Why Cameron’s a credible candidate for 2010’s Liberal Voice award

Lib Dem Voice is currently running our fourth annual Liberal Voice of the Year poll. The purpose of this award since we launched it in 2006 has been to find a liberal from beyond the ranks of the Lib Dems — a Good Thing for a party committed to pluralism.

Equally traditionally, this has attracted some flak. Last year, it was Peter Tatchell’s inclusion which sparked strong views from those irate that the Voice should have recognised one of the Green Party’s leading lights. This year it’s the inclusion of two Tories — Ken Clarke and David Cameron — which has attracted some ire from commenters.

I’m unrepentant (not that they were my choice). By nominating Messrs Clarke or Cameron, or Labour’s Bob Ainsworth for his support for liberalisation of the UK drugs laws, no-one’s suggesting they’re fully signed-up liberals. However, their nomination does recognise that Liberals do not have a monopoly on liberalism, appropriately enough for an ideology that believes in the dispersal of power.

David Cameron is the most controversial inclusion, unsurprisingly. After all, he’s the Tory leader, a “Conservative to the core”, who wrote the party’s ultra-right 2005 election manifesto. And yet…

And yet, I think his inclusion is justified on merit. Not because he’s a liberal (obviously), but because through his actions he’s enabling liberal achievements. His critics — and they are legion in Lib Dem ranks, regardless of the Coalition — will say that for him these are an easily-paid price for power: that he’s simply following his ‘born to rule’ lodestar. Quite possible. But does his intent, his motivation, actually matter?

Put it another way: on 6th May, David Cameron had another option. He could’ve played along with Coalition talks; feigned commitment to genuine partnership; and then have walked away from the negotiating table, claiming the Lib Dems had double-crossed him, and made unreasonable demands.

Such a version of events would’ve been lapped-up by the news media (right-wing and left-wing alike: which is all of it). The Tories would’ve formed a minority government, and introduced an emergency budget which gave some tax cuts to the well-off propertied classes, and cut back further on welfare ‘scroungers’. They would’ve engineered a populist cause (perhaps over Europe?) to justify a second general election last October. And they would have almost certainly won a working majority. The Lib Dems — shown to be untrustworthy and unready for government, and with no money left to fight a second election — would’ve been squeezed mercilessly.

That’s what I think would’ve happened. And those who still, today, think the Lib Dems would’ve been better off out of the Coalition are in my view wholly wrong in imagining the party would be in any better shape in the polls, let alone that any of the major policy achievements of the past six months would have been achieved.

Yet David Cameron didn’t choose that option. He didn’t choose to govern alone; he chose to govern in partnership. For sure, with the Lib Dems as junior partners — but, then, that’s how the public voted. The cynical will say he chose Coalition because it was the easier option (really?), or because it’s the option which allowed him to make history (maybe). It’s more accurate, I suspect, to say that the Coalition is more simpatico to David Cameron’s own pragmatic, moderate instincts. Quite simply, it suits him better to tack to the centre than to the right.

That a “Liberal Consevative Government” (his description) exists is, in large measure, David Cameron’s personal choice. Does any of this make him a True Liberal? Not in my view, no. But it does mean his inclusion as a nominee for Liberal Voice of the Year is fair dinkum.

I still wouldn’t vote for him to win this poll, though. I mean, c’mon people, look at the list. There are many more far deserving candidates.

The poll is still open — see the right-hand column — and will be for a few more days… so vote early, vote once.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • No, stop this nonsense straight away. Cameron is not one of us, nor will he ever be. He is a Johnny come lately who opposed all sorts of liberal legislation e.g. gay rights in the past.

    Voting him Liberal of the year is ridiculous and will be used as yet another stick to beat the Lib Dems with. What was anyone think of, in nominating him.

    Don’t vote Cameron. He should be removed from the list instantly. This is complete madness.

  • Nich, the poll explicitly excludes Lib Dem party members from nomination see (https://www.libdemvoice.org/whos-your-liberal-voice-of-2010-22534.html).

  • David Allen 3rd Jan '11 - 3:58pm

    “Conservative or Labour activists might vote for Cameron to make us ‘look bad’, but the joke would be on them”

    Gordon Brown could never see that he was a standing joke. These days, it’s the Lib Dems who can’t see it.

