Nick Clegg: we are the new progressives

Earlier this evening I went along to the Guardian’s offices at King’s Place to hear Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg give the Hugo Young lecture. Given the fractious recent relations between Liberal Democrats and Guardian journalists, it was a slightly incongruous combination, especially when the topic of Clegg’s speech – progressive politics – was preceded by rather posh canapés.

But to the substance of the speech (a version of which appeared on Comment is Free earlier today and whose comments on control orders I blogged about earlier); Clegg set out his stall for a different version of progressive politics from that espoused by many on the left, arguing that 2010 will be a major watershed in the development of progressive politics:

The need for fiscal discipline is sharpening the choices we face. It is forcing us to be clearer about what it really means to be progressive. With less money, we need more focus.

The need to make choices is revealing an important divide between old progressives, who emphasize the power and spending of the central state, and new progressives, who focus on the power and freedom of citizens. For new progressives, the test is not the size of the state, it is the relationship between the state and the citizen. Old progressives conflate the idea of progress with the control and reach of the central state … . In the mid 1980s, a senior Labour politician wrote that Labour must be the “we will make you free” party, not the “we know what’s best for you” party. It is not very often you’ll hear me say this, but I think the author, Roy Hattersley, was right.

Clegg mocked those who judge how progressive a government is simply on the basis of how much the state is spending:

The new progressive test for any form of state intervention is whether it liberates and empowers people. There are some areas where a new progressive approach would imply more state intervention and investment, such as early years, narrowing educational inequalities and promoting a greener economy. That is why I have argued many times that it makes no sense whatsoever to use a phrase like ‘small state liberal’. It is not the size of the state, but what the state does, that matters.

After rehearsing by now familiar arguments that there is nothing progressive about saddling future generations with our debt, Clegg emphasised a different approach to public services from Labour’s traditional model – or indeed that of the right-wing of the Conservative Party:

For old progressives, the NHS needs more money, more targets and more national standardization. For free marketeers, the problem with the NHS is that it is a monopoly with state funded care, squeezing out the possibility of a fully-fledged market in health. For new progressives, the problem with the NHS is not that it is monopolistic, but that it is monolithic. The NHS should offer more diversity, more personalisation, and more flexibility – but all within a tax-funded public system that is always free at the point of delivery.

Similar points about other public services, such as education where Clegg called for local authorities to oversee a schools system where all are Academies, were followed by Clegg addressing his overall vision of what constitutes a fair society:

But it is also too static. Can we really think that a society in which people are temporarily lifted above a statistical line by a few pounds is, in the long run, fairer than one in which opportunity is genuinely dispersed and people’s future life chances are fundamentally improved?

Inequalities become injustices when they are fixed; passed on, generation to generation. That’s when societies become closed, stratified and divided. For old progressives, reducing snapshot income inequality is the ultimate goal. For new progressives, reducing the barriers to mobility is.

No wonder given this definition that there were some polite barbs at the approach of the IFS and others to judging the government’s policies:

There have been studies undertaken of the impact of the spending review that use one measure – income – at one point in time. And they are valuable for precisely this reason. But they are not a full depiction of all of the things that matter in a person’s life. You cannot airbrush out the services that make a difference to a person’s fortunes: the support you get in the classroom when you are young; the care you receive from the NHS if you are sick; the childcare services you can rely on when you are working. You have to take into account the lives that people live in practice, not that they live on paper.

That is why the Government’s own analysis, which did include services, showed a different picture, one which showed the richest fifth losing the most from the spending review, and the poorest fifth losing less.

As for tuition fees and higher education more generally,

I will defend the Government’s plans for reforming the funding of universities, even though it is not the one I campaigned for. It is not my party’s policy, but it is the best policy given the choices we face…

Our plans will mean that many of the lowest income graduates will repay less than they do under the current system. And all graduates will pay out less per month than they do now. Nobody will pay a penny back until their earnings reach £21,000 per year, compared to £15,000 now. The highest-earning graduates will pay back the most. We will spend £150 million a year to lower the financial obstacles for applicants from the poorest backgrounds. For the first time since Labour introduced fees, we will abolish the requirement for part-time students to pay upfront for tuition. These students are generally older and poorer and make up 40% of all students. Providing they are studying for at least a third of their time, our plans mean they will no longer face an upfront fee.

