Liberal Left: why I’m underwhelmed

In theory, the launch of Liberal Left is something I should welcome as I’ve always thought that more and stronger party bodies make for a healthy party. They help give more meaning to internal party democracy by making it easier for people to co-operate with others of a like mind.

So why am I underwhelmed by Liberal Left’s launch?

It’s not that it covers some of the same ground as the Social Liberal Forum (disclosure: I’m on the SLF’s Advisory Council). Liberal Left looks to have a distinctive message and approach which diverges from, rather than duplicates, that of the SLF.

Nor is it the lacklustre verging on ugly launch website. Weak, but take a look round the sites of other party bodies and sadly it doesn’t stand out as worse than many others.

Nor is it their approach of favouring a deal with Labour in a hung Parliament. In my book that makes for a pretty poor negotiating strategy, but doesn’t underwhelm me much as in reality it’s the weight of seats and votes that will almost certainly matter the most.

No, what really underwhelms me is the choice of people to front their launch meeting at conference. Or rather two of them.

First, there is the choice of Jenny Tonge as one of the panellists. She is probably best known in recent years for her views on the Middle East which often generate controversy, including when she said in 2006, “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a grip on our party” (comments which then leader Ming Campbell called “unacceptable” for their “anti-Semitic connotations”).

In the context of Liberal Left launch, however, her most recent comments about the party are germane. They have included calling for Vince Cable to quit the Cabinet, for Nick Clegg to resign as Deputy Prime Minister, saying she was considering quitting the party and in December even calling for a new general election to be called promptly.

If Liberal Left is to position itself as a serious body that wants to build bridges rather than a fringe body pushing peculiar ideas, having a guest speaker who thinks Vince Cable should be out of the Cabinet and we all should be in the midst of a general election campaign is not an obvious move.

Now of course she is but one of the panellists and many a party body has organised events with panellists who they do not fully agree with. Been there, done that myself – both as speaker and as organiser.

But then there is also the choice of for the Liberal Left’s launch meeting: Ron Beadle. Over the years Ron has put in a lot of good work for the party, and I’m happy to see him stay as a member even though there are some issues on which we greatly disagree.

His attitude towards people he disagrees with, however, is rather different. He took to the BBC TV news last year calling for all the Liberal Democrat MPs who broke the tuition fee pledge to be de-selected.

Not simply criticising them for voting the way they did (hey, even I did that on the telly :-)) but calling for their de-selection. All of them.

He wants to see not only Nick Clegg and David Laws kicked out of Parliament, but so too Vince Cable, Steve Webb, Lynne Featherstone, Norman Baker, Jo Swinson. The list goes on…

Yet despite this narrow-minded Puritanism which calls for such people to be ousted from the Parliamentary Party, Ron Beadle is now calling for us to spend more time talking to the Greens and Labour.

And so as with Jenny Tonge, but all the more so as he’s Liberal Left’s chosen chair for their launch meeting, the choice of someone with such views is at best naive and at worst deliberately provocative.

* Note – the post originally said Jenny Tonge’s comment was in 2005 by mistake.

* Mark Pack is a member of the Federal Board and editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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59 Comments

  • Doc·tri·naire (dktr-nâr)
    n. A person inflexibly attached to a practice or theory without regard to its practicality.
    adj. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a person inflexibly attached to a practice or theory.

  • Let’s not forget who was on the panel for SLF’s launch meeting. For example, Matthew Sowemimo. At least those on the Liberal Left panel only favour talking to Labour rather than running off and joining it!

  • Why are LibDem promises are called Pledges?
    Because you can wipe them away with a duster and they don’t leave a mark.

  • What worries me about Liberal Left (and I consider myself to be on the left of the party) is the inevitablity of their future mass defection to Labour. It seems to me that you cannot set up a group which is so disaffected with the direction of the party to which its members belong and whose raison d’etre is to build bridges with other parties to bring about a realignment of the left without those parties eventually appearing more attractive than the one with which you are disaffected. I have known some of the founders of Liberal Left a long time and would be sad to see their talents lost to the party. But more than that, I would question whether this is a good time to be pursuing that old chimera, a realignment of the left. There is no obvious reason at the moment for the Labour Party to exist, other than to provide a necessary opposition to the government in a pluralist political system. They are struggling to create a new identity for themselves after the, probably inevitable, ideological destruction wrought by Blair, and the credibility destruction wrought by Brown. Even most people in the Labour Party now accept that the growth of the state’s payroll and client base that happened under Brown’s stewardship has to be reversed and that altruistic aspirations can no longer be sustained by borrowing money that cannot be paid back. Sure, there is a certain amount of mileage to be had by pointing out that in reality we are not “all in this together” although we should be, but the truth is that as a country we are much poorer than our politicians over the last thirty-five years have led us to believe. I despair of many things that we have been party to in this coalition, but I do feel that we have been reasonably (only reasonably) successful in arguing for policies that assist the less well off at the expense of the rich, and we have made at least as much sustainable progress towards that goal as Labour did in government. It is not our job now to throw the Labour Party an intellectual lifeline.

