Opinion: Is the centre ground disappearing from British politics?

Ballot boxIs it just me, or has something recently changed in British politics? In fact, this apparent move towards what some might see as extremism may also be a characteristic of the political scene in Europe and further afield, too. It is almost akin to the frenzy that seems to hit societies at the end of each century, but manifesting itself a decade and a half late.

What the opinion polls appear to show is that the centre ground, represented primarily by the Liberal Democrats, has lost ground in favour of a move to the right, as represented by UKIP, and the resurgence of potentially destructive union activity on the left. Even more worrying, for the broader picture, is that Labour seems to be bleeding support to UKIP at almost the same rate as the Conservatives.

The reasons for this could be many; not least that, having no realistic policies other than to ‘get out of Europe’ and ‘stop immigration’, the new team on the block are able to sound pleasingly positive on everything, because they are not actually saying anything that matters – or, in most cases, makes any coherent sense. This could appeal to many voters who are disenchanted with what the media like to call, in their rather derogatory way, the Westminster Village.

What the media and some voters appear to ignore is that, for the past five years, the political establishment has had to focus on resolving the mess created by:

  1. A combination of years of borrowing to support spending, rather than balancing our books; and
  2. The unexpected banking crisis; unexpected because nobody understood the nature of the securitised investments on which they were building their edifice, least of all the banks themselves.

The danger for this country is that UKIP could easily attract sufficient votes at the May general election to prevent any of the traditional parties from forming a workable a government, either alone, or in coalition. Would this matter? The answer is emphatically ‘yes’.

What the last five years have demonstrated is that the LibDems, working with another party, can temper their more extreme aspirations, while also ensuring that truly ‘liberal’ ideas can be implemented. With the possibility of UKIP playing the balancing role in government, we face the prospect of their extreme ideas on immigration and Europe being forced upon us as the price of allowing government to continue in this country.

The problem would be exacerbated by them then being in a position to influence other matters in ways that the electorate cannot possibly predict, because nobody knows what their core values really are.

We need to see a resurgence of the centre of politics in this country; only the LibDems can provide the balance and stability that we need, in order to ensure that the economy can be returned to a sound basis while protecting the interests of the ordinary person.

* Stephen Phillips spent his entire career in financial services, spending the last decade writing on insurance, investments, pensions and mortgages. Latterly, he also wrote a monthly economic review that was issued to the clients of a large number of independent financial advisers. He has been a member of the party since 2013.

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96 Comments

  • Glenn Andrews 8th Dec '14 - 3:47pm

    The article assumes that a Labour/Conservative ‘One Nation’ coalition isn’t a workable option; in many areas of policy they have more in common with the two parties who have managed to stay the full course in this parliament…. I would have thought this more likely than either of those allowing UKIP to dictate anything.

  • “We face the prospect of… [UKIP’s} …extreme ideas on immigration and Europe being forced upon us as the price of allowing government to continue”

    How do you define “extreme?” The dictionary describes it as “of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average.”

    Since poll after poll tells us that the majority of the UK population want immigration controlled, and UKIP is winning election after election with this as its mantra, what on earth leads you to believe that its views are “extreme”?

    It is YOUR views on immigration which are of a character or kind farthest removed from the average. You and the rest of the liberal elite bubble who are “extreme” and outside the centre ground.

    And we’ve had enough as many of your MP’s will find out in May. Good riddance to them too, and all who share your extremist view.

    It is called democracy, get used to it.

  • David Evershed 8th Dec '14 - 4:13pm

    That there would be a recession was only unexpected if you believed Gordon Brown that it was the end of boom and bust economics.

    Gordon Brown believed his own propaganda and set government spending at a level which was only sustainable if there was perpetual boom, an imprudent assumption.

    However, Gordon Brown was trapped like all politicians with the belief that voters would only vote for a party which promised to spend more and more. For example, public sector workers will not vote for a party which proposes to keep public sector employment and salaries under control.

    Since the Lib Dems have been part of a coalition that has kept public sector numbers and salary under control, most public sector Lib Dem voters have switched to being Labour supporters.

  • David Evans 8th Dec '14 - 4:16pm

    Until those who write here come to terms with the fact that a) Lib Dems are much more than simple instinctive centrists and b) whatever we are, people don’t trust us because of the leadership’s behaviour in coalition, we will continue to get such “aren’t we nice people who deserve another chance to be nice people” articles. They don’t address our problems, they certainly do nothing to improve our chances next May, but simply make a few people feel good about their high motives and forget their failure.

  • Clive Peaple 8th Dec '14 - 4:18pm

    Increasingly, political policies are driven by the search for wealthy donors. It’s far easier to collect a lot from a few, rather than a little from the many. UKIP is the most extreme example, with ‘Policies for People’ driven by the need to please a wide spectrum of the 1% from Putin through the US gun lobby to Koch Bros and their ilk. David Cameron is a superb fundraiser, while the Tory PR guru Messina, preaches ‘Money,Message, Get the voters out’ Labour, faced with Union fund shortfall is similarly dominated by Pluto Policy. In the circumstances, funding needs can drive policy. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a crying need for people based policies – there is (clean air for example) this is where LibDems have to dominate with people based principles!

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Dec '14 - 4:49pm

    Stephen Phillips

    and the resurgence of potentially destructive union activity on the left.