And, perhaps most important of all, we will make sure that universities wanting to charge more for degrees are made to open their doors to the many, not just the few. For those institutions seeking to charge more than £6,000 a year – up to the proposed £9,000 limit – there will be stringent access requirements and real sanctions for those who fail the meet them.

In fact, looked at objectively, our graduate contribution scheme is very close to the so-called graduate tax advocated by the NUS. Except it’s even fairer in the way it’s applied.

There is lots of anger about higher education at the moment and I understand it. I am angry too. Here’s what makes me angry. Oxford and Cambridge take more students each year from just two schools – Eton and Westminster – than from among the 80,000 pupils who are eligible for free school meals. Scandalously, the number of disadvantaged students going to these universities is going down, not up. And a young adult from an affluent background is now seven times more likely to go to university than one from a poor background.

Turning to localism, Clegg took on centralising critics who warn of postcode lotteries:

It is not a lottery when decisions about provision are made by people who can be held to democratic account. That is not a postcode lottery – it is a postcode democracy… For new progressives, the localisation of power – which means, necessarily, of money – is one of the most urgent tasks facing us. Reversing a century of centralisation will not be a quick or an easy task. But we have made a good start.

To end, Clegg turned to a familiar liberal figure:

As John Stuart Mill wrote, “A State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes — will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished.”

I do not underestimate the scale of our challenges a nation. We face very deep problems: the crippling deficit, threats of terrorism, climate change and social division. But you cannot be a liberal without being an optimist. And it is my unquenchable conviction that if we place our faith in people rather than in institutions, our future, and the future of new progressive politics, is bright.

In the questions afterwards, Clegg talked about quite what he means by ‘progressive’ in terms that echoed old Liberal Democrat rhetoric about the Conservatives being the enemies and Labour being the rivals. He did not use those terms, but placed his new progressives as agreeing with collectivists over a desire to bring about change but differing from them over methods. Both, Clegg argued, were distinct from Conservatives in sharing that common desire for change. For all the change in British politics, that is a fundamental outlook which echoes that of previous Liberla Democrat leaders Campbell, Kennedy and Ashdown.

For two other reactions so far to Nick Clegg’s speech or article, see Liberal England and Decline of the Logos.

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56 Comments

  • David Allen 23rd Nov '10 - 9:58pm

    “Old progressives see a fair society as one in which households with incomes currently less than 60% of the median were to be, in Labour’s telling verb, “lifted” out of poverty. The weakness of this approach is …. that it pays insufficient attention to the non-financial dimensions of poverty. Poverty is also about the quality of the local school, access to good health services and the fear of crime.”

    So, we are to promote vague, unquantifiable ways of looking at poverty, such as “the fear of crime”, rather than using objective, measurable statistics on inequality.

    Presumably that’s because, under the Coalition, inequality when measured in an objective way is going to get worse. We will be relying on casuistry about the unmeasurable to justify our position.

  • What exactly do we as a party gain from this? Nothing. It simply confirms Clegg’s continuing tactical naivety. He needs Labour voters to vote for AV so he uses every opportunity possible to attack Labour. He needs to hold open a door to work with Labour nationally and locally at some point in the future. Let the Tories attack Labour, we don’t need to do this. We can do that locally as rivals. If Clegg, Laws and Alexander keep acting and sounding like Tories then that is how we will be perceived. I dont expect to see any of those three in either a Lib Dem opposition or any non Tory Coalition. They have found their natural habitat and I’d bet that in some form that is where they will now stay..

    Clegg appears to be trying to mould the party to his right of centre liberalsim and is prepared to do this at the expense of the party as a whole.

    The speech shows he is no great political thinker – nor are his advisers.

  • Foregone Conclusion 23rd Nov '10 - 11:50pm

    Overall, a very good speech, and I totally agree that redistribution is not enough and that we need radical (literally ‘going to the root’) change as well. But you can never completely divorce income equality from social mobility – the two are linked, and each requires the other. To use Nick’s terms, the new progressivism requires something of the old as well. Also, I worry about how this all works in a time of austerity, and how the government’s policies are going to set about securing this. I don’t blame the government or the party leadership for this, but these are hard times to do anything to secure a better future.

