The coalition “marriage” – should we keep our name?

In the Guardian last week, Timothy Garton-Ash argued that the Liberal Democrats’ distinctive identity is being lost both by coalition with the Conservatives and by other parties’ appropriation of the “liberal” label:

The Liberal Democrats should change their name to the Liberals. Here’s why. First of all, Liberal Democrats is a pretty meaningless name. That’s liberal democrats as opposed to illiberal democrats, is it? Or as opposed to liberal anti-democrats?

Lib Dems, to which they are usually abridged, is even emptier. The name sounds like the product of an awkward compromise, which is exactly what it is. When the Liberal party, an old party with a grand tradition, merged in 1988 with the recently formed Social Democratic party, a breakaway from the then not so liberal Labour party, the new entity was called the Social and Liberal Democrats. The press rapidly reduced this to the “Slids” or the “Salads”.

“We all agreed we needed a single, short name,” notes the then party leader, Paddy Ashdown, in a footnote to the published version of his diary for September 1988. He wanted “the Democrats”. More than a year later, in his diary entry for 16 October 1989, he exulted: “The results of the ballot on the name were announced today. Overwhelmingly in favour of Liberal Democrats. That problem, at least, is behind us. Huge relief.”

When I recently put to Ashdown my suggestion that his party should now adopt a genuinely single, short and meaningful name, he said he thought the idea would not face strong internal opposition, but party members would ask: “Why bother? Is that really so important?”

Garton-Ash concludes:

The Lib Dems are the only ones who are almost all actually liberals. The story they need to tell – and their political survival may depend on it – is not only about how they represent the great tradition of liberalism as best adapted to 21st-century Britain. It is also about how they alone can keep the other two parties, if not honest (too much to ask of any politician), then at least more liberal.

That is their task in this coalition with the Conservatives, and that would be their task in a future coalition with Labour. That’s why they’re still worth having. And that’s the final reason why, at their next party conference, the Liberal Democrats should change their name to the Liberals.

[You can read the full piece here.]

Five political parties registered in the UK have “Liberal” titles; besides the Liberal Democrats, we have Liberal Party [The], Liberators, Local Liberals People Before Politics Party, and the National Liberal Party, The Third Way.

Twenty seven political parties have “democrat” in their title or description, including the 21st Century Conservative Democrats and even the Apolitical Democrats.

So is the “Liberal” and “Democratic” ground becoming too crowded? It’s common for organisations to rebrand, including changing their corporate colours, as the Liberal Democrats did in 2009. Some organisations find (or coin) a single word that sums up their purpose – though it’s hard to see how the words ‘Labour’ or ‘Conservatives’ capture the image those parties would now like to project.

I don’t think “Liberal” is sufficient, as Garton-Ash proposes.

Bearing in mind the coming referendum campaign, with the emphasis on people’s votes being counted and reflected, I’d suggest it’s more important than ever that we stress both halves of our double-barrelled name.

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78 Comments

  • What Doktorb said!

  • paul barker 4th Jul '10 - 10:21am

    Actually there is a creative tension between Liberalism & Democracy. Just think of issues like Capital Punishment. We need to keep the balance.

  • I really think like changing a well understood brand, Coke to New Cola (etc), is usually a mistake. SImilarly we should keep our name and the ‘brand loyalty’ attached to it. Eventually we’ll be a stand alone party again (just with far more credibility than before of course).

  • I totally agree with Garton-Ash, in fact I made the same argument myself for years back when I was a member. To me a ‘Liberal Democrat’ will always sound like a liberal who lacks the courage of his convictions. It’s a wishy-washy, gutless qualification.

    I was informed though, that it was practically impossible even if the majority of members were to agree that it was desirable, so I don’t know that there’s any point in worrying about it.

  • That’s liberal democrats as opposed to illiberal democrats, is it?

    Um… yes. I’d say Labour are a party of illiberal democrats, though they’d not admit that. And I’m not sure about their commitment to democracy.

    Why the heck do we need a name change? This article is inane. LibDems is perfectly fine, and there are plenty of parties out there called the Christian Democrats or other such – even more of a mouthful.

  • How about the “Orange Tories”? That’s what you are isn’t it?

  • I am happy with Liberal Democrats.

    Having seen Liberal/SDP Alliance, Alliance, Democrats and SLD
    over recent years its time to stick with the current name.