    I see no such thing. Trade Unions now are extremely weak, and hardly exist at all outside the public sector. I see nothing in the way of a serious left alternative to today’s right-wing dominance being built up.

  • Helen Tedcastle 8th Dec '14 - 4:53pm

    I agree with David Evans. The Lib Dem party is not a centrist party. Our manifesto in 2010 was radical not managerial.

    The reason the Lib Dems exist is not to temper the extremes of the other parties though this might well end up happening (as a secondary consequence) in government.

    ‘ We need to see a resurgence of the centre of politics in this country’ If the writer of the article means we need a return to conscience and common sense then I would agree. If ‘resurgence of the centre’ means tweaking the excesses of the other parties and appealing to soft Tories then the word ‘resurgence’ is misplaced. More like a timid squeak.

  • This flight to extremes is the core problem in the UK.

    Not only to the right, but to the left, with the Greens appealing to people who refuse to recognise the need to bring the public finances under control. Unfortunately, they are winning increasing numbers of young people who previously voted Lib Dem, offering all kinds of idealistic but unworkable solutions.

    However, there are still large numbers of Don’t Knows and those who have (why on earth?) gone to the Conservatives. By winning those back, we could lift our vote into a respectable position in the low to mid teens percentages, but we are going to have to work very hard to do it.

  • Labour have not lost a single seat to you UKIP, nor suffered a single defecting MP and did not even lose the police commissioner post in Rochdale after the grooming scandal! It is in fact more threatened by the SNP and The Greens. The press want people to believe UKIP are an equal threat to all three parties and they simply are not. The same people who played up the idea that the BNP were a threat to Labour are now trying to promote UKIP. There’s a Right wing agenda at play. UKIP have dented the Tory vote and killed the BNP stone dead. In other words they are a Right Wing party with a Right Wing electorate and Right Wing backers in the press. Do not fall for the spin that it is more than that. The Lib Dems have also lost support to the Greens and SNP because the party is perceived to have swung to the Right.
    As for the centre ground. It’s hard to define because it isn’t so much an actual political position as it is a set of positions arrived at through a mixture of pragmatism and compromise.

  • David Faggiani 8th Dec '14 - 5:20pm

    I believe UKIP are actually hitting Labour, but I agree with Glenn, above, on the nebulous Centre.

    Conversations about ‘the Centre’ (or the ‘Radical Centre’) always remind me of a quote by Alan Bennett, from his diaries, in 1981 –

    “An article on playwrights in the Daily Mail, listed according to Hard Left, Soft Left, Hard Right, Soft Right and Centre. I am not listed. I should probably come under Soft Centre.”

  • What is the centre? I recently did a Yougov survey on fiscal policy that showed that people were just as likely to favour tax rises to reduce the deficit as spending cuts. So presumably the centre ground would favour a ratio of 50:50. We all know the Tories plan something like 100:0 and Labour maybe 60:40 cuts to tax rises. So we can presume that the Lib Dems will propose something like 80:20 as a middle way. But that is not the centre ground!

    How many times has it got to be pointed out that splitting the difference between Labour and Tory does not equal the centre ground. It’s just political tactics. On the more general issue of politics moving away from the centre I think that’s what tends to happen when times are bad. People embrace ideas that were once considered extreme. But don’t forget that many people thought that Keynes’ ideas were extreme in the 1930s. Simpy showing faith in the centre ground suggests you believe in the wisdom of crowds. Not always a wise thing as I’d expect someone with a history in finance to be aware of.

  • What the media and some voters appear to ignore is that, for the past five years, the political establishment has had to focus on resolving the mess created by:

    I fear you are wrong, voters are truly sick of the fact governments take no notice of our wishes that the manifesto of each party may be agreeable in part but no one cares what the voter wants from the manifesto

    Middle ground has not gone it’s politicians that can’t find or understand it. Personaly I think it needs more voter involvement in referendum examples

    Increase tax for NHS
    Do we want a nuclear deterrent or base in Bahrain
    Would we sanction more spending on renewables
    Would we like public transport that let you bring on board more shopping, allow dogs, more space for diabled and pushchairs even better a service that is nearer the front door

    Maybe that’s radical left or right I think it’s common sense and often what we get offered is not what we perceive as sensible

  • Just to add that a government of the hard left in this country is extremely unlikely. So many forces would be lined up against it, from business, the media, the rich, that there’s little need to keep the Labour party honest. They’re never going to promise much radical change anyway. The hysteria about ‘red Ed’ because Miliband has proposed re-regulating the energy industry and introducing a ‘Mansion Tax’ says it all.

  • The writer sees in the polls a move from centre ground politics towards extremism and further sees the LibDems as representing the centre ground.

    I confess that I don’t agree with either of these statements. Perhaps the reverse is true.

    I believe that voters are trying to reign back the so called political elite. The voters see too much immigration without any control, they see to much integration with the EU without ever being consulted, they see too much spending and borrowing which is building huge debt for the next generation. They see too much reliance on expensive intermittent power generation with no regard for energy intensive industry and the jobs it supports or the poor being frozen to death if the winter is harsh. They question millions being handed over to unspecified aid projects when we are 1.5 trillion in debt and we have to borrow that money and leave it to future generations to repay it.

    Then we look at the LibDem position on these policies. Who is extreme, the voters or the LibDems?

    Perhaps the polls will give the answer.

  • @Matthew Huntbach – I agree, the problem is that there hardly seems to be any left wing in UK (or at least English) politics these days.