  • Richard Swales 14th Feb '12 - 6:52pm

    I think a lot of people don’t realise how important tuition fees are. Look at these 3 examples of the type of state we can have.
    1) A provision state, based on a social contract, providing all it’s citizens with what they need, with citizens contributing on the basis of ability to pay.
    2) A redistribution state, based not on a social contract but on force wielded by a class-oriented government channeling funds from the captive rich to the deserving poor.
    3) A Randian state, based on the government providing police and security and only a minimal level of social provision. All other services provided privately.

    In voting for the Browne report, those MPs have explicitly rejected that we should be trying to build state 1). Having not funded the university education of the future rich, we no longer have them under a social contract, so politics, as in the US, divides between those who would like state 2) or 3). That’s why British politics is becoming so polarised and that’s why the party is becoming more and more divided. It is also why we are see flatlining support, at least in opinion polls, as the Labour party and the Tories are already pitching to voters who believe in 2) and 3). If we don’t believe in 1) then we can go home or join the other parties.

    We don’t need to deselect every single person, but if the public doesn’t see that there is some kind of come-back against at least some of the MPs who voted for fees (particularly the backbench ones who didn’t have to) then it is difficult to convince them we believe in free education and we still want to build a state of type 1), and the rebels don’t really represent the party. That Vince Cable was voted the best performing (or improved?) cabinet minister in that members’ survey recently is hardly a sign that we think he did anything wrong.

    The main way I differ from LL is that in the absence of a provision state and the social contract that goes with it, I don’t think 2) is acceptable so I end up with 3) – often arguing from the right side of the party.

  • The reason to continue to pursue realignment of the left (as has every Party leader from Grimond onwards..) is that without it we’re likely to have Conservative Government in perpetuity moving ever further to the right…

  • “And then there are the disparaging remarks about our website – yet another indication that our party has become more obsessed with style than content, sorry, but the website is not the sum total of what we are about. ”

    It might be an idea to fix the design of LDV before criticising other websites. Every time someone embeds a video in a post the rest of the main page is broken (when viewed using Internet Explorer 8), and that’s been the case for many months. It’s one thing to have an appearance that is “lacklustre verging on ugly”, but for most of the main page to be unreadable is rather more serious!

  • Tony Dawson 14th Feb '12 - 8:15pm

    @tonyhill

    “you cannot set up a group which is so disaffected with the direction of the party to which its members belong and whose raison d’etre is to build bridges with other parties to bring about a realignment of the left without those parties eventually appearing more attractive than the one with which you are disaffected.”

    Who says they are disaffected with the Party? Disaffection with a few dozen MPs is a different matter.

  • Ruth Bright 14th Feb '12 - 8:18pm

    Hang on Mark – Ron Beadle was not calling for wholesale deselections of Lib Dem MPs just because he personally disagreed with them or because he is a “narrow-minded Puritan” but because those people had traded (complete with photo opportunities) on an iconic Lib Dem manifesto policy and then reneged on it. Life-long friend of mine though he is I do not agree with Ron on this but his position is perfectly valid.

    As Linda says – it comes to a pretty pass when a recent Lib Dem PPC is condemned for standing up for the manifesto on which he and his collegues stood less than two years ago!

  • Richard Marbrow 14th Feb '12 - 8:21pm

    “And then arguing against doing a deal with Labour, making for a poor negotiating strategy. Sorry Mark, but this is where we went wrong last time – and the electorate have found us out. Trying to keep away from tying ourselves in to one party may work once, convincing right leaning voters we may go with the Tories and left leaning voters we may go with Labour – but it won’t wash again – that’s for sure. It is dishonest and selfserving in the extreme.”