  • Well, the Lib Dems are not really liberal in the true sense are they? More like Social Democratic. In the past few decades, it has been Thatcher and Low Toryism that has taken up the mantle of Classical Liberalism as espoused by Gladstone and the 19th century Whigs.

  • I agree about the value of retaining our ‘brand-name’. It’s bad enough the there are plenty who plaintively bleat, ‘I don’t know what the LibDems stand for’. Changing names at this crucial time, when all is in flux, and we are struggling with issues of identity, will only add to the confusion. Unless there are substantive gains to be had through changing our name, I am for sticking with what we have – certainly for now!

  • Paul McKeown 4th Jul '10 - 12:42pm

    PPERA (2000) anyone?

    From §28 “Registration of parties”

    (4) Where a party sends an application to the Commission in accordance with subsection (1), the Commission shall grant the application unless in their opinion the party proposes a registered name which—
    (a) would either—
    (i) be the same as that of a party which is already registered in the register in which that party is applying to be registered, or
    (ii) be likely to result in electors confusing that party with a party which is already registered in respect of the relevant part of the United Kingdom,

    There already is a registered party called the “Liberal Party”, so it would not be possible for the LDs to call themselves “Liberals” or the “Liberal Party”. Not unless, they could get a court to rule that the “Liberal Party” had itself hijacked the name in 1989, when it was founded, rather in the same way as the High Court in Dublin ruled in the 1940s that Sinn Fein at the time was not the party founded by Griffiths in 1905, and hence could not lay claim to its deposited funds.

    If the LDs really wanted to, I suppose they could try to buy out the “Liberal Party”, or they could infiltrate the party and cause a merger. But none of that sounds too liberal too me. The “Liberal Party”, which has after all fewer than 200 members, might well die out anyway, but it could take a long time. The one thing that would worry me is if the “Liberal Party” were taken over by entryists with an illiberal agenda, which might well taint the Liberal Democrats by association.

    I like “Liberal Democrat”, it gives the adjectives or adjectival phrases of “liberal”, “democratic” and “Liberal Democratic,” which it seems to me are labels for positive values. It also gives the concept of “Liberal Democracy” and that is what I think we should be striving for, as a party and as a nation.

  • @Jez: Don’t be stupid. The Labour party is liberal. And you doubt their commitment to democracy? I think all of your opinions can be safely discounted as unuseful to reasonable society.

    Anyway, there have been anti-Democratic Liberals. Much of 19th century European history is Socialists and people’s parties fighting against Liberals who wanted to give the vote to the wealthy and propertied only.

    If the Liberals are so democratic- can someone explain to me how lying to the electorate is democratic? For example: How is sending your activists out campaigning on a stance of “no cuts until next year” democratic when that was something your leadership only pretended to agree with in order to put themselves in a better position to deal with the Tories? According to the FT, “senior Lib Dems” have said that Vince Cable never believed what he said about not cutting this year, and according to Ed Miliband and Peter Hain your lot were arguing for cuts this year in talks with them. It’s not tenable that the Orange Book cabal suddenly noticed Greece and completely overturned their policy in the hours between the polls closing and discussions starting.

    Tailoring your manifesto in order to play mind games with possible coalition partners is not democratic. A vote means nothing if the party never even *intends* to follow through on its commitments.

  • Andrea Gill 4th Jul '10 - 2:09pm

    @Mike “The Labour party is liberal”

    Ha, ha, ha. The same authoritarian statist enemies of civil liberties who are now cosying up with the extreme nutter right wing of the Tories against the more centrist Liberal ground of the coalition?

  • Of course Labour is liberal. It’s not a word you have a monopoly over. Christ, do you think we’ve gotten less liberal in regards to civil and social liberties than previously? And its economics are certainly liberal, that’s the problem.

    Labour has been the party to bring liberties to those previously denied them. You shouldn’t choose to pick on a few narrow subjects that your party differs with only in scope and extent- not in basic principles.

  • Andrea Gill 4th Jul '10 - 2:35pm

    @JohnM – Labour and Tory commentators call us “The Liberals” anyway

  • @Andrea Gill: You just called Conservative Party commentators “Tory”. Gimme an “h”! Gimme a “y”! Gimme a “p”!