  • Tsar Nicolas 8th Dec '14 - 6:19pm

    I am sorry but the premise of this article is a joke, surely.

    The Lib Dems in government have voted for some of the most extreme right wing policies in areas like welfare, and last Monday voted to effectively abolish judicial review.

    So in what way can they be described as a centrist party?

  • paul barker 8th Dec '14 - 6:32pm

    One of the weaknesses of British Politics is the extreme concentration of power in Westminster. One result is that British Voters dont attach much importance to Elections outside Westminster & possibly Holyrood. That makes it very hard to judge how serious Voters are about their turn to extremism until next May.
    Personally, I expect UKIP to get around 9%, a massive increase since 2010 but not enough to get them any MPs except for Clacton.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Dec '14 - 6:58pm

    I think this is a really good article and it is good to see someone else with a retail financial services background on here.

    The centre-ground is starting to break away a bit, but there is also a difference between the centre-ground and following the opinion polls on everything.

    Regards

  • It seems daft to say this, but I see the LibDems as a very left wing party. I would have thought that the party sees itself this way. Why does the writer see it as occupying the centre ground? This question seems to undermine the whole premise of the article.

  • Peter – the current party leadership seem broadly satisfied with the Thatcher revolution though I think Clegg mentioned Section 28 and apartheid as areas of difference when she died. If the party is ‘very left wing’ as you put it, I’m not sure how they could have got control over it.

  • “Is it just me, or has something recently changed in British politics?” That is a very good question, and one which I feel that none of the parties has really begun to consider seriously. We seem to take for granted that the nineteenth century divisions of political opinion into socialism, liberalism and conservatism are somehow immutable, but socialism suffered a mortal intellectual blow with the collapse of communism (I am not claiming an equivalence between the two ideologies). Conservatism and liberalism are better placed to survive into uncertain times than rigid ideologies: conservatism because it is a state of mind tempered with a determination to cling onto power by any means necessary, and liberalism because by its very nature it is questioning and, except in its core values, mutable. However, none of the parties which historically embody these ideologies have come to terms with the way the world has changed. Globalisation has created an environment in which rapid evolution is necessary in order that parties might survive, and there is little sign that such evolution is occurring, or even that the parties have an awareness that the environment has changed. Liberalism can, and must, survive, but it won’t unless we wake up and recognise that we need to do some radical re-thinking.

  • All Parties want to attract the middle ground, but that does not necessarily mean ‘centrist’. Moreover, despite our criticisms of Labour and Tories (and Tsar Nicholas’ impotent rage), parties who have a serious eye to government recognise the enormity of the debt bequeathed to the country from 2008. This in different ways and to different degrees tempers their policies. As the consequences of 2008 continue to bite, there is more scope to pull the electorate towards Quixotic solutions. Whilst some are attracted to anti-foreigner rhetoric, others are beguiled by the illusion that a further mountain of debt can be piled on the current debt.

    Our concern, however, is Liberalism, which does appear to be in retreat: anti-liberal and authoritarian voices are holding more sway. Also disconcerting is the degree of support that we used to have from protest voters, who do not want whoever they vote for to be involved in government. Clearly the Party is in retreat and I am loathe to suggest quick fix, but probably unrealistic, solutions this side of May. Post May, however, the Party will need to carve out a strong message of a distinctive Liberal Democratic outlook. In the current climate, on all but one or two social issues, this will difficult; even so, the allure of centrism will need to be resisted as it would present an impediment to re-establishing Liberal and democratic principles.

  • Tony Dawson 8th Dec '14 - 8:22pm

    Despite their protestations, on the principal economic questions, the current Labour and Conservative leadership (and the Lib Dems, too) policies on the deficit reduction and the large part of the changes necessary to produce it are much of a muchness. The electorate choose between these three parties less on policies and more on who they trust, which often has a historical and even intergenerational component.

    In a peculiar way, there is a portion of the electorate who are currently thinking of voting UKIP who used to support the Liberals. They criticise the cosy complacent acceptance of Britain’s complacent class-ridden dictatorship of the mediocracy which has presided over our nation’s genteel decline.

  • David Evans 8th Dec '14 - 9:06pm

    I never cease to be amazed at how so many good Lib Dems who would go to war to ensure a constituent got their housing problem solved and solved quickly, rationalise non-action regarding problems in the party into “It’s not possible to do something, …. just yet.” That goes from the MPs at the top all the way down. Sadly, post May it will be too late, but up to then it will have always been too early!

    A once proud national party that now has fewer members in the UK than the Scot Nats, and by the end of the year less than UKIP and possibly even the Greens, has been totally mis-led for six years. It needs to happen now.

  • Tsar Nicolas 8th Dec '14 - 9:16pm

    @Martin

    “Moreover, despite our criticisms of Labour and Tories (and Tsar Nicholas’ impotent rage), parties who have a serious eye to government recognise the enormity of the debt bequeathed to the country from 2008. ”

    Martin, you miss the point about using the inherent credit creation powers of the Bank of England to generate a recovery in the real economy – it would not increase the deficit. It would not add one single penny to the public sector deficit any more than bailing out RBS with £42 billion did, or pumping £275 billion into the commercial banks generally via QE has done.

    All that is off the books.

    You are right, however, to refer to my ‘impotent rage’ – that’s exactly how I feel.