    Except of course that it isn’t dishonest. We will form a coalition with whichever party will enable us to do more of what we believe to be right. In 2010 that was the Conservatives. In 2015 it may be Labour or it may be the Conservatives. Who knows, it may even be the Greens one day!

    The position of Liberal Left is anti-pluralist. If you think that refusing to tie ourselves into one party is dishonest then you would have to believe that the honest solution is to tie ourselves into one party at which point we lose all leverage and become a pressure group rather than a political party.

    We also shouldn’t be defining Liberal Democracy by reference to the position of other parties but rather we should be defining Liberal Democracy by reference to our own policies and ideology. Ideology is good and ours is not the same as the ideology of either Labour or the Tories.

  • Simon McGrath 14th Feb '12 - 8:45pm

    @linda – surely it’s the very fact that someone like Mark makes these comments that means they should be taken seriously and you should think about what he says.

    On the political strategy advocated by LL that we should only do deals with Labour, what do you think that would do to our tactical vote from soft Tories. Indeed why should anyone vote for us if it means we will always align with labour – why not just vote Labour. A similar logic surely applies to you and your colleagues. If your aim is to influence Labour in a liberal direction why not join labour where you can do it more effectively from the inside?

  • Lorna Dupre 14th Feb '12 - 9:00pm

    Well said, Mark.

  • Tony Hill – may I applaud your comment, and commend it to all those on the left.

    RIchard Swales – “1) A provision state, based on a social contract, providing all it’s citizens with what they need, with citizens contributing on the basis of ability to pay.”

    And the current Government’s policy on University Fees differs from this how, exactly?

    Students are provided with a University course with no fee payments up front. As and when they are able to pay back those fees, they pay them back on a sliding, progressive scale. More than that, the payback period is time-limited (ie not in perpetuity like a straight graduate tax).

    It is perfectly possible to believe in free education to 18, and to believe that the state’s social contract as far as Education is concerned (fees above notwithstanding) has been discharged at this point. For those who do not progress into further or higher education, it is the point when they start to pay back; why should that be different for those who do not benefit in this way?

  • Richard Church 14th Feb '12 - 9:34pm

    Imagine we had fought the last election on Liberal Left’s platform of a coalition with Labour. The number of MP’s we would have left now might have comfortably fitted in a phonebox before they would have been deselected for voting for the Labour commissioned Browne report on tuition fees.

  • Linda Jack – “And then arguing against doing a deal with Labour, making for a poor negotiating strategy. Sorry Mark, but this is where we went wrong last time – and the electorate have found us out. Trying to keep away from tying ourselves in to one party may work once, convincing right leaning voters we may go with the Tories and left leaning voters we may go with Labour – but it won’t wash again – that’s for sure. It is dishonest and selfserving in the extreme.”

    No – Mark is arguing against you position of only doing a deal with Labour. What we should be telling voters is simple – that we want them to give us enough votes that we govern on our own. Failing that, we will work with whichever party we can find common ground with according to the arithmetical position of how the electorate delivers its verdict. It is arrogant in the extreme to second guess that, and permanently to lean in one direction only is an electoral culdesac.

  • Tony Greaves 14th Feb '12 - 10:23pm

    I have no doubt that at the next election we will be “equidistant”.

    The problem is that the party will not stand for another coalition with the Tories. Some wikll opbviously be delighted as they are delighted with all the Tory rubbish we are having to stomach now, but I would think a majority of the party will say we’ve had enough. Even if it’s a large minority it will split the party irrevocably. Therefore it is unlikely to happen. This will become clear which will make the equidistance strategy – “it will depend on the numbers and the deals” – somewhat ticklish to say the least.

    And no I have no answer to the problem.

    Tony Greaves

  • I consider myself to be on the left of the party, but I think this new group is mis-named as “Liberal Left”.

    “Liberal Leaving” feels more appropriate.

  • Richard Swales 14th Feb '12 - 11:49pm

    @Tabman, if the same system of repayments was extended to former users of other government services (health, prisons, back to work courses, benefits) we would say that we were building a small government state more like number 3) in my list. Some people are happy to start building that kind of state. Others are happy to make a unique exception in public finances for money spent on the universities, because the graduates are seen as rich (except they can’t find jobs). Students know you are making an exception for them (and remember the taxpayers who should be covering it had the chance for free university education themselves), and you are breeding a generation of Tory-voting Browne’s children.

    You are quite right though that a graduate tax would be even more indefensible, just as “well-now”, “back on the straight and narrow”, “working again” taxes would be indefensible to cover spending on health, prisons and unemployment.