    Also, I wish Nick wouldn’t talk about progressivism and talk about liberalism instead. “Progressive” is a word most used by American liberals who don’t want to talk about liberalism, and desperate Labour party members in the last years of the Brown government who suddenly found that we were glorious brothers in arms when they started to go down in the polls and a hung parliament seemed likely.

  • Clegg is not naive. He is a sharp operator. The reason he does not “hold open a door to work with Labour” is that it is not in his interests to do so. He wants to abandon equidistance and anchor the Lib Dems on the right. He wants to push out the social liberals, shed centre-left voters, and thereby create a smaller but more homogenous party. The prize he seeks is to command a crucial 10% of the electorate, supporters of civil liberties and economic freedom, and deliver those critical swing voters permanently into the hands of the Greater Conservative coalition.

  • Almost comically full of pure Blairspeak policy platitudes.

    I predict his little passage about the NHS is going to come back to haunt him.
    Nick still doesn’t seem to comprehend just how serious these mad new NHS market reforms are going to be. Those at the sharp end certainly do, and thankfully, they will not be silent or gloss over the huge damage they will inflict if allowed to proceed unchecked.

  • gramsci's eyes 24th Nov '10 - 12:21am

    Clegg and Cable are beginning to sound like Father Jack Hackett : Erse, Feck, Progressive!
    Or, would that be an ecumenical matter?

  • I think Nick’s toecurlingly patronising dismissal of students will go down particularly well.

    “Listen and look before you march and shout”
    No, I’m not making it up. That’s really what he said.
    I wish I had imagined it as he could hardly sound more of an out of touch liability if he tried.
    Public Relations disasters are becoming an everyday occurence with the Leadership now.

    You’re not the green cross code man Nick.
    You’re the man who campaigned on a promise to cut fees then trebled them.
    For God’s sake Nick, STOP MAKING THINGS WORSE.
    They have a real, entirely understandable grievance, and the tiny minority of violent protestors doesn’t excuse you treating them all like something disagreeable you found on the sole of your shoe.

  • John Roffey 24th Nov '10 - 2:24am

    UKIP’s strategy under Farage has, and would have been, to coerce the leader of the Tory Party into holding a referendum on the EU by attracting enough of the Tory eurosceptics to vote for the Party, thereby keeping them out of office – that has been quite successful, they had been out of office for a long time. It seems that Cameron has found a way to replace that vote by securing the support of right of centre Lib/Dems.

    I think that Clegg and his ministerial partners have now firmly nailed their colours to that flag and are unlikely to change course whatever the outcome. Clearly the Party’s poll rating will continue to suffer.

    The question is – will the left of centre Party members hang on in the shadows hoping to remove Clegg and get a left of centre replacement or will the Party split? I am sure others are far better equipped to answer that.

  • Nobody will pay a penny back until their earnings reach £21,000 per year, compared to £15,000 now.

    Complete spin

    That £21,000 at 2016 prices. In today’s money, that’s approx £17,500. The threshold will only be uprated once every five years. So the average threshold in real terms will be lower even than £21,000 in 2016 prices.

    Clegg January 2010 I start from three simple beliefs: First, treat voters like grown ups.

    If only you would , if only you would.

  • I wonder under what definition of progressivism is it acceptable to remove the mobility component of DLA for those in a home. This coalition has made sure the most vulnerable have not the money to go out. The severely disabled will become prisoners in homes, just for the sake of measly few million quid.
    Shame on you and any one in this government who claims to be looking out for the most vulnerable.

  • @LDV Bob

    Thanks for writing your comments in a dispassionate manner that I simply can’t manage at the moment.

    My head almost exploded in rage when I read: “Listen and look before you march and shout”

    What an absolute *(&&^$* 6O*&^* *& %&^% & %&*^ %*&^% &(^% %&* % ^(*&^ )*&^ %$ &^ $ *^&%$&%^(

    Sorry, I’m not capable of writing anything coherent until I’ve calmed down, which I suspect is going to take four and a half years.