  • I suspect that part of the big picture is the way globalisation leads power to move from national governments to supranational and to regional. We are seeing the former in the EU and the latter in the pressure for Scottish independence and “City regions” in England.

    This is dangerous in that it means national politics matters less than it once did, so people can do irresponsible things, like drift to the extremes. Arguing for disengagement from the EU is cloud cuckoo land from the perspective of someone who understands how interconnected Europe is, but makes sense as what a psychoanalyst would call a regressive fantasy — to some unreal place of safety.

    The snag is that, national politics do still matter, and we run a real risk of something pretty destructive in May, My preferred outcome would be a coalition between us and one of the other two main parties, but it will be very important to get out a “radical centre” message between now and May.

  • Nicholas: to me, your proposal looks very inflationary and highly likely to create a massive trade deficit. Unless the pay of the lower paid increased faster than the higher paid, poverty would be greater than at present.

  • John Broggio 8th Dec '14 - 10:26pm

    @ Mark. I agree to some extent re shift of power with globalisation. However, I think most power is ceded to powerful individuals & organisations (which is why UKIP is so rabidly anti-EU, our one body with enough financial clout to take on & defeat the newly ennobled power brokers).

    @ Martin. You hit on one of the solutions needed (which would help reduce the need for food banks and many other benefits) in your second sentence.

  • Tsar Nicolas 8th Dec '14 - 10:30pm

    Martin 8th Dec ’14 – 10:05pm

    “Nicholas: to me, your proposal looks very inflationary and highly likely to create a massive trade deficit. Unless the pay of the lower paid increased faster than the higher paid, poverty would be greater than at present.”

    If it’s inflationary, please point me to the inflationary fallout from pumping over £275 billion into the banks via QE since 2010 (plus the £42 billion bailout for RBS).

    All I am suggesting is that we have a QE programme for jobs and investment, not speculation by banks

  • Tsar Nicolas 8th Dec '14 - 10:32pm

    PS to previous post – we already have a massive trade deficit and have done for over a decade. A QE for jobs programme at least creates the potential to revive manufacturing output and reduce that trade deficit which nobody’s bothered about.

  • The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

    Stephen Phillips, I note from the end of your article that you joined the party last year. So a belated welcome from me on joining the Liberal Democrats. My guess is that you joined the party for the reasons set out in your article.

    I joined the party for rather different reasons. I joined because I believed in what the party stood for and the sort of society that can be built for my children.

    The words at the beginning of my comment are the opening words from the Preamble to our party constitution. I believe in them.

    You may think that is “extreme”. You may think that wanting to eradicate poverty is the view of an extremist. It is certainly not the view of a “Centrist”, who I assume puts something else at the top of their list of priorities?

    You may think that working with people so that they can free themselves from ignorance and conformity is extremely idealistic. I think it is idealistic and I want as many idealists as possible who believe to come and join us. I think that the more extreme their belief in liberty, equality and community, the better they will be.

    I do not know what sort of society a Centre Party would want to build. I recognise from your article some statements about not being “extreme”. I have listened to such statements before. But what do they mean?

    I find your remark about a perceived -“.. resurgence of potentially destructive union activity on the left..” not just extreme but rather insulting to the hundreds of thousands of ordinary working people who belong to trade unions. The trade union members that I meet most regularly nowadays are the NHS nurses on my all too regular visits to outpatients. I have not come across a single one who is engaged in “destructive activity on the left”.

    Do you ever meet any “destructive” left trade unionists in real life? Or have you just read about them in the right wing newspapers? Are there any “reds” hiding under your bed at home?

    Defining yourself and your political objectives in the terms of what you do not want rather than what you do want is hoping that your cart will pull your horse. It is not a good mode of transport.

    I hope you will stay with the Liberal Democrats and join with us in the things that we believe in. The Preamble to the Constitution may not have been your reason for joining, I doubt if many new members have read it before the join, but it is a pretty statement of our beliefs. I hope that in time you will be as extreme as me in wanting to help build the sort of society it describes.

  • Ian Bailey (Labour) 9th Dec '14 - 8:16am

    Who are the political centre ground? The Libdems? Under Kennedy perhaps, but Clegg?

    You activists may be in the centre but your MPs are not. Never mind this nonsense about restraining excesses – your MPs VOTE for excesses. You want the list? Persecution of the disabled, benefits cuts and sanctions, a 20 fold increase in food banks, tuition fees, the bedroom tax, the explosion in zero hours and very low pay, cuts to in work benefits as your economic policies force people to rely on them, and the privatisation of NHS services so that in parts of the country things like cancer care and the palliative care of dying children are only provided by Tory donating private contractors doing it for the lowest possible cost.

    Your government, government policies enabled by your votes. These are your policies, this is your record, the dehumanizing effect is so pronounced that the church has got involved and your ministers can no longer deny it. Mass poverty. LibDem policy.

    The centre ground? You? No.

    And you’re going to lose scores of seats as a result. You could have taken out Clegg and mitigated the damage but you didn’t.