  • Tony Greaves 4th Jul '10 - 3:15pm

    I use Liberal and Liberal Democrat interchangeably (and we do so on leaflets here). The other parties call us the Liberals just as I call them the Tories and the (unprintable)s. Much of the media call us the Liberals. Lots of voters call us the Liberals.

    Get used to it and join in. No need for formal changes.

    Tony Greaves

  • Bill Miller 4th Jul '10 - 3:38pm

    I have belonged to the Union of Liberal Students (pre-merger), the (continuing) Liberal Party after the merger and in more recent years the Liberal Democrats. I am happy to call myself a Liberal, who is a member of the Liberal Democrats. Nothing much would be gained from a name change at this time, except a fight with the continuing Liberal Party, which is not going to help anyone.

    There are various MPs whose party allegiance is described on the ballot paper as Labour and Cooperative, and others who I belive run on the Conservative and Unionist ticket. Poitical identities are often complex amalgamations. I suppose we are no different … and it is certainly not as though the epithet Democrat is one of which we should be ashamed or embarrassed.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 4th Jul '10 - 3:46pm

    Given that the Danny Alexander is now doing the Thatcherites dirty work perhaps the best name for you shower is the New tories. I think you will find that there is already a Liberal Party and it certainly has more to do with liberal principles than you shower.

    Do any of you understand that 40% cuts to departmental budgets would either mean that you bring about the type of economy the Thatcherites have always dreamt of, or more likely that we have entered into a double dip recession – when the last thing anyone who believes in Keynesianism would countenance is further cuts.

  • David Allen 4th Jul '10 - 4:23pm

    As our opponents would happily recall if needed, our name came from a merger process, in which “Democrat” was included to demonstrate that we retained some of the key principles associated with the Roy Jenkins – Shirley Williams SDP tradition – in particular, fairness and social conscience.

    Would right now really be a good time to abandon that position?

  • David Allen

    not as if the Labour Party are offering alternative policies – just the three monkeys approach to the deficit – ‘see no deficit, hear no deficit, talk no deficit’.

  • John Fraser 4th Jul '10 - 4:50pm

    I think with potentially 40% departmental cuts coming there are more important things to discuss ….. surely !!!

  • @JohnM: Actually the Labour party’s plans to reduce the deficit would have met George Osborne’s own targets without the need for these extra ideological cuts. Even the likes of Fraser Nelson accept that. Will Hutton commented on Labour’s budget saying that “the march to sanity begins.”

  • David Allen 4th Jul '10 - 5:08pm

    @JohnM: If you didn’t notice, it was Roy Jenkins’ SDP principles I was standing up for, rather a different thing from New Labour!

    However since you mention Labour – Don’t be complacent. The three monkeys approach to the deficit went out with Gordon. Alastair Darling always had a much more balanced and rational approach – in line with the G20 objective of halving the deficit. Osborne does not!

  • @Mike

    sorry but what were Labour’s proposed 20% cuts again? It would help the debate wouldn’t it as to cut this – not that etc!

    I mean – give them some credibility and put the coalition on the spot up to the spending review if they offered alternative thoughts.

  • Patrick Smith 4th Jul '10 - 6:19pm

    All long standing Liberals,including those who wore sandals, will remember well that the Liberal Democrat Party was formed in 1988, as an an amalgam of the coalescence of the 7 year fusion of the SDP-Liberal Alliance.

    In 1983 and 1987 as there were joint published Manifestos in the name of the Liberal Party and Social Democrats would it have meant a `Coalition Agreement’ had to be struck if the the SDP-Liberal Alliance had been elected to form the Government?

    In 1983 the SDP-Alliance gained 25.4% of the popular vote but only 3.5 % or 23 of the Parliamentary Seats.

    Under any form of PR surely this would have resulted in 100-150 Seats for the same number of popular votes in 1983?.

    This is the most patent example of why the Liberal Democrats must win all friends to secure `Fair Votes’ with conviction and resolve under this omnipresent `Coalition Agreement’.

    In 2009 EU MEP Elections the Lib Dems won 11 Seats from 13.7% of the popular vote, a better example of `Fair Votes’, as it provides a fairer representation of those elected compared to the total number of votes cast.

    In December 2007 Nick Clegg said `Britain should become a place of tolerance and pluralism’ under his future years of leadership.