  • I’m afraid that yet again we see political expediency portrayed as a natural partnership. There were good points about non-monetary factors and their effect on equality. But it needs to be a both and, not either or approach. Social mobility is good, local services are good, but so is a level of income sufficient to take advantage of these.

    Society is judged by how it treats those at the bottom, not the top or the middle.

    If the Lib Dems are to mean anything there should be no natural partnership. “Call me Dave” Cameron is no progressive and Osbourne even less so. Come May the continual attacks on left leaning floating voters and Labour Party supporters will scupper the AV vote, and Plural Politics will be lost for a generation.

  • “the entire Parliamentary Liberal Party could fit in two London taxis,”

    I think David Laws boasting of “rapidly oranging of Liberal Democrat Party” means he aims to fit them all in one taxi before too long. Though to be fair, one taxi would cut down on such troubling matters as expenses claims. 😉

  • Chris Riley 24th Nov '10 - 9:32am

    As William CB lucidly points out, the tuition fees policy is not the “best” policy as it’s based on a model that is broken at the most fundamental level and cannot work as currently designed. Either it will have to be revised and hence put more cost on graduates (most likely by reducing the repayment threshold still further so almost everyone will have to pay back) or it will not save any money, meaning the Lib Dems will have sacrificed a great deal for nothing.

    Clegg knows this. So, in that passage of his speech, he is being knowingly misleading, and furthermore, he knows a great many people know that and he apparently doesn’t care.

    I think I’d rather the Lib Dems had a new leader. But who?

  • I think Nick Clegg is doing something important, and that is striving to define who the liberal democrats are. As a relatively new member, I’ve watched from the outside and been sympathetic (I even joined for a year over the Iraq war but left because lib dems weren’t credible) but I failed to understand what the point of the lib dems was as it seemed to be another version of the Labour Party. John Harris book at the time of the 2005 election came to the conclusion that lib dems didn’t know who they were.

    But now Nick is articulating a clear philosophy for the party and the difference between Conservatives and Labour are becoming clearer. We want change to improve the lives of everyone but we believe in trusting people to do this – the state has a role but it shouldn’t be telling us how to run our lives. The difficulty is persuade more people to take an interest and a responsbility. But it’s the price we pay for our liberty – if the state pays for everything, then the state controls everything. The state needs to provide the framework, not dictate what we have to do. This is not about money but about attitudes.

    In the speech, the comment on Free Schools was interesting. At present it does look like a policy for the sharp-elbowed middle classes, but Nick’s view is different – he wants all schools to be Academies, giving them freedom to teach in the best way. So his view is that everyone should benefit from this, not just the middle classes.

  • “In fact, looked at objectively, our graduate contribution scheme is very close to the so-called graduate tax advocated by the NUS. Except it’s even fairer in the way it’s applied.”

    A graduate tax would at least be proportional to income, whereas the current tuition fee proposals are severely regressive (using the accepted economic definition) above middle incomes. Those leaving University and end up on a high salary will end up paying a smaller proportion of their income over the 30 years than those on middle incomes. That’s why the tories want it – because it is regressive, with the rich contributing less of their labour towards providing higher education.

    I really cannot find words that adequately express my dislike of Clegg.

  • Reuben: I think you have an important point, in that Nick needs to define what he means by social mobility and he needs to define it more precisely than his waffly “fairness means social mobility” in his August speech. However, as Nick Clegg has not advocated downward mobility I would think it safe to assume that he sees it as positive change in people’s lives.

  • @Dane Clouston
    “Government could subsidise interest rates on such loans for business start up, education (think tuition fees!), home ownership and relocation (think changes in housing benefit!) ”

    I can’t think of anything more abhorent than taxpayers money being used to help people with mortgage interest costs. All it would do is help to prop up the current ridiculous cost of houses, so first-time buyers would be no better off, people who rent would be worse off through having to pay increased taxes to support those that don’t rent and the winners would be – current land/homeowners! There’s enough of that kind of thing going on at the moment and its having a vastly detrimental effect on housing affordability and social/labour force mobility.

