Nick Boles calls for National Liberal revival AKA Nick Boles invents a safe space for nice people well away from the Tories

nick bolesNick Boles is the Conservative planning minister, one of the few Tories to take the housing crisis seriously and to risk unpopularity within his own party by making clear we need to build more homes.

He has, for instance, said ‘The sum of human happiness that is created by the houses that are being built is vastly greater than the economic, social and environmental value of a field that was growing wheat or rape’ knowing this would be crudely characterised as wanting to ‘concrete the countryside’. He has developed ways of encouraging communities to increase the supply of housing while promoting localism (for which I made him a Liberal Hero of the Week in January).

In short, he’s the kind of Tory we could (in the words of Margaret Thatcher, whose home town of Grantham he represents) do business with. He is also a former director of the think-tank Policy Exchange, interested in ideas, with a lively, inquiring mind. So I was quite curious to read his lecture today, ‘Which party should a liberal vote for in 2015?’

To be honest, it’s a pretty disappointing effort.

Its headline-grabbing idea is that the Conservatives should create an affiliate body of National Liberals which would provide a home for existing Tory members with liberal views and as a recruiting tool for “new supporters who might initially balk at the idea of calling themselves Conservative”.

That admission – that liberal-minded Conservatives may well find the current Tory party too toxic to want to be identified with – is in itself telling. It says a lot about the failure of the Tory modernisation project that the best Nick Boles can now hope for is that he can invent a National Liberal quarantine for ‘Cameroonian’ recruits where they won’t have to rub up against the reality of his unreconstructed party. If the Anglican church was once the Tory Party at prayer, the Tories now increasingly resemble the golf club at full bray.

Nick Boles is more intelligent than this speech suggests. It is riddled with lazy generalisations (“in the last year the Liberal Democrat Party has shown that it is not a liberal party but a statist party of the soft left”) and glib insults like labelling Nick Clegg “a principle-free zone” – a silly remark given Nick Clegg’s personal ratings among the target audience of Conservative / Lib Dem waverers are pretty positive.

And its attempts to air-brush out the highly illiberal Conservative record in this parliament – from trying to scrap housing benefit for under-25s to the junking of Lords reform to attempts to ditch the Human Rights Act – does him little credit. The common purpose of the Coalition was fatally damaged within its first year not by the Lib Dems, but by the savaging of Nick Clegg sanctioned by Tory high command to ensure the defeat of electoral reform. They may well regard that as a price well worth paying, but that’s when the Coalition began to unravel.

Nick Boles’ speech reads like transference, projecting his own disappointments at the Tory party’s never-ending lurch to the right onto the Lib Dems. Indeed, it’s argument is so thin I can’t help wondering if there’s something in Richard Morris’s suspicion its prime motive was to entice the recently sacked Jeremy Browne to defect.

It’s a shame because there is an interesting speech to be made about the prospects for a National Liberal party, one which brings together the Orange Bookers, the Blairites and the Cameroons. There would be disagreements over civil liberties, but on the economy, public services, the environment and Europe they would have more in common with each other than with their current parties. Tribal loyalties, combined with our stultifying electoral system which inhibits new parties, means such an alliance is unlikely to come to pass.

One group it would appeal to is young people, increasingly economically liberal and socially libertarian as The Economist noted this summer. But they’re also the group least likely to see the point in voting – which, paradoxically, is why they don’t get the politicians they want.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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86 Comments

  • Martin Gentles 19th Nov '13 - 8:52pm

    Agree with your final assessment of Nick Boles’ speech. It seems like an attempt to woo right-leaning Lib Dems. I mentioned my worry that we may be losing people from the right of the party in the member’s forum. This would fit in with that narrative if the Tories do follow Boles’ advice.

  • FormerLibDem 19th Nov '13 - 8:52pm

    Since the Orange-bookers took over the party I feel there has been a real agenda to turn the Lib Dems into the National Liberals of old. David Laws, for example, would make a splendid National Liberal. For many on the centre-left (not Nick Boles!) there is very little difference between Clegg and Cameron. I know many on this site won’t like that statement, but it’s how many of the people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 feel. Fact. There is a real risk, if the coalition with the Tories is prolonged into the next Parliament (post 2015) the party will seem, and eventually become, an adjunct of the Conservative Party. This would be utterly tragic. There can surely be very little doubt that the current Lib Dem leadership is well to the right of the party membership. Time to wrest control from a right wing clique doing untold damage to a once really interesting, radical, “different” party.

  • Alisdair McGregor 19th Nov '13 - 9:04pm

    I suspect this is much to do with drawing back disaffecting social conservatives who have gone to UKIP by pushing the rump Tory party rightwards as it is to do with attracting Liberals.

    The Tories problem is that they have to attract both to have any hope of an outright majority.

  • Well, that’s ONE of the tories’ problems…

  • ‘The sum of human happiness that is created by the houses that are being built is vastly greater than the economic, social and environmental value of a field that was growing wheat or rape’

    That may be so, but without the field of wheat or rape, there would be no humans…

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Nov '13 - 10:18pm


    One group it would appeal to is young people, increasingly economically liberal and socially libertarian as The Economist noted this summer. But they’re also the group least likely to see the point in voting – which, paradoxically, is why they don’t get the politicians they want.

    Er, so we’ve got the likes of Russell Brand telling us young people aren’t interested in politics because they think politics is all about rich people and they hate the politicians we have because they only seem interested in the rich. And we’ve got the Economist telling us that actually those sort of policies are just what young people want, far-right economic dog-eat-dog policies.

    Who do you think is correct, Stephen?

  • Matt (Bristol) 19th Nov '13 - 10:23pm

    “there is an interesting speech to be made about the prospects for a National Liberal party, one which brings together the Orange Bookers, the Blairites and the Cameroons.”

    And just how committed would such a party be to a serious devolution of political power to anything except commercial interests?

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Nov '13 - 10:29pm


    In short, he’s the kind of Tory we could (in the words of Margaret Thatcher, whose home town of Grantham he represents) do business with.