    That tolerance and pluralism is now best achieved in the name of `Fair Votes’, under the Liberal Democrats and if that means a stronger likelihood of future `Coalition Agreements’ after 2015, so be it. This will then strengthen the Liberal Democrat name as a brand for `Fair Votes’.

  • @JohnM: The current government hasn’t set out specifically what it will cut yet, that is a nonsensical argument.

    @Patrick Smith: PR is not better. PR brings the situation where all parties tailor their manifestos with an eye for coalition discussion. Seats would be proportional to votes but votes would mean nothing. This time round it was disgusting enough that the Liberals campaigned on things they didn’t believe in to strip them away during coalition discussions, and pretended to disagree with others in order to concede them. With every party playing such mind games with each other it will be impossible to vote based on policies.

  • Paul McKeown 4th Jul '10 - 7:15pm

    @Mike

    The Liberal Democrats have never campaigned for “PR”, by which, presumably you mean some party list system. They have consistently campaigned, instead, for Single Transferable Vote. They have accepted, now, as a compromise to ask the people for Alternative Vote, which is the single member degenerate case of STV.

  • @Paul McKeown: Oh, all my Lib Dem friends seem to be really into Proportional Representation. Oh well.

    @JohnM: Another thing- you do know that Labour is in the middle of a leadership election campaign and that different leaders have different priorities when it comes to cuts? Watch their hustings if you want to know where each stands. Harriet Harman doesn’t have the authority to shape Labour’s milder cuts beyond what has already been outlined.

  • @Huw Dawson: Anything you want to actually reply to? Be useful. I have given the reasoning behind all of my opinions if you would like to question them. Comments like yours which add nothing of substance but seek only to provoke are trolling. Put up or shut up.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 4th Jul '10 - 8:32pm

    “Comments like yours which add nothing of substance but seek only to provoke are trolling.”

    A “Lib Dem troll”? Impossible!

  • I have a theory that people on this site think that anyone without an “I Agree With Nick!!!” shirt is a troll. After all, how could anyone honestly disagree with the Liberal Democrats? Must just be trolls.

  • On the subject of Labour’s cuts, I posted this link under a different post in support of a different point, but it says something useful-

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/6080418/osbornes-headache.thtml

    “What jumped out at me was that the OBR says that on current government policy (ie, without Osborne’s recent £5.7bn of cuts, on the Darling trajectory) the structural deficit would be reduced from 8% now to 2.8% in 2014-15. That is to say, Osborne’s manifesto pledge – to eliminate “the bulk” of the structural deficit – would have happened under Darling. So no extra cut, or tax hike, is needed to meet this pledge. “

  • David Morton 4th Jul '10 - 10:41pm

    I’d support the idea in principal but its really something you would do just after an election in opposition after a high degree of consensus had been achieved. Doing it at the beginning of an unstable coalition would just lead to the mother of all process stories which could drag on for years. As has been suggested in many posts above ( a) there is the continuity Liberal party problem (b) there are other ways of pushing the liberal name to the fore front without a constitutional change.

    Any name that needs to be routinely abbreciated to ” LIb DEm ” clearly is in perfect but I suspect there isn’t much you can do about it.

  • I’d worry a little less about changing your name …. and a little more about changing your policies.,

    This is a distraction …. a bit like that AV business

  • Question: do Social Democrats still have a place in the Liberal Democrats?

  • Paul McKeown 5th Jul '10 - 8:38am

    @mpg

    Social Democrats?

    Interestingly enough, by 1981, they found that there was no room left for them in Labour.

  • There isn’t a place for social democrats in the Labour party now but for different reasons.

  • @ Mike

    “Christ, do you think we’ve gotten less liberal in regards to civil and social liberties than previously? ”

    Erm, yes. Jack Straw’s Mail column in which he positions himself to the right of the Tories should make any liberal shudder at the thought of supporting Labour.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Jul '10 - 11:49am

    The Guardian’s article is 23 years too late. Back in 1987, the Guardian along with all the rest of the media, including the supposedly neutral BBC, was reporting the alliance between the Liberal Party and the SDP and the process of the parties merging in terms outrageously biased towards the SDP. The impression was given that the SDP was the driving force in the alliance, despite the fact that it was really the Liberal grassroots membership that was pushing it forwards based on the revival of the party that had started when it refused to die in the 1950s and broke through to major party status again, at least in vote share, in the February 1974 general election. As a consequence, all that we had to contribute was written off, and for a while even the word “Liberal” was regarded as some sort of dirty word which people who wanted the merger to succeed should not utter. The result was that the merger went seriously wrong because it ended up trying to recreate what the SDP did in 1981 – look like a flash party invented from nowhere under the assumption people would say “Oh, wow, something brand new, must be good”.