  • In response to John Tilley, I actually think there is some merit to centrism. But the inconvenient truth is that there is basically no radicalism on the left to be tamed any more. All the dogma on national sovereignty, independence, getting government out of the way, is coming from the right. A Labooour government will be constrained by all the powerful forces in the media and business who will defend their own interests. It hardly needs another party to keep it honest. Ukip is a problem, but the current voting system in the UK means parties are drawn towards the centre anyway if they want to win. The author may not like it but Ukip’s policy on immigration and to a lesser extent Europe is very popular. I think he needs to ask himself how he defines the centre. His attempts to balance the right’s attack on the state with supposedly destructive union activity on the left seems bogus to me.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Dec '14 - 10:25am

    The evidence that have read, is that Labour is not bleeding support to UKIP at much the same rate as the Conservatives.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Dec '14 - 10:33am

    @ Frank Booth,
    This notion of the centre ground perplexes me.
    When one looks at UK Polling report, polls seem to show that there seems to be a majority in favour of most of the things that Ed Miliband argues for, and yet he is portrayed as some sort of dangerous extremist.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec '14 - 11:39am

    David Evershed

    However, Gordon Brown was trapped like all politicians with the belief that voters would only vote for a party which promised to spend more and more.

    So why don’t you put the balancing point that David Cameron is trapped like all politicians with the belief that voters would only vote for a party which promised to tax less and less?

    That is, and it what you seem to be always doing, you are arguing the case for the right but ignoring the balancing case for the left. Why? Why, David, do you have this consistent right-wing bias?

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec '14 - 11:52am

    Ian Bailey (Labour)

    You activists may be in the centre but your MPs are not. Never mind this nonsense about restraining excesses – your MPs VOTE for excesses. You want the list?

    Fine, you gave us the list, but you said NOTHING about how to pay for all these things.

    That is why the political left is making no headway, because it is full of people like you, Ian. People who go on and on about how bad spending cuts and so on are, but do nothing to push the obvious balancing fact that if we are not to have these things we must instead have higher taxation. Because you lack the guts and honesty to do this, people take what you say and think “Oh, politicians are all bad people because they do all these things” (the things on your list), but then they are also taken in by the arguments the political right use which is “Oh, politicians are all bad people because they do all these things” where the right has an alternative list, full of “stealth taxes”, and “the politics of envy” and the like.

    Your lack of guts and honesty means you are feeding the underlying right-wing line “politics and politicians are all bad”. It means that people are then susceptible to the further right-wing lined that say because politics and politicians are all bad we should have this small-state idea of everything being controlled by businessmen instead. If you REALLY want to fight against the cuts, you have to be honest and say that, yes, better public services is going to mean increased taxes, yes it may mean we have to investigate things like a serious property tax given how much money changes hands nowadays through property rather than payment for work. You need to fight against the line that those who advocate those things are doing so only out of some sort of envy or jealousy. But oh no, you take the “nah nah nah nah nah” line, that we have a two-party system, so all your side needs to do is say “nah nah nah nah nah” to the other side, and votes will swing your way. The problem is, because you have not made an honest and complete case for what you want, the awkward things that people might resist as well as the pleasant things, you have not really win people to your side, so instead they are vulnerable to being pulled even further to the right by the likes of UKIP.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Dec '14 - 12:45pm

    @ Ian Bailey (Labour)

    ‘ Who are the political centre ground? ‘ There is no such thing as the centre ground – just varying degrees of right-wingery. Why? Thanks to Tony Blair, who combined watered-down Thatcherism with authoritarianism and destroyed the confidence of the left in this country.

    Blair was a disastrous PM for Labour and for anyone on the left of centre – he destroyed the hopes of a generation. Clegg and Cameron are simply his political children.

    So no lectures from Labour please.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Dec '14 - 12:53pm

    @ Helen Tedcastle.
    Quite so.

  • Matthew,
    I agree with some of what you’re saying but can we please knock the idea that the vulnerable or people on lower incomes are voting UKIP. Rotary club Tories, golf course bores and nearly a million inveterate far right supporters are who is voting UKIP. The Greens do much better with disadvantaged groups than UKIP and quite frankly if the SNP fought in England they would also attract more Labour or Lib Dem votes than UKIP do.

    If the Lib Dems want to recover the leadership has got to get out of the mind-set that is telling them they were simply attracting a vague undefined “protest vote” rather than people who were attracted by pre coalition Lib Dem policies. The lost vote has gone back to Labour or to The Greens and to SNP in Scotland.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec '14 - 1:18pm

    Helen Tedcastle

    Blair was a disastrous PM for Labour and for anyone on the left of centre – he destroyed the hopes of a generation. Clegg and Cameron are simply his political children.

    No, Cameron is far to his political right. That’s the scary thing. Blair made a mess of things due to carrying on with Thatcherism, and people reacted to that by voting for a party which supports something like what Thatcherism was, but much more extreme. Then we had the Orange Bookers in our party saying that what our party really needed to do better was to become a Thatcherite party as well. And in response to the mess the coalition of Thatcherites and Thatcherites elected in response to the failure of Thatcherism under Blair’s, people are now swinging to a party which proposes to rescue us from it all – by following a still more extreme version of Thatcherism.

    Doesn’t this indicate what an utter and total failure the political left is in this country that they have been unable to build an electoral force which is against this sort of thing and that people want to vote for?

    However bad Blair was, Labour got elected when he was leader, and not when others were leader. The political left in this country is pathetic. It is too dominated by upper middle class poseurs who are unable to speak to ordinary people in a way that gets across to them. It is too hung up on fringe issues, it often seems to be more about people who want to hit back at their posh parents than really advance the power and wealth of the bulk of the population. It often has an incredible arrogance, taking the position that it should win by right, so doesn’t actually need to go out and actually win over hearts and minds by rational argument. It really doesn’t get the fearfulness that people lower down the social scale have that leads to attitudes which can seem socially conservative. Instead it likes to mock such attitudes, and drive those who have them into the hands of the right.