  • Simon McGrath 3rd Jan '11 - 4:11pm

    I think the analysis of what Cameron could have done is spot on apart from the tax cuts for the ‘propertied classes’. With another election coming up they would have been mad to do this.

    Much more likely is the attacks on welfare benefits which have been one of the most popular of the government policies.

  • Simon McGrath 3rd Jan '11 - 4:12pm

    I suspect they would have engineered the election around something like the cap on housing benefits in London.

  • Ignoring Cameron who the author is right did enable the coalition, I think it’s interesting that in a year where for 7 months there were Lib Dem ministers for the first time in decades that none are nominated………

    Still I’m not sure I see Clegg as a liberal any more!!

  • Says it all really.

    David Cameron Liberal?

    Sell your servers now LDV. You’ve gone native.

  • @ matt
    Glad to seeyou back! To have Cameron nominated just says it all does it not?
    I know that you defend the sick and disabled which is more than any Liberal Democrat has done on this site. the word ‘scroungers’ should not have been used even in irony. We have to remember that the attacks on the sick and disabled by Osborne were applauded by Clegg, Cable and Alexander with patting on the back so they are totally complicit in this ‘scrounger’ mentality, have you seen any Lib Dem decrying this? What is worrying is the ignorance of Lib Dems on this matter. They seem to think that the ‘Harrington’ review has helped. wrong. The harsh new ESA medical test is still being implemented in March. All the review has done is to tell ATOS to smile as they throw the sick and disabled onto a non existent job market. The coalition also has not accepted the tribunal reccommendations, wonder why? Check this thread I was trying to get the point across.

    @ Mark Valladares
    Matt has a very great amount of integrity. Look towards the pledge breakers before you accuse others and where is the integrity of having Cameron nominated and even voted for. As for the link, that is probably because Lib Dems were decrying those commenting not in blue some time ago on this site, integrity, do not make me laugh.

  • Very thoughtful post. I think you are completely right, though especially your ending:

    I still wouldn’t vote for him to win this poll, though. I mean, c’mon people, look at the list. There are many more far deserving candidates.

  • Hmm, I think those who claim that his inclusion on the list means that he must be a “Liberal” somewhat miss the point

    And I agree with those who point out the difference between being slightly economically to the right of the far left, and believing that everyone on benefits are scroungers. My experience is that even those on the right of the Liberal Democrats have more progressive instincts than the majority of the Labour Party.

  • @Tom
    It amazes me how the Labour Party are so villified and yet Lib Dems have taken on their disgraceful Welfare Policies with vigour. Why are they right on those but seemingly nothing else? i am confused.

  • @ Mark Valladares
    I think anyone who supports the poor, sick and disabled on here as Matt does has integrity, Unfortunately not one Lib Dem has, have you? You have been told why he started to put his name in blue, because of snide remarks and sneers by Lib Dems who dismissed anyone whose name was not in blue. it is obvious that you ‘do not like’ those who disagree with you but your suggestion I should not post here is typical. I think that Lib Dems may be worried about his inclusion as well.
    I shall not vote at all as the whole thing is ridiculous as you will probably have many Conservatives and Labour party members voting just to pull you down further. Why do Lib Dems lay themselves open to such ridicule?

  • David Allen 3rd Jan '11 - 5:59pm


    It’s slightly eccentric of Matt to link to Google, but he has told us exactly who he is in previous posts. He is a Labour supporter who has voted Lib Dem in the past but would not do so now. Since Lib Dem Voice “welcomes comments from everyone”, why the hell go attacking his integrity?

    Most of the so-called “Labour trolls” on this site make it pretty clear why they are here and what they want to achieve. If they talk nonsense, we should counter it with rational argument, not ad hominem attacks. Some of the “trolls” want to shame us for our many policy reversals and for selling out. They have a case. They might also look at Labour’s record in that respect, of course, but that’s a separate issue.

    I think that every time a Lib Dem attacks the “trolls”, I can see someone who is showing that they are, indeed, ashamed of some of the things we have done!

  • Matt Downey 3rd Jan '11 - 6:12pm

    TBH the thing I’m most annoyed about is that a poll by lib dem voice is using FPTP, surely AV would be more appropriate?

  • Simon McGrath 3rd Jan '11 - 6:13pm

    Well done LDV for running this ingenious IQ test, which most of the Labour trolls have failed. Despite it being explained very clearly that members of the Lib Dems are ineligible they persist in complaining about their absence.