    In my view, which I did get published in Liberal News at the time, merger of the Liberal Party and the SDP should have been accomplished by one simple constitutional amendment – make the SDP a recognised body within the Liberal Party, along with the various other bodies like the National League of Young Liberals which also had that status. It was a status which would give every member of the SDP full membership right in the Liberal Party, it would have enabled the SDP to maintain a degree of autonomy, it would have ensured our historical links which Garton Ash now recognises were of some value, were maintained, and it would have stopped any new parties being able to claim they were The Liberal Party or The SDP where “The” implies “the one you are familiar with as existing in the past” as two new parties did.

    I also wrote, at the time, a paper in which I noted that the very idea of “The Liberal Party” was a contradiction, true liberalism should imply there can only be such a thing as “A Liberal Party”.

  • @Zadok: Seriously. Think. Do you really think that we are in a worse place concerning civil and social liberties after Labour than before Labour? Don’t you remember what the Tories used to be able to get away with? Labour shifted the liberties debate to the Left, and it’s only because of Labour that the Tories don’t feel they can get away with being quite so authoritarian and anti-gay, for example.

  • @Mike civil liberties definitely are worse now than when New Labour came to power even at the height of the IRA threat and following the Brighton bomb the Tories never tried to extend detention without charge or trial to 80 days

    I will admit New Labour’s record on social liberties was good with civil partnerships, equalising the age of consent etc.

  • Like I said, that is something that the parties only differ in scope and extent over, not in basic principles. It’s a difference based on pure practicality.

    And Labour hasn’t been using the police as its own personal army. It hasn’t been fighting pitched battles against its own citizens just for going on strike and what have you. Civil liberties for working people, for the unextraordinary cases, is far better. Labour never treated Northern and Irisih towns as occupied enemy cities.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 6th Jul '10 - 12:34am

    “And from the one time I met TGA, all I can say was that I was blinded by his judgemental snobbery and susceptibility to sycophants.”

    Hmm. Reading between the lines, I’m getting the picture.

  • Name change: Continuity Liberal Party has a good ring about it – “Con-Lite” for short.

  • Terry Gilbert 7th Jul '10 - 2:21pm

    Absolute tosh from Garton Ash. The word Democrat is more important to the party at this particular moment than it ever has been!

  • Yes, Terry. More important to emphasise the party’s roots in the SDP (which is why the Democrat was used, not to imply a democratic party, that is taken for granted). In that respect, aside from the impossibility of using Liberal with another party bearing the name, any change would seem to imply a change of principles to a free marketeering mercantilist old fashioned liberalism. And we would then see “the left” leaving the party in droves, and ultimately a merger with the Tories a la National Liberal Conservatives and other previous examples which saw the former Liberals into irrelevance.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Jul '10 - 10:41pm


    In that respect, aside from the impossibility of using Liberal with another party bearing the name, any change would seem to imply a change of principles to a free marketeering mercantilist old fashioned liberalism. And we would then see “the left” leaving the party in droves,

    Er, are you aware that at the time of the merger the word “Liberal” was considered suspect because it was associated with the left? It was David Owen and his sort who were the “right”. At that time, the word “Liberal” was simply not associated here in the Uk with free market mercantilism. The Liberal Party defined its aims as building a socioety in which “none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. What has that to do with free market mercantilism?

  • Ian mitchell 9th Jul '10 - 11:21pm

    How about calling yourselves tories.

  • I joined the Liberal Party in January 1974 and stayed loyal to the party despite the alliance with the Right wing Social Democrats and the free market leaning Orange Book but alliance with the hated Tories is the last straw – Yes the Lib Dems should again become the Liberal Party and at the same time abandon this right wing Tory dominated so called coalition. The colaition is a most folk know a chance simply for the Tories to take power when they had no mandate and they as usual screw the poor, the unemployed whilst saying nothing about the bankers and city people who created this recession. Many Liberals have now left the Party – I would advise the true Liberals in the Coalition to vote against any reactionay measures being introduced starting with the Budget (sadly too late on this ocasion) – I am myself campaigning to bring the coalition to a speedy demise; perhaps a group of like minded people could join in.