  • Mark – of course you had every right to disagree with him but your portrayal of his position as a fringe and narrow minded one is wrong.

    Re anti-semitism if you think someone is anti-semitic why not have the courage to come out with it clearly rather than pussyfoot around.

  • Daniel Henry 15th Feb '12 - 12:40am

    Not sure what your problem is Richard.
    How should we pay for University tuition in tight finances?
    Either you want to make further cuts to the state to free up funds (which I’m assuming you don’t) or raise taxes, presumably on the rich rather than the poor.

    So what does the loan system do?
    You pay nothing until you’re earning a great wage, and then you make contributions back to pay for it. The richest earners pay back the full amount while the lower paid graduates pay less, some paying nothing! People will simply pay back a small amount of what they can easily afford.

    Surely that’s fairer than raising taxes on the general population, including those who didn’t benefit from a higher education themselves?

  • @Richard Church, imagine if we’d fought the last local elections on the back of coalition with the Tories. Oh hang on a minute, we did…. How did that go again?
    If people have a genuine concern that left leaning Lib Dems are forming a group like this as a precursor to a split, is the best response to vilify them?
    Personally I think Labour have nothing to offer at this time, and on the key issue of the day, the economy, Labour should come clean about their part in Britain’s financial downfall and should put anyone other than Balls on the economy. The problem in the Lib Dems is not a lack of dialogue with Labour, its a disconnect between the aims of the wider party and the actions of the parliamentary party.

  • Richard Swales 15th Feb '12 - 7:31am

    @Daniel. You are wrong to assume that I wouldn’t be willing to cut other things (particularly, but not only, in the area of defence) to fund free university education. It should be a priority, as it was in all the years before 1999, when the total tax take was lower than now. It depends on the definition of “rich”. If we mean the politicians’ definition i.e. “high income” then no, if we mean the rest of the world’s definition “high-net-worth” then yes.

    When I was unemployed 6 years ago, instead of going to sign on, I made my own job by delivering 24000 leaflets over the course of a very hot summer, to get the first clients for the business I now run.

    Does that mean that as I chose not to benefit from help for the unemployed I shouldn’t have to pay for it? Should those who did, be made to pay for it when they start earning again? What is the difference except politics?

  • Can I suggest that everyone re- reads Tony Hill’s contribution carefully? As ever Tony GreavesGareth Epps & Ruth Bright get it right as well.. I don’t know what this group really think they can achieve but I do know that SLF had an impact in Parliament via our Conference – not as much as we would wish (perhaps some of our contribuors shoul be excluded from this assertion) but it made a difference.

  • Well said, Mark.


    Simon Shaw………….: “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a grip on our party” were made in 2006 (not 2005)….I can’t say whether she said anything anti-Semitic before then, but if Geoffrey is referring to those particular comments then it would have been “too late.”………

    Do you consider her references to ‘The pro-Israeli lobby’ as ‘anti Semetic’?

  • Richard Swales – fundamentally this goes back to what you define as a need. All the other things you describe are less contentious needs – healthcare, a place to lock up criminals, education and training up to the age of majority, support when you are unemployed or unable to look after yourself. Going to university is not a need. Especially when its at the level its at today. To be frank, there are an awful lot of people pursuing questionable degrees who have unrealistic earnings expectations, who would be better off with more vocational courses. Meanwhile the university experience is devalued as students are not given the time snd attention required due to ever increasing student to staff ratios.

    “free” education was fine at 10% participation levels but those days have gone. The current system is the best of a bad job given where we are.

  • Tracy Connell 15th Feb '12 - 8:56am

    Agree totally Mark. They want the people they regard as more to the right of the party out, ie mainly the ‘Orange Bookers’. Now whilst I disagree with a lot of what is in the Orange book, I do not think it necessary to oust our Leader and Ministers.

    In May 2010 the only option was to form a coalition with the Conservative Party in order to form a majority government. Ron suggests a Confidence and Supply agreement would have sufficed. We all know that would not have lasted and we would have had another general election within 6 months, probably with a Tory majority, then where would we be? And that would be us back on the opposition benches with none of our policies going through.

    Now correct me if I am wrong, but the whole point of running for election is to get elected to government rather than opposition.

    Had Labour not insisted on wanting to go into opposition and we somehow formed a minority coalition with them in 2010, then this would have been to the detriment of the country. A majority government was what had to be formed in order to stabilise the economy and save our AAA credit rating. Now, taking this into account it seems that Liberal Left would put their left leanings with their mate Ed above the welfare of the country. Now that is either naive or pure selfishness.