    I see nothing of the sort. I see yet another of these people who twist and distort the word liberalism in a way that is trying to get it to mean “taking power out of democratic control and putting it in the hands of big business”. Oh, they’ll dress it up in fancy words, but underneath all this “dead hand of the state” and “freedom means putting it out to competition” means JUST that – these are the words that have been used since 1979 to justify policies which have made the rich richer and the poor poorer, and have sold out our country to control by shadowy people based elsewhere. See how the privatisation of energy has led to people having to judge whether to freeze or to starve so that they can pay to keep a few people at the top of energy companies in lives of luxury with their million pound salaries and bonuses. You and Mr Boles and Mr Littlewood and the like may call that “liberalism”. I do not.

  • Well, first things first.

    How many Tory MPs have so far resigned the Conservative Whip and joined this new National Liberal Party?

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Nov '13 - 10:38pm

    Stephen Tall

    @ Matthew Huntbach – Are you asking me to choose between Russell Brand and The Economist? It won’t take me long…

    No, I think I have made it clear I have no time for the Russell Brand analysis, that in fact I see him as someone who might think he is a leftist, but in pushing out the “politics is bad, don’t get involved” line is actually aiding and abetting the very sort of control by the rich he says he is against.

    I think Brand has captured the sentiments, but he has nothing at all to offer to take them further. The Economist has coherent plans to take things further, but like the Leninists of old, it sees everything through such a skewed politically ideological viewpoint, so no matter what is said, it finds a way to distort it to support rule by big business, and turning everything into a cash market. Like the Trotskyists I used to battle with when I was a student, the more we sit and see the ruins of that sort of policy, the more the ideologists of the Economist say we need even more of it, say the reasons it all went wrong was that it hasn’t yet been implemented in an extreme enough way.

    Underneath what I read from both is that young people are often politically naive, and easily led, often jumping on whatever is trendy, thinking it is new and original, whereas actually they’re being cynically manipulated.

  • So basically Nick Boles is hoping to trick the electorate by putting ‘National Liberal’ instead of ‘Conservative’ on some ballot papers.

    Even though it’s a classic marketing trick, I can’t see it working – some brands are just too tainted. They had a wide-open goal in May 2010 and still couldn’t hit the back of the net.

  • “Nick Boles’ speech reads like transference, projecting his own disappointments at the Tory party’s never-ending lurch to the right onto the Lib Dems.”

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

  • OP: “Orange Bookers, the Blairites and the Cameroons.”
    “One group it would appeal to is young people, increasingly economically liberal and socially libertarian”

    Then why not put up economically liberal and socially libertarian candidates rather than a bunch of managers with no life or achievements outside politics and no values or world view that is in any way likely to withstand their being co-opted by the civil service, hawks and the system generally once in power?

  • Boles is so blatantly playing the trickster, it’s a wonder he doesn’t dress up with a wand and a pointed hat.

    This isn’t his first tricky idea. He says that previously “I believed that if we could get the Liberal Democrats to yoke themselves to us for a full two terms in government, we would in time be able to persuade most of them to merge their party into a truly liberal Conservative Party.”

    Boles now thinks that his first tricky idea was misguided. He sees Clegg firing off salvos which would appear to dissent from various Tory policies, and he wrongly deduces that Clegg is preparing the ground for a possible coalition with Labour.

    There, it is Boles who is misguided. Boles should ask himself some pertinent questions. Why does Clegg continue to slag off Labour at every opportunity? Why does Clegg not talk in any serious way at all to Miliband? Why does Clegg accept a position which puts his party in continuous discussion with the Conservatives, but no discussions with Labour? Does this really look like an equidistant stance?

    Clegg’s motives are the opposite. Clegg has known for some time that a renewed Tory coalition is what he wants. The problem is that he needs to retain some voters, having already driven away the centre-left. If he were to admit complete devotion to Tory policies and a definite intention to continue working for their continuation, he could lose all but his most rightist supporters as well. So Clegg is creating diversion, confusion and camouflage.

    Boles should give up trying to promote his own personality by creating a special tricky device to bring closer together the Tories and Lib Dems. It isn’t necessary. Clegg and Cameron are doing it their way, and it’s working well.

  • I am not really sure why we need the sophisticated analysis of his speech here. Am I just being naive (because he is using the same words) in thinking he is trying to re-create the National Liberals as a permanent add-on to the Conservatives to give them the sort of unrivalled hold on power that they had for the two decades or so either side of World War 2?

  • Jonathan Brown 20th Nov '13 - 12:05am

    Wow, what cheek!

    Just read his actual article. After spending several paragraphs slagging us off he says: “It is a Conservative Prime Minister who gave gay men and women the freedom to share in one of our greatest and most cherished institutions: marriage … It is a Conservative chancellor that has fulfilled Maurice Saatchi’s dream and liberated millions of low paid workers from the burden of income tax.”

    As if EITHER of those would have happened without Lib Dems in government!!

  • Actually I quite like Nick Boles. Sadly I think with this proposition he’s probably shot his bolt. I think Matthew’s visceral hatred for anything Tory is blinding him to something that could have been good. Boles recognises, almost uniquely in the Tory party, the terrible divide that has been created in the past thirty years between those who have no hope of getting a foot on the property owning ladder and those who have little or no hope. Personally, were it December, I’d probably nominate Bowles as “Liberal of the year”. Anyone who recognises, as I think he does, this fundamental inequity that our own party seems incapable of and unwilling to address seems like a good chap to me.

  • I suggest Stephen Tall and his friend Nick Boles take a moment to get out their history books and check what happened to the National Liberal Party the last time round. Or simply google National Liberal Party .

    It ended up being neither national nor liberal nor much of a party. It became a wholly owned possession of John Poulson, who along with T Dan Smith was a 1970s symbol of corruption, bribery and fraud. He was arrested forty years ago this year and gaoled.
    In political terms the National Liberal Party rapidly became completely indistinguishable from the Conservative and Unionist Party, with which it eventually merged.
    In practice it enabled Conservatives to pretend that they were something they were not and thereby manipulate and deceive voters . It also smashed the Liberal Party for a generation. We can only assume that Stephen Tall and Nick Boles want to go back to the 1930s ad 1940s and see our party reduced to a taxi ride of MPs.

    If Stephen Tall really believes that –
    “there is an interesting speech to be made about the prospects for a National Liberal party, one which brings together the Orange Bookers, the Blairites and the Cameroons.”
    I suggest he takes out membership of the Conservative Party and have done with it.
    It appears that Stephen Tall lives in the Westminster Bubble spending to much of his time in BBC studios in the company of comfortable and complacent Conservatives.