    I wish there was a decent party of the left I could be happy being part of. I am sorry that there is not.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec '14 - 1:27pm

    Glenn

    I agree with some of what you’re saying but can we please knock the idea that the vulnerable or people on lower incomes are voting UKIP. Rotary club Tories, golf course bores and nearly a million inveterate far right supporters are who is voting UKIP.

    Sorry, but UKIP has just won two Parliamentary seats where there ARE plenty of people who are vulnerable and on low incomes. I’m not saying it’s attracting all the votes of such people, but it’s attracting plenty enough of them, and it shouldn’t be doing that. It would not have won those seats if it were not for those votes.

    I come from a working-class southern background, one of the reasons, the main one in fact, that I joined the Liberal Party is that I could see the people I grew up with were alienated from the Labour Party, and the Labour Party seemed uninterested in them and did nit know how to win them over. In those days, the Liberal Party DID know how to win their votes, DID care for such people, and offered a new sort of left that was an effective challenge to the Tories in the south. I am sorry to see its successor has turned away from all that, thus leaving my people (I mean, the sort of people I grew up among, and still have links with) so vulnerable to the nonsense being pushed at them by the likes of UKIP.

    Pretending this isn’t happening, Glenn, is just part of the superiority complex that has so much stopped the political left from winning support.

  • Malcolm Todd 9th Dec '14 - 1:28pm

    Glenn
    Is your claim based on evidence or just anecdote? (Genuine question.)

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Dec '14 - 1:36pm

    @ Glen,
    The latest research seems to bear out what you are saying about the sort of people who will change parties to support UKip. Personally , I have not found immigration to be a burning issue amongst poor or vulnerable people.

    In my opinion, it is not the protest voters that the party needs to concern itself with. It is those who always voted Liberal Democrat for positive reasons.

  • Malcolm.
    It is based on seeing where UKIP are taking seats,. both tory strongholds, and the fact that UKIP have not taken a seat for from Labour, are nowhere in Scotland and are very weak in inner cities. I also note the complete collapse of support for the BNP.. On anecdotal level I grew up in a very conservative suburb and note how many of my parents friends now support UKIP. I also note that UKIP are very big with Mail and Telegraph readers. . You’re asking me for evidence, but please show me where the evidence is to suggest disabled people or the inner city poor or students or women with children or the Welsh or Scottish are voting UKIP, or where they’ve taken a Labour seat or replaced even the most reviled police commissioner in Britain or for that matter where they show any sign of denting the Greens or SNP! I base my assumption on where UKIP have won, who in the press is supporting them, where they have failed to take seats and the kinds of ex tory euro sceptic types who actually make up the membership of UKIP. Respect took a seat from Labour. the SNP more. UKIP have not. The Greens are stronger with former Lib Dems.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Dec '14 - 3:41pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach.
    Matthew, two constituencies that had previously voted in a Conservative MP, voted in the same men as UKIP MPs.

    In my opinion, UKIP appeal to Thatcherites including the working class Thatcherites who voted her into power. They have also garnered the old BNP vote. Nick Griffin has been reported as saying that he intends to vote for them.

    I fear that you are confusing the poor and vulnerable with the self-pitying and ‘somebody ( an immigrant) has made me a victim crowd who still aver that ‘Enoch was right’.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Dec '14 - 3:51pm

    @ Malcolm Todd,
    The new polling research seems to give some pointers as far as your question is concerned. It is mainly tories who will change to UKIP, most labour voters will have already done so during the Labour years. I would have thought that the poor and the vulnerable would tend not to vote Conservative.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec '14 - 8:10pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    Matthew, two constituencies that had previously voted in a Conservative MP, voted in the same men as UKIP MPs.

    In my opinion, UKIP appeal to Thatcherites including the working class Thatcherites who voted her into power. They have also garnered the old BNP vote

    And that attitude is another reason why the left loses. Sorry, but this superior “Oh, we can write that lot off, they’re just white van men waving their St George’s flags, don’t even bother trying with them” attitude is so arrogant and ignorant of what the real working class is like.

    A lot of people who are like that are only like that because no-one has bothered to put an alternative to them. UKIP and the BNP get them because they seem to show an interest in them, unlike anyone else. In my experience, there isn’t a straight left-right spectrum. Many of these people ARE open to persuasion, and actually underneath have quite left-wing attitudes. You can see UKIP cynically using that, with the way it pretends to be the party of the downtrodden. Instead of writing them off, we need to show them how UKIP an the BNP have nothing really to offer, and to offer the instead genuine politics of the left – and I mean the economic left.

    I know this, in part because of the background I grew up in, and in part because I was for 12 years a councillor for what was once a notoriously “all white” London council estate – at one time a prime BNP target. We saw off the BNP, and we never did it by pandering to racism. However, we did accept that the people there had genuine grievances, which they often found hard to express, and sometimes it came out as aggressive and racist. Rather than dismiss such people, one had to listen to them and not patronise them, and then gently use common sense and policy ideas which appealed to them to turn them round.