    What many people don’t realise is that Labour would not negotiate with us in 2010. The only concession was Ed M’s offer to go out on a tea and cakes run (the original tea boy). They wanted opposition. Our people did try so hard with these negotiations, but Ed M and Ed B has their sites clearly on the Labour Leadership and nothing else. An agreement could not be reached. Plus the numbers did not amount to a majority.

    Now, of course, there may be a chance of a hung parliament with Labour in 2015.And if a coalition was formed then, wouldn’t that make Liberal Left defunct. Plus it would not achieve one of their goals of ousting Nick and our current ministers. I have no idea how they plan to try that one.

    There are constructive groups within the Lib Dems like SLF and Green Liberals etc, but Liberal Left have but one selfish rebellious agenda, rather than a constructive debate and contribution to party policy.

  • “Ron Beadle was not calling for wholesale deselections of Lib Dem MPs just because he personally disagreed with them or because he is a “narrow-minded Puritan” but because those people had traded (complete with photo opportunities) on an iconic Lib Dem manifesto policy and then reneged on it.”

    Is it really so outrageous to suggest that someone who breaks a written promise to the electors is not a suitable person to be a parliamentary candidate?

    You can indeed point to the large number of Lib Dem MPs who would be affected by this, but that’s really not a counter-argument, is it? Rather, it’s a comment on the quality of your parliamentarians.

  • @Tracy Connell: “Now correct me if I am wrong, but the whole point of running for election is to get elected to government rather than opposition…What many people don’t realise is that Labour would not negotiate with us in 2010. The only concession was Ed M’s offer to go out on a tea and cakes run (the original tea boy). They wanted opposition.”

    It would seem you have corrected yourself. This was also John Major’s task in April 1992. He failed.

  • mike cobley 15th Feb '12 - 1:21pm

    Oh no! – you mean, Liberal Left don’t have the Mark Pack Seal Of Approval?? Whatever will they do?…..;-)

    And I have to laugh (but only a gallows laugh) at Tracey Connell’s implication that the only coalition options were either confidence & supply of the full-bore, 5 year committment. Which of course is hogwash – if the leadership had had its head screwed on right, we would have negotiated a limited coalition for limited aims to last for a limited period, eg 2 years. The party’s ministerial involvement would have been likewise greatly restricted, thus preserving far more political independence and freedom to publically criticise government policy. And the 2 year period would have been sufficient (as is now clear) to see if the proposed Coalition financial refurbishment program was working. Which it obviously is not. Also, such an arrangement would have reduced or blunted the brickbats of contempt and derision and perhaps we would not have lost such a swathe of seats last May.

    But …. all that is mere what-might-have-been. Now we are in coalition with the Tories and lending our support to policies that can only be described as depraved. The Tories’ antipathy towards the welfare state, and state-provision of health and education must be shared by the Clegg leadership, otherwise why would they go along with all that poison and cruelty? In the light of the last 2-3 years, it is a wonder that something like Liberal Left hadn’t sprung into life earlier. That the pro-Clegg elements attack LL with jibes suggesting they’re in the wrong party is instructive – perhaps they really do think of the Liberal Democrats as the Liberal Party in all but name. However, there are those of us who beg to differ, and who aim to misbehave.

  • Richard Swales 15th Feb '12 - 1:39pm

    @Tabman

    It may be so, that universities are not “needs” on the individual level in the same way as hospitals, although as a society we need universities. What if I picked other examples such as arts funding or sports funding? Why not put them on the same repayment system when their graduates qualify for Wimbledon, sell a painting for a million or sign for a premier league side?

    I find it hard to accept that universities are the most unnecessary and frivolous expense of the government, which is why they are the only thing put on the repayment system.

    About pointless courses I agree. I find particularly annoying the “trick” courses which claim to be vocational but aren’t – such as law degrees from which almost no one is offered a training contract, journalism degrees from which no one becomes a journalist and so on. While we have the Browne report mechanism, it would be great to adapt it to make universities publish not just the number of employed graduates, but to specifically nominate a field which they claim the course prepares people to work in (or explicitly state it’s just “general”), and then publish the percentage of graduates actually working in that field. The other way to adapt the Browne mechanism while we are stuck with it, would be to fund universities proportionally to the repayments their graduates make (with the health or education budget) which would be another way to stop the trick courses.