  • Perhaps this is me being obtuse but doesn’t the party he is talking about already exist as the Liberal Party.

    Secondly, isn’t it a monumental breach of electoral law to set up “affiliates” to stand as independent political parties, particularly if they imitate ones which already exist.

    What I mean here is that Its a bit different if a political party or an independent candidate runs on a similar platform to that of an established one give or take a few differences because the existing one is splintering. The new party is still actually competing for votes against the established one.

    But trying to essentially cook the party up specifically prior to an election you may lose seems a bit mendacious, particularly if the intention is to co-opt them into government later on. Is it even legally plausible?

    I’m fairly sure that this is the exact technique used by essentially one or two-party states to make it look like they are multi-party democracies. Sudan being the example brought to my mind.

  • It’s a shame because there is an interesting speech to be made about the prospects for a National Liberal party, one which brings together the Orange Bookers, the Blairites and the Cameroons. There would be disagreements over civil liberties, but on the economy, public services, the environment and Europe they would have more in common with each other than with their current parties. Tribal loyalties, combined with our stultifying electoral system which inhibits new parties, means such an alliance is unlikely to come to pass.

    An almost entirely sensible suggestion. As Clegg has told left wing Lib Dem voters to go back to Labour it makes sense to rebuild a new, centre-right Liberal party that does away with the UKIP faction of the Tories and unites Economic and Social liberal(ish)s.

    However, Blairites won’t join you. They hate the Tories and they hate the Lib Dems. They’ll remain a vital part of the Labour Party.

    At a national level, UK politics will be almost entirely two party, as losing the Scottish referendum will shrink the SNP, probably to Labour’s benefit, with an, unelectable under FPTP, UKIP fringe.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Nov '13 - 8:27am

    A National Liberal Party would have no credibility unless it was willing to stand against Conservative candidates.

    The idea interests me, but it would have to be defended against extremists, which is why I would still probably prefer a centrist Lib Dem party.

    The leadership should also take note of some of Nick Boles’s complaints.

  • John Tilley – there are many others in the Lib Dems who have in the past recommended that Blairites and Lib Dems get together (no less than Paddy Ashdown among others!). And, of course, many have been misled into thinking that the Cameroons are a force for eliminating the old social authoritarianism which has always accompanied the Conservative Party. I think for all of us in the Lib Dems there are people in both Conservative and Labour Parties we are comfortable working with towards certain often limited objectives. For many of us on here commenting, clearly you and I John, but many others, too we do not select the same people as the Orange Bookers. For that reason, it is easy to sympathise with the view of FormerLibDem upthread that it is very difficult to see an ever-continuing relationship with the Orange Bookers – they clearly want something politically (and probably economically) very different from the radicals in, and increasingly outside, the Party.

  • The founders of the Liberal National party in 1931 had this to be said for themselves, self-serving wretches although they were, that they had previously been Liberals. Mr Boles’s proposition that David Cameron, who has never been other than a Conservative, should unilaterally revive the National Liberal party as a Conservative Party-affiliated body, lacks any conceivable element of political authenticity. Mr Boles’s remarks are interesting only in so far as they show that as an intelligent person he realises the ideological inadequacy of the Conservative Party itself, and let us hope that the more he and others recognise this, the more people see the Liberal Democrat Party as presently constituted as their natural political home.

  • Bill le Breton 20th Nov '13 - 8:47am

    If it was up to me I would select Richard S for my Liberal Hero of the week for writing above:

    > OP: “Orange Bookers, the Blairites and the Cameroons.”
    “One group it would appeal to is young people, increasingly economically liberal and socially libertarian”

    “Then why not put up economically liberal and socially libertarian candidates rather than a bunch of managers with no life or achievements outside politics and no values or world view that is in any way likely to withstand their being co-opted by the civil service, hawks and the system generally once in power?”

  • Steve Griffiths 20th Nov '13 - 8:51am

    We should not forget what Joe Grimmond told the Liberal Party Assembly about National Liberals in his “towards the sound of gunfire speech”. He said:

    “There are no more miserable spectres in our political life than the numerous varieties of National Liberals absorbed in the Tory Party. They have done that party no good. They have done politics in this country little good, and advanced the cause of Liberalism not one title.”

  • I think this is a classic distraction technique.

    The thing he wants to distract from is the fact that his own party has split down the middle, with a rump of failed Cameronite reformists and the bulk of the party who’ve junked the whole reform project and would actually feel more comfortable in UKIP but don’t dare say so.

    If that’s one consequence of the Coalition with the Liberal Democrats, then it’s a very good one.

    Sorry, Nick Boles, but you split if you want to. We’re not for splitting.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Nov '13 - 9:43am

    Jock Coates

    Actually I quite like Nick Boles. Sadly I think with this proposition he’s probably shot his bolt. I think Matthew’s visceral hatred for anything Tory is blinding him to something that could have been good.

    I hate seeing the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, a process that started when the Conservatives gained power in 1979 and has continued ever since. The driving force of that is the sort of policies that people like you and Mr Boles call “liberalism” but which bear no resemblance to what attracted me to join the Liberal Party in 1978 and work actively for it and its successor for 32 years after that.

    Don’t give me your usual lines, Jock, I’ve heard them all before. The REALITY is that whatever fancy ideological suppositions may be behind the push to put everything out to a cash market, the RESULT of the sort of policies you and Mr Boles are so keen on is more power and control for a small number of super-rich people. Like the communism of old, it had grand ideas and fooled many with its propaganda, fooled many of those who actually were part of that ideology and believed their own propaganda, but when put into practice inevitably achieved the opposite. Personally, if I had a grand plan, but I found everything that was built to that grand plan fell down, I’d be questioning that grand plan. Ideological one-track minders just think the problem is that reality has gone wrong, so we must stick ever closer to the theory.

    Actually, I don’t have a “visceral hatred for anything Tory ” (my italics). I have something of a soft-spot for old style small-c conservatism, which did have a genuine humanitarian urge and some useful points to make. That is just the sort of conservatism that Mr Boles and the like want to get rid of.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Nov '13 - 9:52am

    RC

    The thing he wants to distract from is the fact that his own party has split down the middle, with a rump of failed Cameronite reformists

    What “reformists”? The idea that Cameron was about some sort of moderating reform of the Conservatives was always just shallow propaganda. It was fairly obvious why the right-wing press believed it or chose to believe it or reported it as if it were factual, but it was a mystery to me why some many on the centre and left also believed it. Cameron has continued the push of the Conservative Party to the far economic right, to the idea that democracy is a bad thing and instead all power should be in the hands of businessmen exercised through markets where we vote with cash (which some have far more of than others) rather than ballot papers (which have the unfortunate nature, if you are a supporter of naked pro-super-rich policies, like Mr Boles, and his hero Mr Johnson, of being shared out equally).