    Sorry, but the sort of not so prosperous places in the south, which were once prime Liberal territory ARE now returning UKIP councillors. See, for example, where the UKIP councillor in West Sussex represent – wards in Adur district which was for many years Liberal controlled. Please, please, don’t write these people off as “Thatcherites”. Please, please, realise there is a world out there outside the metropolitan trendy places that seem to be all we care for now, and that world NEEDS a genuine party of the left to speak for it. Please, please, don’ leave them to UKIP, who DON’T deserve their support.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec ’14 – 8:10pm

    Matthew, I put a different interpretation on what Jayne Mansfield said.
    She provided the background of what might more accurately be described as right wing working class voters (rather than Thatcherite).
    UKIP has with enormous help from the media, especially the BBC, swept up the BNP vote.
    The BNP vote of 10 to 15 years ago has gone and it is obvious where it has gone to.
    There have always been working class Tories, in the North West where I come from, in the early 20th century this was based on an anti-Irish, anti-catholic prejudice with Imperial nostalgia thrown in. Tory groups like The League of Empire Loyalists and The Monday Club are recognisable in today’s UKIP. As are the unionists and Orange Lodge types.
    Working class “loyalty” to the monarchy has also been a useful recruiting tool for the Tories (insane though that ight appear to me).
    All of these things feed into today’s UKIP.
    UKIP’s leadership is 90% renegade Tories, UKIP’s financial backers hover between them and the official Tory Party.
    If they look like Tories and they quack like Tories ….

  • A Social Liberal 9th Dec '14 - 11:27pm

    Matthew Huntbach said

    ” Many of these people ARE open to persuasion, and actually underneath have quite left-wing attitudes.”.

    This is not my experience. I have several colleagues from my army days with whom I have tried to communicate the facts on immigration. Those facts are either ignored in the debates or are written off as bring establishment lies. How can you argue with a person who opines that non white doctors in the NHS should be sent packing yet answers the fact that it takes seven years plus to teach a new doctor with the the argument that training should be reduced. I told another of my colleagues, a man of more than average intelligence, that EU immigrants paid more in tax than was taken in benefits and he baldly stated that the government must be falsifying the figures. He would much more believe the right wing newspapers than the ONS.

    There may be some who might fall to reasonable argument, but most extremists are not reasonable – especially the thugs in the BNP.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec '14 - 11:43pm

    JohnTilley

    Matthew, I put a different interpretation on what Jayne Mansfield said.
    She provided the background of what might more accurately be described as right wing working class voters (rather than Thatcherite).

    Yes, I heard what she said, so let me repeat – I found it ignorant, offensive, patronising and defeatist. It is typical of the snobbish attitude of the middle class left that they dismiss the plebs in this way. OK?

    You and Jane are talking about MY people here, the people I grew up among. Perhaps you might accept I know my own people better than you do.

  • Matthew,
    I don’t get why your so defensive. There blatantly are working class Tories and there blatantly are racist in all classes. No one is saying that there are only working class Tories or only working class racists. All that’s being said is that most of UKIP’s vote is basically drawn from those who are already attracted to a spectrum of right wing politics rather than being driven to it by desperation. No one mentioned white van man except you. My point and Helen’s is that there is little evidence that people who could be described as vulnerable are voting UKIP as you seem to be suggesting they are. Why is that more offensive than suggesting that UKIP appeal to the easily duped and that the working classes or the poor are the most easily duped? I don’t think that at all. My view is that people who attracted to right wing politics simply agree with right wing politics and a lot of them are choose to read and write for right wing newspapers. For all I know there may be a lot of people in normally safe Tory seats who simply don’t believe the Conservatives are Right Wing enough, disapprove of the influence of the Lib Dems on policies like gay marriage, want to cut benefits further and end immigration. Coz it’s they, in my anecdotal experience of growing up in the burb’s. who are voting UKIP. They’re like the T Party in the US or the National Front in France and quite frankly I’m sick of hearing my fellow liberal/left leaning people trying to defend it convoluted and usually self immolating arguments.

  • stuart moran 10th Dec '14 - 5:53am

    Matthew

    YOUR people……so we are all middle class snobs then?

    I grew up on a West Midland council estate and went to a school split 40 UK white, 30% afro-carribean and 30% Indian….am I allowed an opinion? I know this community well…my family is part of it and I can hear what their attitudes are. UKIP appeals to their view of the world

    I tend to agree with some of the comments of others. I could’ve have given you a list of the people who would be attracted to UKIP 30 years ago….and knowing them now I would not be far off the mark. There was always a racist undercurrent then and it still is there now. The simplistic approach of blaming someone else is easy to sell, especially to the vulnerable. These people are not ‘more’ racist than any other sector of society but they are more vulnerable to it being exploited.

    These are some of the same people who, as Glenn and John said, voted Tory in the past (and sometimes Labour) who are socially conservative and think that everything can be solved just by working long hours. Anyone who doesn’t work long hours at any job is a ‘shirker’, anyone who is a republican or dares criticise the army is ‘unpatriotic’ and anyone who doesn’t believe in the birch is ‘a liberal do-gooder’.