  • Matt Downey 3rd Jan '11 - 6:28pm

    Also since reading the other Matt’s comments, I have to say I feel ashamed to share his name. It really annoys me when people take a point of view just to be provocative and argumentative. “I am sick and tired of people who are reliant on benefits as being described as scroungers, whether it is being said in Irony or not.” So you don’t support the use of words to describe things? Stephen was clearly trying to show how a Tory mind works and not his own opinions. Even then, most of the time the word scrounger is used, it isn’t applying generally to people who claim benefits. It infuriates me how trolls refuse to acknowledge basic facts.

  • To be quite honest I don’t really have any idea of what ‘liberalism’ means any more. At least not in the sense of practice on the ground. The Orange Book’s ‘reclaimed’ brand of liberalism is not any liberalism I care for.

    What Cameron did was, to my mind, pragmatic politics, not liberal politics.

    To paraphrase the Guardian – the Conservative moment has arrived.

  • Tony Dawson 3rd Jan '11 - 6:46pm

    Cameron is no Liberal, nor a liberal’s hero. He is a pleasant enough narcissist, without any obvious grounding philosophy, much like Tony Blair and numerous other political leaders of various parties around the world who appear to ‘fit’ the present 24-hr-TV news age.

  • @Simon McGrath
    “Well done LDV for running this ingenious IQ test, which most of the Labour trolls have failed. Despite it being explained very clearly that members of the Lib Dems are ineligible they persist in complaining about their absence.”

    Personally I was being ironic as surely those Ministers that no longer follow, support, or even wish to be publically associated with agreed party policy should be eligible…

  • conservative 3rd Jan '11 - 8:14pm

    Well Davey C is in the lead… There have got to be more liberal people in the world than that what about the regressive VAT; the battle to keep control orders; the faster than wanted cuts; the keeping of trident; nuclear power; If you want a Conservative liberal look at Libertarian David Davis or give Ken Clarke more votes…honestly…

  • Ed The Snapper 3rd Jan '11 - 8:20pm

    David Cameron had no choice but to go into coalition with the LibDems. Otherwise he would have had to helm a minority government. After the grim experience of John Major, the Tories knew that was an awful prospect. The idea that the Tories would have won a second general election does not seem to be supported by evidence. I can see no reason why a second election would not have ended in the same result as the first. Instead, Cameron has played an excellent move against the LibDems; the LibDems will lose whatever distinction they had as a party. Thousands of uncommitted voters (including students, young people, the poor, the unemployed, greens) will take their tactical or protest votes away from the LibDems over the next few years. Labour will regroup (as Cameron knows they will) and form a credible opposition that will pick up many of those who once voted tactically for the LibDems in order to keep the Tories out. A great move by master tacticians in the Tory Party. They knew that Clegg was vain and stupid enough to buy into the coalition agreement even though it will seriously damage the LibDem party. Clever Cameron: Tory Of The Decade.

  • Fair enough, Stephen – I was one of those complaining about Cameron’s inclusion but must admit you make a reasonable case. I still wouldn’t vote for him (Obama got my vote, FWIW) but I concede he has enabled a more liberal government than would otherwise have been in power, whatever his motivations.

    However, I second the continued complaints about the poll being FPTP – isn’t there an AV widget? If not, I might try writing one… And the suggestion of a parallel members-only poll for comparison sounds a good idea.

  • You know you’re to the right of Genghis Khan when Paul Staines comes out in support of you.

    Oooh, I feel unclean just thinking about it…

  • David Allen 3rd Jan '11 - 9:20pm

    Let’s just spell it out. If you’d called it Politician of the Year, then maybe you could reasonably have put Cameron onto the options list. He has, after all, achieved a great deal (double entendre deliberate.)

    However, you called it “Liberal Voice” of the year. Neatly positioning Our Nick as the ventriloquist’s dummy!

  • Stephen – Apologies for a bit of a semantic here, but I do think you need to be a bit careful.

    ‘Yet David Cameron didn’t choose that option. He didn’t choose to govern alone; he chose to govern in partnership. For sure, with the Lib Dems as junior partners — but, then, that’s how the public voted.’