    Please do not call this sort of thing “liberalism”, or make out, as Mr Boles has, that it’s what pre-merger Liberals who were unhappy about the SDP, like me, were all about. That sort of complete rewriting of history shows the sort of person these mad ideologists are. They are the ENEMIES of true liberalism.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Nov '13 - 9:55am

    Hugh p

    Mr Boles’s proposition that David Cameron, who has never been other than a Conservative, should unilaterally revive the National Liberal party as a Conservative Party-affiliated body, lacks any conceivable element of political authenticity.

    Actually, I think it would be a very good idea. Let Nick Clegg and Stephen Tall and the like join it, it would be THEIR sort of party. Then maybe we can have back our old Liberal Party, rid of their sort.

  • Helen Dudden 20th Nov '13 - 9:55am

    I agree on housing with Nick Boles, but that is all I can agree with, on the subject of the present Government.

    My flat is running with condensation, and bitterly cold. The situation is ongoing as to the course of action.

    Someone has to care, like with the “bedroom tax” and the crisis that those in the lower earning category suffer.

  • @’g’ writes ‘However, Blairites won’t join you. They hate the Tories and they hate the Lib Dems. They’ll remain a vital part of the Labour Party.’ Let’s think…the Iraq war,useless ID cards at £5 billion, the relentless centralism of everything, 90 days detention, attacks on the jury system and widening the gap between rich and poor over 13 years in power. Labour are welcome to them!

  • Paul In Twickenham 20th Nov '13 - 10:17am

    Well, Mr. Boles hoisted his idea up the flagpole and nobody saluted.

  • Simon McGrath 20th Nov '13 - 10:39am

    @Matthew Huntbach “I hate seeing the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, a process that started when the Conservatives gained power in 1979 and has continued ever since”

    In fact of course all groups in society have got richer since 1979 – that what economic growth and progressive taxation does for you.

  • Richard S 19th Nov ’13 – 11:13pm and Bill le Breton 20th Nov ’13 – 8:47am
    a bunch of managers with no life or achievements outside politics and no values or world view that is in any way likely to withstand their being co-opted by the civil service, hawks and the system generally once in power?

    Not sure who you guys are thinking of but maybe the following would qualify? –
    the minister for shooting badgers?
    the minister for top-down reorganisation of the NHS?
    the minister for being nasty to immigrants?
    the secretary of state for subsidies to a new generation of nuclear power stations?
    the deputy prime minister with special personal responsibility for failing on reform of the House of Lords, secret courts and the bombing of Syria ?

    Steve Griffiths 20th Nov ’13 – 8:51am
    Steve seems to have the measure of these people in quoting Jo Grimond –
    “ They have done politics in this country little good, and advanced the cause of Liberalism not one title.”

  • Richard S 19th Nov ’13 – 11:13pm and Bill le Breton 20th Nov ’13 – 8:47am
    a bunch of managers with no life or achievements outside politics and no values or world view that is in any way likely to withstand their being co-opted by the civil service, hawks and the system generally once in power?

    Not sure who you guys are thinking of but maybe the following would qualify? –
    the minister for shooting badgers?
    the minister for top-down reorganisation of the NHS?
    the minister for being nasty to immigrants?
    the secretary of state for subsidies to a new generation of nuclear power stations?
    the deputy prime minister with special personal responsibility for failing on reform of the House of Lords, secret courts and the bombing of Syria ?

    Steve Griffiths 20th Nov ’13 – 8:51am
    Steve seems to have the measure of these people in quoting Jo Grimond –
    “ They have done politics in this country little good, and advanced the cause of Liberalism not one title.”

  • Thinking about the National Liberals and the party’s history whilst reading this article, got me remembering that I joined the Lib Dems originally from the SDP side and at the time many on the Liberal side wanted to suppress the SDP element. Well I think that has now pretty much succeeded as it would be pretty difficult to find any trace of social democratic influence in the current party’s actions. Perhaps it is time to just change the name back to what it was pre merger, as I suspect that most ex-SDP supporters are, like myself, now back with Labour.

    Without wishing to be too provocative I could see Clegg, Laws and Alexander fitting perfectly into the National Liberal mould. I have a long-standing bet with a friend that Clegg will become a Tory before he is 50 and I remain confident!

  • William Hobhouse’s comment is interesting: “Liberalism for Conservatives is the freedom of the individual without any sense of other people.”

    I am less and less persuaded that the Liberal Democrats’ definition of liberalism is in any way different to that. Every single policy the Lib Dems now espouse is couched purely and simply in terms of the individual.

  • “Then maybe we can have back our old Liberal Party”

    Which one? Gladstone’s? Campbell-Bannerman’s? Asquith’s?

  • In his response to me, Matthew Huntbach, to whose views I am generally quite sympathetic, asserts that our party would be better off without Nick Clegg, Stephen Tall, et al. The history of our party, and the much longer history of its Liberal Party predecessor, demonstrates that we are at our best as a party when we are a broadly based movement, welcoming all those who share liberal and democrat values, and the history of the Owenite wing of the SDP, in which only those were welcome who happened to agree with the political opinions espoused by Dr Owen himself, is all too evocative of the dangers of our party becoming some sort of exclusive sect.

  • @Tom King

    Strong point. How the party starts to react to improving economic conditions will be key, but I’m pleased by recent comments Danny and Nick about the welfare state and indicating that they would want to reverse some of the cuts as economic decisions improve and not backing down from saying the rich should be taxed more. Words are of course easier than action, but it is a start.

  • Paul In Twickenham 20th Nov '13 - 11:13am

    @Simon McGrath – indeed, all deciles inflation-adjusted income have increased since 1979, but Matthew Huntbach’s point is that the increase for the lowest deciles has not matched that for the top deciles. I refer you to table 14 on the ONS website at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/household-income/the-effects-of-taxes-and-benefits-on-household-income/historical-data–1977-2011-12/summary–historical-data–1977-2011-12.html.