  • Richard Swales 15th Feb '12 - 1:41pm

    Sorry in the previous post “(with the health or education budget)” was meant to be expanded to be a part saying that the government would have to specifically fund teaching and nursing qualifications.

  • Richard – given the government pays the salaries of (most) nurses and teachers you could argue that it is specifically funding teaching and nursing qualifications.

    One of the biggest mistakes made was the abolition of Polytechnics. The Polys had a clear and distinct remit to the Universities: teaching vocational courses at various different levels that were specifically geared to the world of work. Universities taught (in the main – I note the exceptions of engineering and medicine) discipline-based course preparing the graduate at the highest level for research, and at the next level with higher skills suitable for more general employment.

  • ‘First, there is the choice of Jenny Tonge as one of the panellists. She is probably best known in recent years for her views on the Middle East which often generate controversy, including when she said in 2006, “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a grip on our party” (comments which then leader Ming Campbell called “unacceptable” for their “anti-Semitic connotations”).’

    Jenny Tonge is not anti-Semitic. That Mr Pack is the typical response of Israeli apologists (I am surprised at you Mark hmmm) ; anyone who dares criticise Israel for their treatment of Palestinians – such as stealing their land. making them third class citizens in their own country and building a ‘Berlin wall’ of segregation etc – is often accused of anti-Semitism! Many prominent Jewish people do the same being ashamed of Israeli policies to minorities who cannot easily defend themselves; many Jewish friends of mine are embarrassed by the actions of this Right wing reactionary Israeli government who win power through the use of fear politics; preventing more liberal Israeli voices being heard as the norm! It is anti-Semitic to say derogatory things about Jewish people as do some reactionary unrepresentative (so called) Muslims but Jenny inst one of those and it is unfair to say such nonsense! I do not like personal attacks anyway – so very illiberal.

    Yes as someone said – tuition fee ‘promise’ not to mention siding with the Tories on the neo-liberal approach to the economy; human rights against Abu Qatada; over-compromising over Europe; going for AV which is worse than the present system instead of STV; not supporting the public workers pensions demands, reneging on our promise over student fees and scrapping EMA; using cynical divide and rule to create a rift between the unemployed poor and the working poor, policy after policy climb down away from from the Liberal philosophy I and many in Liberal Left supported in the Party. That is why Lib-left needed launching to reject this ConDem Coalition and start creating a popular front of Radicals from Liberals. yes Labour, and yes Green and other like minded folk by creating a new forum of philosophy and debate. We need a new politically libertarian and social liberal organisation – at the core of which could be Liberal Left ; this of course is mainly owing to the Right wing advance in the Liberal Democrats and their deliberate re-focussing of the Party towards a neo-Liberal agenda of privatisation and wishing to reduce the public sector: moving the Party far away from what certainly I joined – the Party of Jo Grimond who himself wished for a realignment of the Left. The LibDems need to take the lead in forcing a realignment in politics and yes now is the time. Labour has lost its way (after following terribly illiberal policies in its last government; albeit in its early years some good ones such as the Liberal Democrat backed min. wage – so hated by our new allies lol!); other groups are forming outside of parliament opposing the cuts and unfairness in society; The Greens know they cannot get very far on their own – so now is the perfect opportunity for Jo Richmond’s Liberal dream of a Liberal led realignment.

    We cannot go on being a squeezed piggy in the middle but be the standard bearer’s of that – as Richard Swale’s posted in: 1) A provision state, based on a social contract, providing all it’s citizens with what they need, with citizens contributing on the basis of ability to pay. In the light of a bankrupt Labour Party we more than ever need people on the Liberal Left (LDs, disenchanted Labour & Greens etc) to lead the LDs to position ourselves as the main representatives of a Liberal alternative to the champions of unfairness, greed, selfish ‘I’m all right jack Thatcherism’ and illiberal anti human rights, anti Europe, anti reform, intolerance i.e. the Tories

  • You might have noticed i mentioned defending the human rights of Abu Qatada – yes this terrible person who seemingly thinks all of us evil people in the West should be killed, especially if your Jewish; yes he certainly is hate filled – but as a Liberal I believe we should not even be chucking him onto the first plane to Jordan! Shame on those LibDems in Government who want to do that to him.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Feb '12 - 8:31pm

    tonyhill

    What worries me about Liberal Left (and I consider myself to be on the left of the party) is the inevitablity of their future mass defection to Labour. It seems to me that you cannot set up a group which is so disaffected with the direction of the party to which its members belong and whose raison d’etre is to build bridges with other parties to bring about a realignment of the left without those parties eventually appearing more attractive than the one with which you are disaffected

    What worries me is the hysterical over-reaction from too many Liberal Democrats about the formation of this group, and the clear lack of understanding they have about their fellow party members. Some of those who are most firmly on the left of the Liberal Democrats have spent their lifetimes fighting Labour and know very well why they do not want to join the Labour Party.

