?

  • Richard Dean 4th Mar '13 - 4:04pm

    David, thanks for taking the trouble to read it. Yes, it’s certainly a bit more of a call to arms – well, politics isn’t a dreamy game, if LibDems believe in something they should be prepared to work hard to convince others of its value. But it’s a lot less patronizing than the original, less domineering of other cultures, and includes significant extras, such as a right to freedom from disease.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '13 - 12:38am

    James Graham

    @Matthew Huntbach

    If you despise those words so much, then remove them. Don’t pretend they aren’t there

    Eh? Where did I say I despised those words? Where did I pretend they aren’t there?

    All I am reporting is that back at the time of the merger, many Liberals disliked them. I have explained why, and it is not as might be supposed because of opposition to the idea of equality.

    I would hope, James, that you would understand the point I am making here – concern about these words came from defence of the social aspects of liberalism, from believing that true liberalism wasn’t antagonistic to equality, and from a rejection of the narrow “economic” definition of liberalism which since then has grown so much, thanks to being promoted by the power of wealth and the Orwellian attempt it has used to change what used to be understood by the word “liberalism”.

    But those days are long gone, and now those who of us who were on opposite sides then often find ourselves on the same side against these infiltrators who want to steal our party and convert it ti what was in those days called “Thatcherism”. So what I wrote was not meant to be any sort of call to excise those words now, but simply a historical note, made mainly to indicate just how much things have changed since those times.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '13 - 12:43am

    David Allen

    Well, they were flying in the face of simple logic, then. Total equality could only be imposed by a dictatorial government. Total liberty would allow the strong to dominate the weak.

    Well then it wouldn’t be total liberty, would it? You see (or you don’t, but I would like you to see) that you are actually making the point that the political right wants to make, of pretending that things like poverty, ignorance and conformity cannot restrict freedom, and that the only things that can restrict freedom is taxation and government legislation. You are allowing the political right to steal words like “liberty” and “liberalism” and redefine them in a way that was not how they were historically used.

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