    Since 1979 the Equivalised disposable income for the bottom decile has changed from £1614 (which in inflation adjusted terms is £6927) to £8850 – i.e. it is now x1.28 what it was in 1979. For the top decile the equivalent change is from £8646 (£37109 after inflation) to £71883 – i.e. it is now x1.94 what it was in 1979. The “all households” figure has changed from £4074 (£17486 after inflation) to £28125 – which is x1.61.

    So yes, “since 1979 the rich have got richer by x1.91 while the poor have got richer by x1.28” might be a more accurate statement.

  • @ John Tilley,

    I mean a large number of people who would be described as Blairites, Orange Bookers or Cameroons. My point doesn’t make sense if it is contingent on specific personalities.

    I don’t see these people as libertarian anyway, except in the sense that they don’t see reducing the incidence of anal sex between consenting adults as a legitimate public policy objective – however this is something they have in common with the whole civilised world under the age of 50 these days. They are happy to discuss other “we know better” ideas like minimum alcohol pricing.

  • If there is a schism in the Tories, but the newly created party remains permanently attached to the Tories then there is no difference to having different wings within the current Tory party (as every party has). Of course what he is really saying is he wants to make it easier for some Lib Dem members and supporters to support a Tory government whilst hiding behind a supposedly Liberal partner. Whichever way you look at it members would be propping up the likes of Gove and Fox (not to mention Tebbit et al) as much as the supposedly more palatable Boles.

    Personally I have always been clear that if the Lib Dems become a semi permanent partner to either Labour or the Tories they would lose my vote. Therefore the National Liberal (Nice Tory) Party would never get my vote. I want a liberal party to promote liberal policies and to work within any coalition to prevent authoritarian and /or vicious right wing policies. We’ve had a bit of the first and nowhere near enough of the second.

  • “Mr. Boles hoisted his idea up the flagpole and nobody saluted.”

    True, but putting outrageous words into print takes a step toward making them appear acceptable. It all “helps” in gradually acclimatising people with supposed principles to their ongoing abandonment of those principles.

  • Bill le Breton 20th Nov '13 - 12:08pm

    Tom King, for posting,:
    ‘William Hobhouse’s comment is interesting: “Liberalism for Conservatives is the freedom of the individual without any sense of other people.”’
    ‘I am less and less persuaded that the Liberal Democrats’ definition of liberalism is in any way different to that. Every single policy the Lib Dems now espouse is couched purely and simply in terms of the individual.’

    You will have to be my Liberal Hero of Next Week, as Richard S has that accolade for this week.

    Is that o.k. with you? 😉

    Now Richard S, please don’t let my award as my Liberal Hero of this Week go to your head. John Tilly was agreeing with every word you wrote. Surely you know that he doesn’t do satire 😉 Examples do help your case, exposing powerfully what happens when managerialism trumps values.

    Finally,ATF, asks us which old Liberal Party we’d like back: “Gladstone’s? Campbell-Bannerman’s? Asquith’s?”

    Chuck Kennedy’s would do for a start. Don’t under rate C-B and don’t over rate Asquith – ask the suffragettes and those Liberal Cabinet members who resigned on the declaration of war with Germany in August 1914.

  • @Bill

    Believe me, I would never underestimate C-B. As sad as it may sound, he is my favourite PM and have a framed picture of his first Cabinet on my wall!

  • HANDS OFF JEREMY BROWNE

  • Interesting article Stephen. I think Boles makes some valid points which it is worth both parties mulling over. This will have to happen away from the partisan braying that will dominate the media and social media of course.

    @ollyT I am not sure that you’re point about ex SDP types mostly joining Labour is correct. I was also from the SDP side but became disillusioned with the whole thing on the merger and, like many, left party politics completely, only joining the Lib Dems about 10 years later. I think I am right in saying that, while some did “return” to the Labour party, the majority left politics altogether having come from outside the party political system in the first place (like me). In addition I don’t remember the SDP as an old style statist left party – our opposition to that was part of the reason we joined the party. I would also take issue with the fact that Boles clearly thinks that the ex SDP types in the party are really the Labour Party in disguise.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Nov '13 - 4:51pm

    Simon McGrath

    In fact of course all groups in society have got richer since 1979 – that what economic growth and progressive taxation does for you.

    In terms of accessibility to housing, one of the key aspects of life, most of us have got much poorer. What was the ratio of house prices to wages then and what is it now?

    Obviously, I am talking in relative terms, but now we’re seeing that drop as well.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Nov '13 - 4:56pm

    ATF

    Which one? Gladstone’s? Campbell-Bannerman’s? Asquith’s?

    Yes, that one. With its motivating factors transferred to today’s world. That is, policies that may have been relevant when the economy was made up largely of small scale local businesses do not necessarily apply in the same way when the economy is made up largely of large scale multi-national corporations. Even bearing this in mind, I find the 19th century Liberal Party was far more pragmatic on state/market solutions than the free market ideologists of today like to make out in order to give themselves some historical credibility.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Nov '13 - 5:18pm

    Hugh p

    In his response to me, Matthew Huntbach, to whose views I am generally quite sympathetic, asserts that our party would be better off without Nick Clegg, Stephen Tall, et al. The history of our party, and the much longer history of its Liberal Party predecessor, demonstrates that we are at our best as a party when we are a broadly based movement, welcoming all those who share liberal and democrat values, and the history of the Owenite wing of the SDP, in which only those were welcome who happened to agree with the political opinions espoused by Dr Owen himself, is all too evocative of the dangers of our party becoming some sort of exclusive sect.

    Er yes, that’s my problem – the way these people are trying to steal the word “liberal” and get it to mean just “supporter of extreme free market policies” is doing just that. I wouldn’t have a problem if that was an element balanced by other elements, but now it is not. When I joined the Liberal Party, while, yes, I was somewhat to the left of its centre, I was not dramatically so. I was very much centre left in party terms. Now I find myself increasingly isolated, like some sort of fringe figure so far removed from what is the main thrust of the party that it feels a bit silly to stay in. When some horrendous economic right-winger like Nick Boles is described by someone with an influential position generating our party’s image like Stephen Tall as “someone we can do business with”, I really do feel I am in the wrong party.

    Sure, I draw some comfort from people like you who stick here and say they are sympathetic to my views. But I fear all who say that are old-timers, people sticking with the party for old-times sake. We don’t seem to be recruiting any more like us. All the new people coming in seem to be Stephen Tall types.