    I’m kind of with you on the IHT thing – but a simpler method is to just increase the IHT take/reduce the threshold and then lower income tax. That would encourage people to work to increase their wealth, rather than sit on their lazy backsides and inherit/take rents from the monopolistic ownership of land.

    A land-value tax (to replace other forms of tax) would be best, but that would require some kind of liberal party holding sway over british politics (the last person to try was Lloyd George in 1909). Unfortunately we’ve got a coalition of two right-wing neo-con parties, so there’s not much chance of it happening.

  • @ Maria M

    I’d say that Clegg is trying to re-define who we are. As a party we have contained a broad spectrum of people straddling the centre of politics with a bit of a tilt to the left. In most areas we all seem to rub along fine agreeing on enough nationally and locally to maintain sufficient coherence in opposition. Clegg has been the first leader to push a factional view within the party. He may be calculating that a departure of social liberals from the party will produce a more tightly defined party, fitter for Govt albeit with the Conservatives as a semi permanent partner. It’s either that or tactical ineptness. At the moment he is driving away Labour and Green supporters who want voting reform but cannot stomach supporting anything associated with Clegg like the AV referendum.

  • Social mobility in its purest form is absolutely indistinguishable from social Darwinism. Of course it is quite impossible to achieve, and to quantify. What we see here is that the government want to shift the debate away from quantative terms to ‘how people feel’, how some guy Nick met on the street feels. The reason for this is that 1. on many issues they are plainly illogical, incompetent and wrong 2. revealing policies that can have a quantifiable effect might upset otherwise gullible people.

    SOcial mobility is a good thing in some respects, but it is not good ‘in itself)> Social mobility is good because it is meriotocratic, it means that the most able people fill positions suited to their ability not their social standing. Yet it is not good just because it means people can shift their position in life. More real social mobility is also impossible to achieve without increases in income equality, but that’s ok because Nick really couldn’t give two hoots about it anyway.

    The reason we like social mobility is because it is inherently ‘fair’…. the people who ‘deserve’ the jobs get them on their merits, nothing else. The reason we like greater income equality is also because it is inherently ‘fair’, there is no real reason why people should earn less for a job requiring equal effort except that in practicality certain jobs may require financial incentives. In addition it seems unfair that certain business can make massive profits and pay the top brass obscene salaries when the people actually doing the real work are paid paltry sums. Is it ‘fair’ that an award winning scientist will typically earn less than your average scum sucking bankster? I don’t think so. We also ike greater income equality because we are compassionate, we want everyone in this country to have a decent standard of living regardless of profession.

  • “And all graduates will pay out less per month than they do now.”

    hhhhmmm what a disingenuous statement. Paying less a month doesn’t make something fairer.

    If i was offered a choice; continue paying £120 a month for 5 years (as i currently do and have almost completed) or a bit less say £100 a month for the next 30 years then i know exactly which option i would choose.

    p.s i have the time to write this as my sixth formers have all just walked out of the class I’m supposed to be teaching. The last comment was”why are they forcing us to pay for something which they got for free. bare unfair”

  • @Maria M

    “However, as Nick Clegg has not advocated downward mobility I would think it safe to assume that he sees it as positive change in people’s lives.”

    You cannot have upward social mobility of some people without downward social mobility of other people.

    The arguments in favour of social mobility as a great thing in itself (rather than what it achieves) amount to nothing
    less than Social Darwinism and some waffly American dreamism.

  • Why has there got to be downward mobility? The number of people who define themselves as middle class has increased and there is no rule to say we can only have 20 million middle class people and that if someone working class wants to join that someone middle class has to leave.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 24th Nov '10 - 12:26pm

    A fundamentally dishonest comparison. That £21,000 is in 2016 prices. In today’s money, that’s around £17,500. But even that doesn’t get to the bottom of it. The threshold will only be uprated once every five years. So over the full term of the loan the average threshold in real terms will be lower even than £21,000 in 2016 prices. So the fair comparison is significantly lower, possibly even lower than £15k! [Someone please do this calculation!]