    It seems to me this group has set up to fight the idea that the current coalition is a precursor to merger of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. While there may not be anyone on the leadership of the Liberal Democrats who is openly saying it, there is plenty of press comment in those lines and the lack of an instant attack on those comments form our leadership is worrying to those of us who want our party to continue outside those few dozen constituencies where the Conservatives would let us have a free run if we did reach the general election on the presumption after it the present coalition would continue.

    If this is not where we are heading, then obviously we must be open to the possibility of a coalition with Labour. If this is not where we are heading we should be making moves to break the coalition with the Conservatives well before the general election so that we can re-establish ourselves as an independent force.

    The way the press has covered our party since the formation of the coalition may be wrong and may not say enough about the realities of how compromises must be made in a coalition situation. Nevertheless, it has led to the belief amongst many of our former voters that we are already half way to merging with the Tories. The abuse thrown inside the party at “Liberal Left” for doing something to correct this misbelief makes me wonder if perhaps those former voters are more correct than I have supposed up till now.

  • You put the case so well, Matthew Huntbach, I cannot add anything.

    by the way when for some reason it came out as ‘Jo Richmond’ I did of course mean Jo Grimond – must be thinking of something else?

  • Richard Swales 15th Feb '12 - 10:21pm

    Why is it considered so bad to say that an MP should be deselected?* Surely democratic selection procedures apply second time around too and disagreeing with the MP on shibboleth issues like student fees is a legitmate reason to want them to lose it.

    * I understand the term as meaning that the local party should select someone else as the PPC. If it means something else then please correct me.

    @David Orr. The trouble is, without also having things in the mix like free unis which arguably benefit the better-off most, you don’t have people accepting that social contract, you have model 2) a society divided between overtaxed donkeys and their socialist riders. I’m not clear that any of the LL get that distinction. As for myself, I’m not sure that social contract is reparable so am becoming more attracted to libertarian ideas.

  • Matthew Huntbach…..I agree! My problem with 13 years of Labour was not their fiscal policy (which, it should be remembered, Tories claimed was just a continuation of their pre-1997 recovery plan. George Osborne promised just weeks before the ‘crash’ that he would match Labour’s public spending…the right wing media have, sucessfully it seems, managed to re-write history) but with their illiberal policies ranging from an illegal war to IDs…

    This party has now, in enthusiastic co-operation with the Tories, managed to undo almost everything I thought we stood for…

    Reading a comment to the effect that Cameron is a liberal at heart almost made me laugh; then I realised that the LibDem poster actually believed it.

  • Tracy Connell 16th Feb '12 - 8:16am

    @Growler What I was saying about the point of running for election was to be in government was referring to the Liberal Democrats. We weren’t going to run and then decide to just sit on our laurels on the opposition benches when we had the option to go into government.

    As for Labour – well the constructs of their move to opposition were Ed Miliband and Ed Balls who thought they would have an easy ride as Labour leader in opposition, and helped along by their ‘yes woman’ Harriet Harman. This played out at the coalition negotiations and is the reason negotiations with Labour failed. Previous to these negotiations Gordon Brown was fully intent on leading Labour to power again. He even begged Nick Clegg on the phone to stay on and lead Labour. First he promised to go, then the next day he talked NIck’s ear off saying he would stay on for one year whilst the coalition settled in. The country had had enough of Brown and no one wanted him as PM. Balls and Miliband new they would have a shot at the leadership.

    Therefore, what I am saying is that Labour under Brown fully intended to return to power. But the two little Eds had other ideas when it came down to coalition talks.

  • Simon Hebditch 16th Feb '12 - 10:14am

    What excitement! It is worth wondering why some people feel so threatened by the launch of Liberal Left. I am involved for two simple reasons – first the coalition has failed. In relation to the central economic and fiscal programme, it has been proved wrong. We are also engaged on a series of policy programmes which badly affect the poorest in society while those at the top continue to flourish. Of course, there have been some good developments emanating from the Lib Dem contribution to the coalition but its fundamental economic direction is hopelessly flawed.