    I’m happy to agree that the free market idea is an aspect of liberalism, liberals should respect it and see what it says as an influence on their thinking. However, it’s become very clear that it simply has not lived up to the ideals that its more simple-minded supporters give to it. It simply has NOT delivered the feelings of freedom they said it would – we are now living in a rather sad time when many people are feeling anxious, unhappy, depressed and so decidedly unfree, due to the crisis in economics – we took on the “markets make everything better” idea, and it didn’t work out quite as well as those who pushed it said it would.

    In the past, not even that long ago, when I was first becoming politically involved, the big question was why socialism had not delivered on its promises. Simple minded people still insisted the only problem was that it had not been implemented with enough ideological fervour, we just needed more of it in a more extreme form to get it to work. Better more liberally minded people were able to question it. Questioning it does not mean the dreams and goals of those who thought that ideology would make things better were all wrong, nor does it mean every single aspect of it was wrong. However, if when you questioned it, all you got was a defensive circling of those who endorsed it, and abuse thrown at you because you were not a true believer – and that IS how I experienced socialism in he days when it was the dominant ideology and I was a Young Liberal at a university where the smart set were Trotskyists.

    I feel much the same head-banging despair at the blinkered ideologists of the free market we are discussing here as I did back in those days when fruitlessly arguing with the Trots.

  • paul barker 20th Nov '13 - 5:28pm

    The media mostly seem to see the speech as an attempt to recruit “Right-Wing” Libdems but I wonder if It might not be an early attempt to prepare a lifeboat for Centrist Tories, a step to joining us if their own Party drifts even farther to the extremes ?

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Nov '13 - 5:50pm

    There is no space for a compassionate economic and social liberal party to compete with a centrist Lib Dem party. It would be splitting hairs, which I think is what Stephen Tall is getting at when he says “put Cameroons, Blairites and Orange bookers together and spot the difference”.

    I know this is anathema to the centre-left in the party, but I would say that their isn’t much difference between the centre left and the centre right either. At the end of the day, the big fight needs to be against extremists, this is who most of us are afraid of (I think). Fighting between ourselves is the narcissism of small differences.

  • Simon Banks 20th Nov '13 - 6:40pm

    Those of great age or historical knowledge will know we had National Liberals before. They helped sustain the MacDonald/Baldwin/Chamberlain government and used to be called turncoats.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Nov ’13 – 5:18pm
    I feel much the same head-banging despair at the blinkered ideologists of the free market we are discussing here as I did back in those days when fruitlessly arguing with the Trots.

    Yes- me too. The similarity between the middle-class Trots of the 1970s and the middle-class free market fanatics of today is very clear.

  • @Matthew

    Interesting you say that Matthew as so many right-wing Tories profess great admiration for the GOM, Daniel Hannan for one has said he would have been a Gladstonian Liberal rather than a Disraeli Tory. A Gladstonian sense of personal responsibility towards others rather than state intervention could almost be a read as a proto-Big Society.

  • Were there any parties in the 70s that decided to tailor their outlook to the fashionable left-wing chatter of the young? All that chatter counted for nothing – the Tories took office and stayed there for 18 years. It would be equally futile and self-defeating to chase the votes of the fashionable student free market theorists, as the polls bear out – Lib Dem popularity has collapsed since embracing economic liberalism, whilst Miliband is currently increasing his lead over the Tories.

  • ATF “Gladstone, the bright young hope of the stern, unbending Tories” (or similar). As Gladstone was when he started his political career. So not so surprising what you have found among right wingers.

  • @Tim13

    Of course, and least we forget the influence of Robert Peel on the start of the Liberal movement.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Nov '13 - 10:23am

    ATF

    Interesting you say that Matthew as so many right-wing Tories profess great admiration for the GOM, Daniel Hannan for one has said he would have been a Gladstonian Liberal rather than a Disraeli Tory.

    Yes, but they see what they want to see. When they talk about being “Gladstonian Liberals”, it is all part of trying to give a fake credibility to their politics by making out that the GOM was in favour of their sort of dog-eat-dog rabid competition in a rigged game which the rich always win. So they take those bits from Gladstone which suit them, and ignore other bits. When I read what 19th century liberals actually wrote and look at what they actually did, I find it is often very different from the caricature “19th century Liberal” that people like Daniel Hannan have constructed in their own image. That is to ignore too the very different set-up then than now. Markets then were not dominated by big global corporations, so big they dominate and dictate to governments rather than the other way round. In those days, the dominant power was still aristocratic landowners and the established Church, so small businesses (there weren’t much of any other sort) could properly be seen as a challenge to the dominant power. Using Gladstonian words which were given in that context when talking about small businesses then, but using them to defend the might and power and unchallengeable nature of global corporations of a sort Gladstone would not have considered, is at best foolish and at worst fraudulent.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Nov '13 - 10:36am

    Further to the above, you could also liken this to the US Christian Right. These people would, of course, state they have a great admiration for Jesus. But when I read the words reported to be those of Jesus in the Gospels, I find a man who seems to be spending much of his time ranting at the wealthy and powerful and saying what bad people they are because of their neglect of the poor – and who has nothing whatsoever to say on homosexuality and is pretty uninterested in any other sexual issues. So it seems to me the “Jesus” these right-wingers admire is something of their own construction, bearing no resemblance to the previous construction which goes by that name.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Nov '13 - 10:52am

    Tim13

    ATF “Gladstone, the bright young hope of the stern, unbending Tories” (or similar). As Gladstone was when he started his political career. So not so surprising what you have found among right wingers.

    Yes, except that “Tory” then meant a defender of the landed aristocracy and the privileges and establishment of the Church of England, and not a defender of free markets, indeed Tories opposed free trade. It’s not a straight left-right thing, because for most of the 18th century the Tories w ere the rebels and the Whigs were the establishment. The radical anti-establishment wing of Toryism came to a head with William Cobbett, who many of us radical liberals see as one of our forebears, but he started as a Tory, and underneath remained so – he was bitterly critical of nonconformist Christianity and of much else that was foundational to 19th century liberalism.

  • @Matthew

    Well put. We should never forget that it was the GOM who backed the masses against the classes.