    I did have a look at this, and I reckoned that if you assumed inflation was going to be 2%, the effective threshold in real terms would be about 3% higher than the threshold of £15,000 that Labour introduced in 2006. But if inflation were 2.6% or more, then the effective threshold in real terms would be _lower_ than it was in 2006.

  • Choice and the market in health care, the market and decisions made locally. I need a hip operation so I look up the results for hip ops and find that the best results are in hospital A which is several hundred miles from my home. I go into renal failure post op and ask to be transferred to hospital B which has the best results for renal failure, but then I go into heart failure so I ask to be transferred to hospital C which has a particularly good cardiac unit. My renal failure gets worse and I need a renal transplant but my county of Loamshire has decided that renal transplants will not be funded in the elderly unlike our neigbouring county of Barsetshire where a local group has persuaded the GPs to fund renal transplants in elderly patients at the expense of mental health services who do not have such a powerful local lobby.

    I worked as a consultant in the NHS for 30years. We had visiting doctors working in our department from the USA and Europe and all were impressed by the ethos that the standard of care was not governed by a patients income (none of us in my department saw private patients) and that hospitals cooperated with each other in the patients best interest. Waiting lists for some conditions were long bu but this changed completely when the 13 week target was introduced. We were not in competition with other hospitals and I often phoned experts in different parts of the country to ask for advice and was never restricted from referring a patient to any hospital in the UK if that was in the patients best interest.

    What we want is to be sure of good care wherever we are seen and in all hospitals and the only way to be sure of this is to monitor care nationally. If this is the big state, I say bring it on and keep it there.
    The NHS came about from the ideas of a great liberal, Beveridge and it was brought into being by a great labour politician, Nye Bevan against the opposition of the doctors and the conservative party, the arguments often echoing the fear of the state having too much involvement in our lives. Not sure where Clegg stands on this, but I would be worried if he had signed a pledge to support the NHS.

  • The irony is nobody is actually listening to Nick Clegg anymore. Even if he came up with the cure for AIDS now, nobody would know. He’s already washed up and is an irrelevance in the grand scheme of things. He can’t even go to his own constituency to face the students because “he wants emotions to subside”.. Tha shame!

  • Geoffrey Payne
    Allow me to finish Peter Mandelson’s quote of “intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich….as long as they pay their taxes”

  • Maria – On your definition, we just change what we are called. I am immediately stopping supporting Exeter City, and will henceforth support Chelsea, so I am at the top of the pile. I am afraid incomes and outcomes don’t mathematically work like that! Perhaps what we should be doing is inventing a happy pill, so it doesn’t matter where we are on the income (or any other) scale.

    Over the years many targets have been set that require “everyone to reach at least the average”. This, of course, is mathematically impossible unless everyone is on the average. Your definition seems to contain the same problem!

  • @ Backwards Voyager

    I think you’ll find it wasn’t only the electorate that was subject to “opportunism, lies and deceit” a great deal many in the party feel exactly the same way, but Cleggalomaniacs need not worry, those social Liberals within the party who feel that way won’t be there for long as Clegg’s already on the case making it known that Social Liberals are not welcome in his ‘new party’

  • How long until the Tories no longer want to be associated with the toxic brand of Clegg?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 24th Nov '10 - 3:06pm

    “Cleggalomaniacs”

    That’s quite neat.

  • David Allen 24th Nov '10 - 3:11pm

    “Clegg’s already on the case making it known that Social Liberals are not welcome in his ‘new party’”

    So, who’s in favour of giving the man what he wants? Not me!

  • Tim13 – that’s why I was saying Clegg should define what he means by ‘social mobility’. I think you show nicely the difference betwen the Cameron “happiness” index (perhaps supporting Chelsea would make you happier?) and Brown’s income-dependent view. I’m not sure that social mobility has to be defined in purely income-related terms. Where I live the state schools are excellent – so my children get an opportunity for a great education that I couldn’t afford to buy for them. That doesn’t show on an income sheet but plays a significant role in the life chances of my children and all the other children (whether in council housing or private housing) in the area.