  • Barry George 14th Jul '10 - 6:11pm

    @ David Orr

    Many of us are angry David but I haven’t given up hope. I am waiting for the party to show some teeth and start fighting back against Tory ideology. Although I am not a ‘member’ I would hope you would stay here and do the same.

    Fighting from inside the party carries some weight and if all dissenters left the party then there would be nobody left to hold this coalition in check.

    Alas many people here are fixated on attacking the Labour party. In my opinion it is a reflection of the denial in facing the realities of this ideologically lead Conservative government and the magic wand we have given them to bring havoc on the vulnerable in society.

    I imagine that many of the giddy on pseudo power brigade would be happy if people like you didn’t comment here. But I am pleased to see you here and hope you stay and fight for what you believe in.

  • re david orr

    Nope! We’ve campaigned for a more pluralist democracy and the inevitability of coalition government. To walk away from our first opportunity would be total madness. We don’t want to leave the country to the uncertainty of a minority Tory government or risk another election in 6-12 months which might just give the Tories a majority (of MP’s). And even if Labour had the numbers – a coalition with them would be totally unthinkable after the shame of their last two terms. They deserve a generation out of power. We are not, and never have been Labour’s sidekick.

    We’re not going to get everything our own way but already we’ve achieved more progressive aims (or put them in motion) than Labour in the past decade. Yes, we have a duty as liberals to stand up for the the most vulnerable in society where we see unfairness – that is easier from the government benches.

    By all means give opinion on issues and (unlike Labour) give alternatives – but trying to bring down the coalition is not the right approach.

  • David Orr,

    “the Right wing Social Democrats”

    The SDP had an economic policy that was well to the left of the Liberal Party. The move to the right came after Owen acceded to the leadership in the summer of 1983. The Liberal Party, by contrast, encompassed a very wide range of opinions, and included people who were very right-wing on most issues, such as Roger Pincham and his fellow entryists from the School of Economic Science.

    Barry George,

    “I am waiting for the party to show some teeth and start fighting back against Tory ideology.”

    Some in the party are already doing just that. Mike Hancock and Bob Russell did so last week, when they voted against the VAT rise. And read what Tony Greaves says on this site today. It is only a matter of time before Simon Hughes breaks ranks, and one or two of the junior ministers walk.

    While I would welcome an “exit” from this one-sided coalition long before the five years are up, I would be wary of jumping ship too soon. The most effective propaganda weapon the Tories were able to deploy against us in May (costing us up to six points in the polls) was the notion that hung Parliaments lead to weak, unstable government.

    We have to let the Tory right destroy the Coalition, while ensuring that we stick to Liberal principles and refuse to support illiberal Tory measures that are dehors the Coalition Agreement.

  • Barry George 14th Jul '10 - 7:27pm

    @ Sesenco

    Some in the party are already doing just that

    Yes I accept that, although the dissenter’s ( according to the impression I get from this site ) are in a minority. I expect that to very quickly become a majority when the pain of right wing ideology begins to bite.

    I would be wary of jumping ship too soon.

    Aye , I agree on that too.

    We have to let the Tory right destroy the Coalition,

    Yes , That’s what I am expecting to happen…

    ensuring that we stick to Liberal principles and refuse to support illiberal Tory measures that are dehors the Coalition Agreement.

    I do note the examples that you highlight, but I am not seeing anywhere near enough dissent of illiberal Tory measures. The party is acting a little poodle like in the face of Cameron’s mob.

    More generally, and not in regard to yourself, those that think attacking Labour will get the voters back on side are very misguided. That tactic may have worked well in opposition, but in Government it looks weak and somewhat pathetic.