  • Robin Martlew 21st Nov '13 - 12:21pm

    As a very Disillusioned ex Liber50s

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Nov '13 - 12:27pm

    Matthew, Steve, John Tilly, Tim, I want to get some agreement about the differences in the party. There are not many free market extremists within the Lib Dems. Practically all Lib Dems support a welfare state and public services, the differences are just between its size and how it is best delivered.

    I think Liberal Reform made a mistake supporting the Royal Mail privatisation before they had a chance to analyse its price, making them look like “private good – public bad” extremists, but I think they will recognise this now and even so, they still fully support a sizeable welfare state and public services.

    I know passions become lit when the direction of the party is at stake, but the real free market extremists are in the Tories, not the Lib Dems!

  • Matthew Huntbach:

    “Er, so we’ve got the likes of Russell Brand telling us young people aren’t interested in politics because they think politics is all about rich people and they hate the politicians we have because they only seem interested in the rich. And we’ve got the Economist telling us that actually those sort of policies are just what young people want, far-right economic dog-eat-dog policies.

    Who do you think is correct, Stephen?”

    How about John Harris?
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jun/26/generation-y-young-voters-backing-conservatives

  • jedibeeftrix 21st Nov '13 - 1:00pm

    I have always been content that we tax at roughly 38% of GDP, and spend that on the mutliplicy of good things that government do.

    small state neo-liberal that is not.

    I simply oppose raising taxation above 40% of GDP ( and would be quite content to see it dip down to mid thirties at the height of the cycle), but maybe that is enough to warrant the brand…

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Nov '13 - 3:05pm

    Stewart

    How about John Harris?
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jun/26/generation-y-young-voters-backing-conservatives

    Yes, but I think this just sums up the issue. On the one hand, the message we are getting from young people, the one which was worded by Russell Brand, but he just said with a bit more articulacy what you would probably get from many in their late teens or early 20s is that politics is all about some elite out-of-touch bunch of people who are only in it for themselves, and who push through policies favourable only to the elite. On the other hand, the same people can easily be persuaded to back such policies so long as they can be packaged up as all about rewarding enterprise, giving people chances etc. Or, to put it simple, the right is winning the propaganda war. What I actually think is happening here is that people who actually don’t know much about the world believe what is passed down to them, from the right-wing press through casual “saloon bar”conversation, and into general circulation among people who themselves probably don’t read the right-wing press. There isn’t much of a left-wing press, the right has a massive advantage here, and broadcast media is legally bound to be neutral – which in practice means they follow the flow, as directed by the right-wing press.

    If politics is put across as a universally bad thing, as it is by Russell Brand and the right-wing press, there is no left-right division, at least not in the eyes of those who aren’t interested in politics. So, the young people we are talking about will not distinguish, they will see all politicians, whatever their label, as just out-of-touch elitists who are only in it for themselves. They will therefore tend to the political right, without realising it, because the “small state” message of the political right fits in with the “politics is bad mentality”, because the political right has massive more influence in terms of media balance, and because the very idea of there being such a thing as the left in politics, that is, politicians who want to spread wealth and power, has gone.

    The political left needs to be able to challenge this. It hasn’t. It massively fails, and from all the stuff I see churned out by LibDem HQ, taking that as “left” (since it still is, relative to the Conservatives) I can see it failing. I can see why, and from time to time try to articulate this in Liberal Democrat Voice. I’m sure our leadership doesn’t really look at what I’m writing and determine from that to do the opposite, but from what it does do, it might as well be working on that basis.

  • Matthew H: Astute analysis, not much – if anything – that I can disagree with there!

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Nov ’13 – 3:05pm
    The political left needs to be able to challenge this. … …
    I can see why, and from time to time try to articulate this in Liberal Democrat Voice. I’m sure our leadership doesn’t really look at what I’m writing

    It matters not whether our leadership reads what you write, Matthew. Plenty of the rest of us do and some of us will still be around when the present leadership is just a bad memory, when they have swanned off to some dubious sinecure or full-blown membership of the Tory Party. The free market fantasists in the party face nothing but failure and decline in their fortunes. Clegg was a failure as party leader in the last general election, the next general election will be worse. It will be necessary to pick up the pieces once he and his chums have departed. But it is not long now and you might be surprised at the party’s ability to bounce back once we have got rid of the dead weight of Clegg and Cleggery.

  • John Tilley
    I am heartened by your optimism! I suppose if we do take heart from the Grimond revival, it could and may happen again.

    My worry is that the current state of the media and the political influence on opinion, particularly among the young, is that such a revival could be snuffed out at birth. The state of the media was eloquently described by Matthew above. The state of the media in the mid to late 50s was considerably more benign for a Liberal revival than now. That is why I had thought earlier in this Government that a grassroots revolt during this Parliament could have been the most hopeful way forward. This was never likely, and is now pretty well impossible within the timescale, and because the balance of opinion in the party has changed, with significantly more people from the left leaving.

    Incidentally, anyone any idea what has happened to Liberal Left since Richard Grayson left the Lib Dems? There wa a regular monthly message on the website, but nothing since mid-September now.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Nov '13 - 9:50am

    People put too much of an emphasis on the media creating capitalists. My first political opinions were libertarian and that was because I worked hard and wanted to see the rewards but second of all I had seen how government regulation in financial services had actually stifled innovation and worsens customer outcomes. In my case I had clients wanting quick advice via email, but I couldn’t give it to them because the regulations said I needed to go through a lengthy process with them – one client was like “why are you offering me these services that I don’t want?”. This just puts up the cost and sends clients looking on the internet instead, causing people to resent the government.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Nov '13 - 10:12am

    And then the government ended up setting up this:

    https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en

    A free “money advice” website for us to compete with, paid for through an annual levy on financial advisers. And they wonder why people develop tory attitudes towards the government getting out of the way of business. Labour started the plans for this and it was introduced by the coalition under the guise of “financial education”.

    So you can have a nice happy chat about how the evil press are turning people away from the left – or you can listen to why people’s views are what they are how many have felt many government interventions in the private sector have been unjust.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Nov '13 - 10:18am

    By the way, I don’t actually have a problem with a free financial advice website, as long as it is paid for out of general taxation rather than an industry levy.