  • @Maria M
    “I’m not sure that social mobility has to be defined in purely income-related terms. Where I live the state schools are excellent – so my children get an opportunity for a great education that I couldn’t afford to buy for them. That doesn’t show on an income sheet but plays a significant role in the life chances of my children and all the other children (whether in council housing or private housing) in the area”

    If the Coalition has it’s way those in council housing will probably have to move before the child can take advantage of that “great education” in your area because either the parents themselves have crossed the income threshold and they have to move elsewhere or they have a 10% cut in HB and they have to move somewhere cheaper, (yep that certainly is social mobility or least one definition of it)

  • As a LibDem voter at the last election I am feeling increasingly let down by this LibDem/Con coalition. I really cannot see where the LibDems have managed to water-down the harsh Tory anti-poor policies. The Liberal Party referred to by Dane Clouston is a nice idea, but realistically doesn’t stand the chance of standing in 600+ constitutencies next time (I think they stood in 5 constituencies this time!). So where do I go? I am not interested in supporting the pro-Tory Clegg party, so therefore as a Liberal I am to be dumped as thrall?

  • For those of you struggling to understand the first chunk of Nick’s statement above I have tried to translate :-

    “The need to make choices is revealing an important divide between the old definition of Pledge, which emphasize the idea of honesty and integrity of the individual, and the new definition of Pledge, which focuses on the power I gain and freedom to lie and cheat the citizens. For new pledgists, the test is not whether we keep the pledge, it is the relationship between me and the conservatives. Old pledgists conflate the idea of honesty and integrity of the central state … . In the mid 1500s, a senior politician wrote that the “A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.” And “A wise ruler ought never to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interests”. It is not very often you’ll hear me say this, but I think the author, Machiavelli, was right.”

    I hope I have manged to clear things up!

  • Dane – the only reason the “Liberal” Party would become popular again, is not because of its euroscepticism – but because of the enforced move of what Tabman describes (hesitantly!) on another thread as a lot of “members of the Left of the Lib Dems” to it, for want of any other home. I am afraid its newly adopted euroscepticism would then be swept away. Where would you go then?? Tongue in cheek here, as most will look at the continuing “Liberals” very sceptically, and probably not join any other party at present.

    It makes interesting reading, the byelection results for the Lib Dems since May, and I would be concerned that we in the Lib Dems will lose rather a lot in the situation of all-up elections across Britain, compared with fairly minor seat losses, accompanied by increasingly large vote losses. With large numbers of dissatisfied ex-Councillors around, the party’s morale could be in for a battering, with unpredictable knock-on effects.

  • Clegg has hijacked the party. End of.

  • Dane
    It has been an article of faith in the Lib Dems for many years that the CAP as currently formulated needs radical change. Having read and heard East Anglian grain barons talk of their pretty massive subsidies is not great on the ears! However, I have to say, there is some merit in the argument coming from small farmers in France and elsewhere that it supports an existing way of life and rural communities. The fact that British farms generally, apart from some marginal hill farms no longer do it that way should not mean that we dismiss that argument. I certainly would not want to give any impression of believing that all those on the left support the EU – in the Lib Dems or elsewhere!

  • This Nick Clegg guy seems to be a liability.

    Should we expel him?

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMartin 6th Jul - 8:16pm
    The reasons that neither of the candidates would do this is because neither is that stupid. Very few people give Nick Clegg a moments thought....
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 6th Jul - 7:52pm
    The Torry UBI plan is a supplement to existing benefits or low earners. His analysis sets out the % increase in mean equivalised household disposable...
  • User AvatarTomas HJ 6th Jul - 7:29pm
    A main assumption in this article seems to be that the far right can organise themselves effectively by being allowed to have a platform on...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 6th Jul - 7:23pm
    @ Roger Lake, "Peter Martin — can there BE a difference between the two, when totalled?" Yes. It's easy enough for the Government to know...
  • User AvatarGlenn 6th Jul - 7:10pm
    Facebook has 2.6 billion users spread across the globe making countless posts daily. There is no realistic way of policing it or ensuring that it...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 6th Jul - 7:07pm
    Judging by James' article, I am beginning to think that the coalition may be the high point of the party's achievements in this 21st century,...