  • Barry George 14th Jul '10 - 7:29pm

    ooops , formating mess , sorry

  • ‘The SDP had an economic policy that was well to the left of the Liberal Party. The move to the right came after Owen acceded to the leadership in the summer of 1983. The Liberal Party, by contrast, encompassed a very wide range of opinions, and included people who were very right-wing on most issues, such as Roger Pincham and his fellow entryists from the School of Economic Science. ‘ (Sesenco)

    The SDP (Gang of 4) did not have an economic policy well to the left of the Liberal Party that is simply innacurate. The reason why they split from the Labour Party was because of Labour’s then opposition to the EEC and that they they considered rahter dubiously that Labour had moved to the ‘Left ‘ on economic and social matters. The Liberals believed in maintaining the nationalised industries, the NHS etc within the state sector. I met with many defectors from Labour in the early 1980s who had joined the SDP and they were certainly to the Right of me on most issues – particulary the economy, how they viewed Europe (they viewed it purely in free market terms as an economic union), foreign affairs, and civil liberties – the ones I met were a real conservative bunch! in the 70s and 80s I was an active member of the Liberal Party as a Young Liberal and member of the Radical Bulletin and I have never heard of Roger Pincham or the ‘School of economic science’ – maybe a fringe group who tried to join the Liberals but had no influence. Sadly in recent years the ‘Liberal Democrats’ (Like Cyril Smith I was for strangling the SDP at birth and not letting them join us let alone forming an Alliance) have moved to the right with the so called ‘Orange Book’ members (contrast with the 1929 Yellow Book (Kensyian & Welfare Statist) having seemingly taken over control; it is this that has led the leadership (out of touch with the grassroots) to abandon Liberalism and to forge an alliance with free markeers like the current Chancellor.
    Maybe the Radicals in the Party should now try to retake control – beginning with a leadership challenge if they do not quit this reactionary and regressive coalition. In case you want to know – Traditional Radical Liberalism going back to the late 19th Century stands for a Welfare State free at the point of delivery, a mixed economy, land reform, abolition of the bastions of priviledge (Monarchy, Lords, Private Schools, large land ownership, private banks, and a radical redistribution of wealth etc + a pacific foreign policy of non-engagement in the internal affairs of other countires, supporting repressed minorities, end to nuclear weapons, to be continued

  • David Orr wrote:

    “and I have never heard of Roger Pincham or the ‘School of economic science’ – maybe a fringe group who tried to join the Liberals but had no influence”

    Roger Pincham was President of the Liberal Party under David Steel, and as a Parliamentary candidate scored notable second places in Leominster on three occasions. His brother, John (also in the SES), was a county councillor in Surrey during the 1990s. Google “Roger PIncham” and you will find some pretty nasty stuff.

  • David Orr wrote,

    “(Like Cyril Smith I was for strangling the SDP at birth and not letting them join us let alone forming an Alliance)”

    Cyril Smith is in favour of capital and corporal punishment and nuclear weapons, so his objection to the SDP hardly came from a left (or liberal) perspective.

  • ‘Cyril Smith is in favour of capital and corporal punishment and nuclear weapons, so his objection to the SDP hardly came from a left (or liberal) perspective.’

    where did i say Cyril was on the left of the party? All i said was he was right in that view maybe not so on others

    Roger P. – you get nasty and wierd characters in all parties – he’s obviously gone and forgotten

  • ‘David Orr,
    you seem to be of the impression that ‘liberalism’ is enslaved to a doctrinaire ideological framework with prescribed policy outcomes.

    Even were that remotely true I find it distinctly odd that you fail to consider the circumstances which face us as limitations on the ability to actually enact those which you prefer. Maybe I can suggest you get out of your simcity style of politics for a bit of meaningful practice.’

    Apart from being dowright rude and patronising you obviously have a different interpretation of modern Radical Liberalism – i do have a very distinct ideological belief and it doesnt have anything to do with working with a bunch of reactionaries – I didnt join the Liberal Party in 1974 to ever consider working with the enemy! It has nothing to do with being ‘enslaved. merely having a deep polical and moral set of beliefs. Are you a Tory or a Liberal?

    ‘I must say it is noticable that the strength of general criticism of coalition policy is diminishing by the day as the range of alternatives is explored and understood more fully,’

    Quite the contrary – the strength of criticism in the country is massively increasing as people realise the NHS is being privatised, the poor are getting crushed by regressive VAT, the schools are being sold off etc – all to the Toris pals in the city and private enterprises; while the bankers who should be made to suffer are being let off. We will soon be seeing strike after strike as people see their wages being effectively cut and threatened with redundancy. This government will be one the most hated since Thatcher was finally booted out after destroying our productive industries.