    Cameron chose to offer a Coalition agreement. No one was under any obligation to accept. And the voters did not vote for a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition. They voted for a Conservative Pary as the biggest party, Labour as second and the Lib Dems some way back. It is an unspoken thing, bit just out of interest I would have been very interested to see what a grand coalition might have looked like. The only people who have had a vote on the Coalition Agreement, as far as I can see, were the people involved in the Lib Dem triple lock.

    Those who say coalition/new politics gives too much power to third parties do seem to have been in part borne out. I’m not sure it is that liberal to have a situation where the third party, not the voters get to decide the complexion of government.

  • Some Tory or other has obviously directed votes here, though since they’ve already directed things within the actual party then this isn’t a great suprise. If David Cameron is elected Liberal of the year then the whole site will have degenerated into farce.

    As far as this article goes Stephen, absolutely and completely wrong, in on sense at all is David Cameron, the right wing leader of the Conservative party a liberal and I think you’ll find that the title of the vote is *Liberal* voice of the year, he should not be on this list.

    You still press on with your blinkered and in my opinion self deluding argument that this coalition is a good thing for the party, it may well be a good thing in a limited sense for those few with goverment jobs in the short term, but the polls and the the word on the doorstep shows it’s very far from a good thing for the party, unless that is your someone who’d be happy with a section of the party merging with the Tories after we get decimated at the next election.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '11 - 11:43pm

    I don ‘t think Cameron’s much of a Liberal, but I certainly agree to him being nominated for this award. The reason is that we are forever being lectured by people telling us how much the government he leads is pushing Liberal policies and ideas. I think these people are deluded or have a very limited view of Liberalism, but then this is just a nomination, not the actual award. If a significant number of significant people think Cameron is pushing Liberalism, then let him be nominated, it’s only fair. I hope he doesn’t win or come anywhere near winning, however.

  • If only the Thatcherite orange bookers realised just how bad this makes the Party look.

    Alas! such powers of self awareness and facing up to reality are beyond them and with continuing talks of merger from Nick and his clique and Cameron and his clique it is hardly a surprise that this farcical poll is going the way it is.

    Nick obviously fears he won’t be leader very much longer (he should know since he was so quick to put the knife into Menzies) and so the relentless toryfication of the Party continues with either a merger or Nick taking his Thatcherite orange bookers into the Conservative Party as the obvious endgame. Will he succeed before he is ousted ? We shall see.

    How many will be supine enough to go along with this remains to be seen, but the ludicrous excuses for sucking up to Cameron here are anything to go by then even May won’t be enough to shake some out of their out of touch imaginary world where they actually believe Clegg is still an assett and not an electoral liability lurching the Party further and further to the right every day.

  • RE: comments about Lib dems

    Personally I was being ironic as “surely” those Ministers that no longer follow, support, or even wish to be publically associated with agreed party policy should be eligible…

  • I think that the main problem with Cameron being included is that the award is called Liberal Voice of the year, I would take that to mean they have spoken up for or on a Liberal issue during the year. So Bob Ainsworth clearly is qualifies as a suitable nomination despite being Labour member as he spoke up on the liberal issue of drugs law reform In Cameron’s case can anyone recall Cameron uttering anything that could possibly qualify him for such an award in the last year?

  • roy's claret army 4th Jan '11 - 12:17pm

    Go on, vote for Call Me Dave: another nail in the coffin for the charlatans that sold your party.

  • ‘ @ Mark Valladares
    We post on here to get our views across to Lib Dems who may be unaware of what is happening in the real world,
    That is the whole point and I can tell you do not like it We voted for you and feel betrayed and why we feel so angry at the Lib dems on the welfare reforms and the attacks on the poor, sick and disabled is that they appear to be standing idly by in silence. This will not exonerate the Lib Dems in the history books.. What has happened tp your ”Fair Society’? If ‘liberals’ do not speak out then who will? Who will be the next target group? You? if you say that we should be happier on a website that shares our views does that mean that no Lib Dem does on the sick and disabled issue? Now I am scared.

  • Hmm, it appears that I was spot on in saying that some Tory or other has directed people to this vote. Since Guido Fawkes, who posted above, the libertarian right wing blogger has directly linked to the vote via twitter.

    Considering the number of followers he has this vote is obviously invalid, It’s just ballot box stuffing and not a real reflection of Lib Dem Views.

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