    I also believe that it is not possible, from a public appreciation point of view, to win an argument via “differentiation”. The public will simply see what government has done, all parts of government, and decide whether it agrees or not. People will not sit at home and painstakingly assess whether something was down to the Tories or the Lib Dems!

    Second, I do believe that our values and principles underpin our politics (or should do) and that we do sit in the centre left spectrum and so I see no problem with exploring with other centre left movements and parties whether there is a prospect of putting together a coherent centre left programme which could gain the agreement of those organisations. Who knows whether it would work but what is wrong in trying to find out rather than sitting in our self-righteous little enclave waiting to see what might happen?

    And another thing — personally I am not convinced that some informal/formal deal won’t be done between the leaderships of the Tories and the Lib Dems before the next election. But that is another issue.

  • Agree with Simon Hebditch. What is important about the formation of Liberal Left is that it bases its position squarely on the fact that the Tory position on the economy was far too easily accepted whenthe Coalition was over hurriedly negotiated. It would be quite possible to create another type of coalition, even with some Tories, but much of the underpinning for this coalition is very much against pre-existing Lib Dem thinking, not so much individual policies, but strategic direction. If, like Tracey Connell you have accepted “the need to rescue the country from Labour’s failed economics”, or similar claptrap, then I suppose you could accept the coalition’s strategic direction. Otherwise, it’s not easy. That does not imply people are “in bed with labour”, or that they are already half way out of the party.

  • Mark,

    My point about the MPs who voted for tuition fees is this. At the next election Labour and the Tories will cover their leaflets in these constituencies with pictures of our MP signing the tuition fee pledge and then something like: ‘How can you believe anything s/he says?’. If you don’t believe me look at what they put out in the AV referendum about Nick. These MPs will lose their seats in greater numbers than those who voted against fees because they have significantly damaged their personal credibility. And this includes Nick and Vince.

    My argument was and is that the only way members could avoid that would be to run different candidates.

    Come 2015 we’ll see whether I am right.

    Ron

  • Alex Macfie 19th Feb '12 - 3:18pm

    David Orr: I do not understand your comments about Abu Qatada. The government is NOT “chucking him onto the first plane to Jordan”. You wrote that 4 days ago, but he is still in this country. And who are the Lib Dems in government who want to do this? It is a Tory, Theresa May, who has this brief. And for all the calls frmo the raving right to ignore the ECHR and deport him regardless, this has not happened. It looks to me like the gvt is going about this matter the proper way, bynegotiating with the Jordainain authorities to obtain reassurances that evidence obtained by torture will not be used against him, so that he can be deported lawfully.

  • I share Mark’s problems with LL. Intollerance is becoming more widespread in our party and it has to stop. If we can’t have serious discussion without resorting to personal abuse, then we should all pack up and go home. Quite apart from anything else many of the people contributing to this strand are pushing the unadulterated Labour line on what the government is doing, and ignoring what is really happening. The government is not out to destroy the NHS and to portray its reforms in that light will not get changes that are needed through. In fact the last Labour Government did more to privatise the NHS than anything the coalition government is doing. No, its not just my zany view. Read Allyson Pollack NHS plc or Michael Mandelstamm, NHS betrayed.

    I don’t want a colaition with the party that led the charge against civil liberties, started an ID card system, took us to war in Iraq and destroyed the economy and has yet to apologise for any of it. Get real LL, a coalition with Labour would have cost us as much pain as the one we’re in – even if it had added up in terms of numbers, which it didn’t.

    I have one piece of advice for all the people impugning the integrity of our Leader and Ministers. STOP IT. If you have no trust in our people in government and can’t recognise that they are trying their best, it’s a poor do. By all means criticise policy, but for goodness sake stop the personal abuse.

    I’ve had that in spades from the Labour Party!

  • ‘it looks to me like the gvt is going about this matter the proper way, by negotiating with the Jordainain authorities to obtain reassurances that evidence obtained by torture will not be used against him, so that he can be deported lawfully.’

    In that case he will never be deported to such an illiberal and undemocratic country like Jordan (any such assurances will be completely empty and meaningless) – but for Mr Clegg and others to even consider deportation is wrong. I notice in answer to a rather silly PMQ Cameron assured that MP that Clegg agrees with him ( Cameron) that this man should be deported – I and those who believe in human rights dont !

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