    ‘…so, although I have a strong distaste for association with those we’ve long opposed, I also recognise the taking and holding of office while the country has been put in such a vulnerable position was never going to be a cakewalk.’
    We are one of the richest countries in the world and can well afford no cut backs – this is a trick by the Right wing vested interests to destroy the welfare state by selling it all off and if you really are blind to that I feel sorry for you!

    I for one will never have any truck with the Tories! They have one central policy – screw the poor and dispossed and feed their own naked self interests – their friends ie bankers, landowners, the monied interest and private capital – through free market values and not moral values (the two are complete opposites)

    ‘We face a stark choice between compromising on policy or compromising on principle. Both will be unpopular, but to attack the leadership for taking the realistic view is to create a hostage to fortune that will cost far more in the long run.’
    wrong they have sold out political principle for power and have got nothing in return just to allow the Tories into power –
    Liberla activists should now do to the leadership what Labour activists did to Ramsey McDonald and his cohort – the latter betrayed the Labour Party so Liberal activists should follow what Labour activists did then -

  • Paul McKeown 16th Jul '10 - 4:28pm

    @David Orr

    “Tories”

    You don’t have to be a Tory to be able to work with them. To my mind they are to no greater degree the enemy than Labour is.

    “Ramsey McDonald”

    What a funny idea! The Provisional True Liberal Splinterists Party! Good luck to you.

  • Paul McKeown 16th Jul '10 - 4:37pm

    The Liberal Democrats answer to Militant: the Handwringing Tendency…

    strewth

  • Oooh I certainly hit a nerve! The truth hurts doesnt it ? The only answer people like you have when you have lost the argument is to insult –

    As the late great Ian Drury said – some people do speak a load of (smug self satisfied) bollocks! It’s right wing smug self satisfied Tories like you that make me choke. No unfortunately fundamental beliefs are not cosidered important by folk like you or other technocrats who seem to be in charge of the Liber Democrats these days –

    Maybe the higher echelons of the civil service are impressed by the coalition but not so the ordinary hard pressed Civil Servants who I work with who are rather less than complimentary to clegg, Cameron et el. If I were you I wouldnt listen just to the voices of the establishment but rather to those of ordinary people.

    Any way many Liberal friends of mine have already had enough and quit the party – many voters who have been betrayed will no longer vote for a party that has merely become Mr Cameron’s poodle.

  • Well I wondered whether i should reply to your very illiberal, cruel and insulting personal attacks on me –
    ‘your inverted snobbery towards people different from yourself (or who you percieve to be different) only belies your deeper insecurity and unresolved identity issues, which, if I may say, doesn’t make you a reliable commentator’

    personal attacks always indicate when someone has no argument left to put

    I joined the Liberal Party in 1974 and never ever agreed to joining the SDP and Gang of Four or the Alliance as I believed they would be diluting the radical nature of Liberalism (as did many Liberals who maintained the existence of the True Liberal Party – I was also a member of RB and a YL. I was amused to hear Tony Greaves criticisning the Coalition on Friday’s (23rd July) Radio 4′s World at One. He said he didn’t trust the Tories or Cameron describing them in not very charitable terms ; he said he listened to Cameron and his ideas such as ‘big society’ and was in despair; he also said how the Tories were doing things not in the Coalition Agreement – simply flouting the agreement and this coalition will threaten the exisitence of the Liberals – the party could disappear; another Liberal Peer describes the Coalition as a disaster. another describes the tory party as Toxic – the Ugly Party. Joining in coalition with the hated ‘Toxic’ Tories is like a kiss of death.

    In my town of Rotherham – the Coalition by putting up VAT, a regressive tax, will impoverish many people, the ‘dismemberment’ of the health service White Paper , an Academies Bill (all three not a part of the coalition agreement) being rushed through will simply benefit a narrow and vociferous section of society; and other reactionary ideas coming from the tory stable are being pushed through using Liberal MPs as cannon fodder and where I work they describe the Deputy Prime Minister as Cameron’s Poodle and unwelcome in South Yorkshire – we remember the last Tory government here and their massive cuts and destruction of the Steel industry and coal industry – what have the Liberals got? – not even PR! Just AV which is probably more unfair thatn the present system and certainly not in any way proportional and the Tories have argued against having the referendum and only by cynically attaching it to a proposal that will merely unfairly increase the the number of Tory MPs.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00t18jk

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