Author Archives: Colin Lloyd

Opinion: The morning after

I walked around the City of London this morning. Sunlight filtered through the banks and sandwich bars of the narrow streets, occasionally reaching the road, more often than not reflected from the acres of glass left gleaming and untroubled the the events of the previous days.

Around the Bank of England I searched for evidence of the violence and anarchy from the hard-core of the idiots who visited the G20 summit only to cause trouble. A rather lonely scrawl of “Fuck Capitalism” could be seen under the Bank’s museum entrance sign, and on the other side, more wittily someone had written “Because we’re evil” under a “No Bicycles” sign.

The small branch of RBS that had made the news as the nexus of ‘public’ anger had two windows boarded up and a rather cheerful offer of 3.5% interest on a cash ISA in the next.

Down Bishopgate where the peaceful Climate Camp had stretched for half a mile, before the Police decided to recycle their tents into environmentally unfriendly shopping bags, there was even less evidence that anything had happened.

The G20 had come, the G20 had gone, some people wanted a bit of a shout about it, and had achieved some commemorative mug shots of being oppressed to share with their mates on MySpace. Somebody accidentally died, and to everyone’s amazement it wasn’t Gordon Brown of embarrassment.

The concrete achievements of the G20 are hard to assess at this stage. Much of the money touted in the ‘historic’ $5 trillion package was from pre-announced national fiscal stimuli, much was optimistic, and much is likely to disappear after the cheerful world leaders go home to do hard sums with their Finance Ministers, several of whom will need to be coaxed down from the window ledges of their Treasuries.

What is clearly new though is the attitude and approach.

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Opinion: In praise of left and right

One of the interesting features of the debates provoked by last week’s analysis of Liberator’s latest assault on ‘the right’ of the party, and the Social Liberal Forum’s related critique, was the refrain in the comments of an old theme about how unhelpful the labels left and right can be in understanding the viewpoint of the person thus labelled. Indeed it’s a point of view that in part has defined Nick Clegg’s approach to answering questions on which way he is taking the party:

It’s not a matter of left versus right, but what is fair. – Independent, June 2008

There is some truth in this. In this party ‘right’ is often used as a catch-all pejorative meaning ‘they like liberal market economics, I don’t’, whereas ‘left’ occasionally gets the prefix ‘loony’ or ‘extreme’ to mean ‘they think they’re a liberal, I think they’re a socialist’. Externally any media analysis couched in the language of left and right is rarely intended to be helpful to the party, more a dog-whistle to put off supporters of the opposite point of view. The Tories call us ‘lefties’, the Labour party ‘right-wing Orange Tories’.

However in respect of giving some sense of where a Liberal Democrat commentator is coming from, whether their priorities lie more towards redistribution and social justice or towards aspiration and prosperity, these ‘inadequate’ labels are far more descriptive than most of the alternatives.

Take for example David Howarth’s thoughtful attempt to redefine social liberalism in Reinventing the State:

Sometime in the late nineteenth century, liberalism began to divide into two different streams. One stream, which came to be called ‘classical liberalism’… The other stream, which has come to be called ‘social liberalism’.

There are three major problems with his case. The first is that his definition of what social liberalism is, is so broad, that I can see no meaningful difference between it and plain liberalism, it doesn’t need the social tag. Indeed he is forced to develop ‘maximalist’ and ‘minimalist’ tags to show differences of emphasis between social social liberals and economic social liberals.

These all being hopelessly unhelpful and non-descript labels, what is wrong with simply using left and right to show emphasis and liberal to mean… liberal?

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Opinion: We’re a diverse party, get over it already

You do have to wonder who writes the Liberator Magazine Editorial sometimes. In February’s issue, the Collective launch into a fabulously splenetic rant (even by this shy retiring organ’s own standards) against the “blues under the bed” who they demand “should accept (their) defeat and clear off”.

That the majority of Liberator’s editorial board dislike the classical-liberal or economic-liberal or (shudder) right-wing of the party has never been in doubt, but you do wonder if there will be a point, after over 30 years of publication, where this Hamas-like Commentariat will proclaim an acceptance of the rights of the other side to exist, even if they do not always agree with them.

I should note that away from the left-wing sermon that is their editorial and Radical Bulletin they do print a variety of articles and even tolerate token eco-lib Jonathan Calder on their committee; but he is funny and occasionally pretends to be a post-centennial peer, so presumably fulfills some exclusive acceptability criteria of being ‘a bit right’ but Bonkers, and thus in need of some kind of compassionate care in their community.

There has always been a ‘left’ and ‘right’ to this liberal party, and even if the centre of gravity has shifted in response to events, what unites them, internationalism, tolerance, a belief in human rights, the importance of caring for each other and the environment etc., has always been greater than what divides… more often than not tax, spending, and other economic policies.

It is surely evident though, even to Liberator’s most bilious wordsmiths, that their perennial hate figures… Nick Clegg, David Laws, Gavin Grant, Mark Littlewood et. al. have more in common with them than Norman Tebbit and George Galloway?

Their clinching ‘evidence’ to demand for a schism though is the bizarre argument that:

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Opinion: Pope fears Catholic change

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the holy water… along comes the Pope to remind you why it’s great to be an atheist at Christmas. Could there be a message more loaded with hypocritical intolerance and bigotry masquerading as academic speculation, than the Pontiff’s pontificating on gender theory this Yule?

This after all is a man who has spent his life in the company of other men, wears a frock, and presides over an organisation that for decades has turned a blind eye to predatory sex abuse by employees.

Ah yes the social conservatives will say… ‘he’s not anti-gay’, ‘heck some of his best friends are homosexual’… albeit non-practicing, and he’s made statements to the effect that he does not condone anti-gay acts of discrimination… but this is to give a fig leaf of respectability to words that convey an undercurrent of corrosive hate far more insidious than the more blatant ignorance of the mostly male homophobes who choose to show the worst side of their gender through mindless violence.

The notion that homosexuality, transexuality, or heterosexuals who display atypical gender characteristics are a threat to the future of humanity ‘akin to climate change’ is such palpable nonsense that it barely merits response. However, since social conservatives have lately taken to justifying their prejudices by claiming themselves victims of hatred by those who disagree with them, let us address this with reason.

First even if we were all ‘so gay’ that all procreation revolted us, we would not die out. The implication we might shows no respect to millions of gay couples who have carried, cared for and raised children as their own, even if only one partner was the genetic donor. An ‘all gay world’ might be very different to one we live in today, and no doubt every bit as odd as an all-straight one, but it would not be a morgue.

Second, we are not all gay and human homosexuality, as with other animals is a minority pursuit; one that there increasing evidence to suggest has ‘natural’ social benefits, such as reducing male competition for females, or providing recourse to sexual release that doesn’t result in children. Not all genes are selfish.

Third, unlike climate change, the idea that there are men’s men and women’s women, and that is how we should be has no basis in science. We are instead incredibly diverse in our natures, and nurturing to condition us into ‘natural’ roles can be profoundly damaging to those who do not fit so-called ‘norm’.

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