Bogdanor: Cable has exposed the Liberal Democrat divide

Over on Comment is free, Vernon Bogdanor says that Vince Cable’s ‘hat in leadership ring throw’ reflects a fundamental divide within the party:

Cable’s intervention, therefore, should not be seen solely in personal terms, but as bringing to the surface the conflict between the social and the economic Liberals in his party. No one can predict how this conflict will be resolved. But it is probably safe to assume that the instincts of most Lib Dems remain on the left, and that they continue to regard Labour as a competitor, but the Conservatives, even though their partners in government, as the enemy.

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7 Comments

  • Foregone Conclusion 23rd Jul '12 - 5:05pm

    This is nonsense on stilts. Most of the discussion I’ve heard so far is purely tactical – whether it would be more advantageous to have Clegg or Vince as a means of getting ourselves out of our current electoral predicament.

  • To any prospective new leader – be prepared!

    Are you prepared to have every aspect of your life criticised again and again – including the financial arrangements of every member of your family down to that second cousin once removed who lives in Timbuctoo, the education of your children, even the type of car you drive etc, etc. The partners you choose in any sporting activity will be examined and challenged. The Murdoch press, the left wing press and the right wing press, not to mention the BBC will hate you and publish critical reviews about you every day, telling the world how useless you are. Your Coalition partners will hate you for everything you do and don’t do, and claim credit for it when it suits them.

    Protesters will exercise their democratic right to demonstrate outside your house and annoy your neighbours. They may even exercise their democratic right to post dog mess through your letterbox, spit on you, throw eggs at you and post stupid jokes about you on the internet, particularly referencing poodles. You will frequently appear in demeaning cartoons in the broadsheets.

    If you can shrug it off and keep on going, even get used to it, because you’re an optimist who can take life’s knocks and keep on going, then you’ll be a fit leader for the LibDems. Nick Clegg does this – can you?

  • Beware of fifth columnists ! To say that all the party faithful do not sing from an identical hymn sheet is not new but so far we have managed to keep a lid on it and with sense and goodwill on both sides we will continue in comparative harmony. To open up the debate will only suit those outside our party who see an opportunity to capitalise on any division that might lead to self-destruction

  • Vernon Bogdanor says:

    “it is probably safe to assume that the instincts of most Lib Dems remain on the left, and that they continue to regard Labour as a competitor, but the Conservatives, even though their partners in government, as the enemy.”

    Rampant Conservatism and Socialism are both the enemies of Liberalism but it seems fair to say that there has not been any effective manifestation of parliamentary socialism in the UK since the days of Mrs Thatcher. Consequently, when we have had to choose, Lib Dems are now having to choose between two Parties of conservatives, one dominated (mostly) by pragmatists, one dominated (mostly) by ideologues. The peculiar thing is that Conservatives in local government can often by effectively ‘municipal socialists’ in the manner in which they like to spray public money around for their own self-aggrandisement.

    I meet few Lib Dems who I would not describe at one level or another as ‘social liberals’. What I feel is that those who come across as having a dominant ‘economic liberal’ streak appear to be largely theorists a la Michael Gove. The unfettered pursuit of theories can be costly in electoral terms for the Party as well as in economic terms for the country.

    Labour only becomes a ‘competitor’ to Lib Dems when it abandons parts of its conservative tendency in opposition and then flirts with some of the more electorally attractive menus with which to ‘con’ the voters.

  • Cheltenham Robin 24th Jul '12 - 11:36am

    “But it is probably safe to assume that the instincts of most Lib Dems remain on the left”

    The instincts of most Lib Dems remain ‘Liberal’

  • This is trying to create a division and turn attention from the great divides within both Tory and Labour ranks. If we had achieved PR voting these two ‘great’ parties, by now, would have sub-divided… and that’s the real reason why everything was thrown at stopping voting reform.
    Meg is absolutely right, Nick has an amazing resilience to it all, and still the best leader we have had since Paddy (not Charlie, he wooed the ladies, but he wasn’t good).

  • Bit of an irony in that Cable is probably one of the best examples of someone who straddles the social-economic liberal divide! He has elements of both camps (insofar as there are camps) – perhaps why he’s so popular with the party (and why he could be, politically, an excellent leadership choice were Clegg to be run over by a bus).

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