  • Tim13 22nd Nov ’13 – 9:32am

    You are right to be worried and you are right that we live in a very different world from the 1950’s.
    But we are also living in a very different world from the 1980’s and 1990’s, which are the decades when the right-wingers who captured the party (Clegg, Lawes, Davey etc) formed their political views when Thatcherism stalked the earth.
    Those days and Thatcher herself are gone. The chickens are starting to come home to roost.
    Once they have saluted every rightwing economic nostrum and privatised everything that moves these rightwingers have to start explaining why for example privatising gas and electricity has not resulted in heaven on earth. The so-called “competition” between half a dozen monopoly capitalist multi-national companies amounts to more than the sham of “switching”.
    It is only a matter of time before everyone will see through the nonsense of a Liberal Democrat Secretary of State going on to Newsnight to tell us that he has saved £200 by “switching”.
    The general public are aware that they are now worse off than they were whilst those at the top of the power companies are getting huge bonuses on top of obscene salaries.

    The political consequences of Thatcherism having run its course will impact on all parties. In the Liberal Democrats it will result in the demise of the Thatcher-Lite cronies around Clegg.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Nov '13 - 9:02am

    John Tilley

    Clegg was a failure as party leader in the last general election, the next general election will be worse. It will be necessary to pick up the pieces once he and his chums have departed. But it is not long now and you might be surprised at the party’s ability to bounce back once we have got rid of the dead weight of Clegg and Cleggery.

    Yes, that is why I have remained a member of the party, but “on strike” – Clegg’s leadership has been so bad, so damaging, and so arrogant in the way he wants to make out all Liberal Democrat support is support for him and his strategies, that I will not put any more of my time or money into furthering the party while Clegg is its leader, at least not unless Clegg radically changes his direction and attitude, which I think is highly unlikely.

    I do hope that the utter failure of Clegg and the Cleggies will convince those in the centre of our party, who tend not to like hard debate on serious issues and if it happens tend to back the leader on a “keep it quiet” basis, that the extreme right of the party (in economic terms) has failed it and needs to be pushed back down into the small fringe where it once was. Unfortunately, this means sitting back and watching the party’s electoral support collapse in the short term, which is hard for someone like me who has spent so much time and effort helping build it up.

    I started posting in Liberal Democrat Voice at the time of the leadership election, when I was astonished at the support Clegg was getting, because I just could not see what he had that made him in the eyes of so many “obviously the next leader”. I STILL don’t see it. I really don’t, I really can’t see why anyone thought much of him in the first place. I’m afraid the only reason I can think of is the class one – people with his sort of social background are always assumed to be much more intelligent and able than they really are, while with people from my sort of background it’s the other way round.

    Looking back to those days, everything I have said about Clegg has proved correct – even those things where I myself thought perhaps I was going OTT and being just too nasty or cynical. I was accused of having some sort of vindictive prejudice against the man. I think how it has panned out since shows I was just using my own experience and intuition, which has always proved accurate in the past. I hope by continuing here I can persuade other people in the party that we need to get together and rebuild the party when he has gone – and to make sure he goes soon.

  • “He has developed ways of encouraging communities to increase the supply of housing while promoting localism (for which I made him a Liberal Hero of the Week in January).” Try telling that to people living in rural areas of England where the policies pursued by Mr Boles exacerbated by the failure of local Tory District Councils to draw up a local plan has led to planning by appeal to the Planning Inspectorate with no say whatsoever being given to local communities who are affected by the huge numbers of additional houses being approved with no additional supporting infrastructure, school places etc. A Liberal Hero? I don’t think so.

  • Maybe Mr Boles, whose great uncle was my (Conservative) MP, has a point but I think the National Liberals might be more likely to ally themselves with the Liberal Democrats leaving the remaining Conservatives to team up with UKIP. It would be a more realistic re alignment than many of those proposed.

  • Melanie Winterbotham 25th Nov '13 - 8:57pm

    A Liberal Centre is a building where members meet and work. The ‘centre’ in politics is vacuous, and meaningless. We need a clear stance on each issue, which may be defined by some as ‘left’ or ‘right’, but individual policies do not meld into a ‘centre’ position. For a start, it suggests we are always half way between Labour / socialist groups, and Conservatives/UKIP. As we are often to the ‘left’ of Labour on social issues, this is nonsense.

    Nick Clegg may be too young to remember the lost opportunities of the 70s when the party also tried to position itself as in the centre, with pictures of see-saws, and the literally nauseating slogan “One more heave”.

    Only a clear programme and skilful promotion of our achievements and handling of our several embarrassments in government will make the electorate take us seriously.

  • Melanie Winterbotham:

    Precisely

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Nov '13 - 11:55pm

    Ever since I’ve been a member of the party, there’s been Tory-aligned commentators putting the line that if only the Liberal Party, and later the Liberal Democrats, adopted a position where “liberalism” was interpreted primarily as meaning support for extreme free market policies, secondarily as about civil liberties, and dropped all this lefty stuff about being opposed to enslavement by poverty, there’d be voters flocking to us. It used to seem a daft sort of article, because the Liberals just weren’t that sort of party. Those more right-wing elements which lived on in continental liberal parties had long ago departed the UK Liberal Party, the split of the National Liberals being an aspect of that.

    The horrifying thing is that in just the past maybe five years or so, a group of that type seem to have taken over at the top of our party, pushed that message so hard, that now youngsters who never knew any better actually believe that’s what the old Liberal Party was about (see, for example, here).

    However, what has become absolutely crystal clear is that there is NO DEMAND for that sort of party in this country. It is an obsession of a tiny elite type, numerous in the media and at the top of big business, but almost non-existent anywhere else. There are no votes in it, none – those that think that way always end up voting Tory anyway. This big pent-up demand for it, which all those right-wing commentators insisted there was has been shown to be bogus. Our party is now believed by many to be just the sort of party they urged us to be. And as a result, our poll share has plummeted.

  • Boles lecture contained this revealing sentence –
    ” I believed that if we could get the Liberal Democrats to yoke themselves to us for a full two terms in government, we would in time be able to persuade most of them to merge their party into a truly liberal Conservative Party. ”

    Most Liberal Democrats reluctantly put up with the start of this coalition as a response to the electoral arithmetic after the 2010 General Election, in which the voters had clearly rejected Brown Labourism.
    But all signs suggest that Laws, Davey and Clegg simply yearn to yoke themselves in submissive coalition to the Tories for another five years after 2015.

    Members of the Liberal Democrats ought to be told how many of the right-wingers at the top of our party privately share Bole”s agenda.

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