    There is the spectre of globalisation which has left the unskilled behind and vulnerable…we should acknowledge this and ensure its effects are mitigated. The black community where I live have had this sense for years though

    I agree with you that we should attempt to influence and work hard at that – I admire people like you, and in these communities who spend their time doing that. I do sense though that there are a lot of people who are not listening and, in UKIP, they now have an outlet for that which is more palatable than the BNP

  • Ed Shepherd 10th Dec '14 - 7:04am

    The “left” has almost no influence in British politics. One Green MP. One Respect MP. There are lots of pressure groups and campaigns about particular topics but there is no major force in British politics fighting for poor people, anymore or attempting to change society into an economically equal society. Unions membership is mostly confined to the public sector and can do little except defensively fight against cuts that affect public sector workers. What many people now call the centre would have been thought of as far to the right a generation ago.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Dec ’14 – 11:43pm
    “..,,,,,,,,,the people I grew up among. Perhaps you might accept I know my own people better than you do.”

    Matthew,
    I apologise if I have failed to understand what you have been saying and if I come across as middle-class and snobbish.

    You will I am sure have access to street-view of Google Map. Check out Orwell Avenue in Wythenshawe. I was born in the council house of my grandmother (my parents lived there because they were homeless). I lived in council accommodation until I was in my mid twenties when I joined a group of activists who made use of a form of legal squatting to take on derelict houses to house people off the council list. My first full time job was as a bricklayer’s mate. If all that makes me irredeemably “middle class and snobbish” then I obviously do not understand at all.

    Like you, I was lucky enough in later life to get a well paid, “middle class” job. My mother was always keen on the civil service because there was a pension and if there was another war I would not be ‘called up’ into the army.

    When I started writing this comment I did not intend to enter into a competitiom to prove that I am somehow more working class than you imagine. But it does look as though I have fallen into that trap.

    My point is that you are NOT the only person commenting in LDV who grew up amongst people outside of the middle or upper class.
    Comments from Glenn and stuart moran make a similar point.
    Some of the rest of us do understand the sort of people you grew up amongst. Our experiences will not be identical to yours, and you will have understandings and knowledge that the rest of us can learn from. But learning is a two way street.

    My guess is that we probably have much more in common than divides us. We probably share a great deal by way of family background and class identity. There is more that unites us than divides us. In political terms we should make use of that and build on the strengths that our backgrounds, knowledge and experience give us.
    I still think it is possible for Liberals and Radicals to build broader political success on the left to combat the right wing forces and the global corporate interests that are dividing us and grinding us down.

  • I suspect that Matthew is right. There are people in England who used to vote for us under Kennedy who may still have been on board in 2010, but who’ve moved over to UKIP and points rightwards. The large part of my family for example, have jumped on the ‘Immigration made us victims’ easy answer put forward by the kippers.

    They voted enthusiastically for Kennedy, stuck around for Ming, but now are happily backing Farage and sharing Britain First memes on the internet. It did strike me as odd. But perhaps it shouldn’t have – Kennedy had credibility as someone who would work for their interests as if they were his. Unlike Farage, Kennedy didn’t see the interests of the white working class as being exclusive from those of the black working class, or the Asian community or whoever. So we could attach a very self-interested, fairly drawbridge-up vote to our core ‘metropolitan trendy’ vote. Who perhaps shouldn’t be sneered at either, by the way.

    We have really failed to hold on to it, with most of the wins that we’ve been able to get being of far more interest to the metropolitan liberal vote than to these other supporters. Stuff like our pinning the aid budget at 0.7% gdp for example has fed into the victim narrative of UKIP, while largely failing to really enthuse the rest. That is people who find our coalition difficult to support and who have people like the Greens bidding for their vote with fundamentally unrealistic claims but without any of the tarnish of office.

    Its a big problem for this party, and how to solve it is controversial. But the contest between different ideas after the election will be important. Yes, a new leader, but also it is critical that we put forward alternatives to the failed market liberal orthodoxy that the party has struggled under. We need to move on from that if we’re going to recover.

  • I’d just like to add that I grew up in a very comfortable and very conservative suburb with tennis courts, bowling greens, golf courses and rotary clubs. I’m neither a member of the metropolitan elite or from a council estate. What I know from my personal experience is that these very conservative areas are prime UKIP recruitment grounds. The only people I knew when I was growing up who were not Conservative voters were my folks, the son of our local labour candidate and a family with gifted kids who were into ethical approaches to science.

  • Jayne Mansfield 10th Dec '14 - 12:14pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach.
    I am sorry that you are upset. I am an admirer of the values and passion you display in your posts. I also find myself in agreement most of the time.

    I probably could have been more precise in my language. (Thank you John Tilley), but in essence I still stand by what I said. In fact I believe that to cast the poor and the vulnerable as unable to see through the likes of UKIP and the BNP as deeply patronising and unfair. On this we must agree to differ, and please don’t try to outbid me on the who grew up in poverty stakes because it is a battle that I don’t think you will win.

    When one comes from a background such as that we both grew up in, but through the aspirations and hard work of our families, lucky breaks etc., managed to achieve a more comfortable, secure life, one can treat one’s good fortune in one of two ways. One can say, well if I can do it, anyone can, or one can accept that an accident of birth means that in terms of life chances, there are those who cannot fight their way out of poverty without help. You have worked to do this through politics, I have done it by living my values through giving my time and effort in other ways.

    Perhaps it is a generational thing, or maybe a geographical one, I am a northerner, but I still aver that being poor and vulnerable does not make one more susceptible to the charms of the snake oil salesmen of UKIP, nor more likely to be anti foreigner. It didn’t with my own family or the neighbours that I grew up alongside, nor with others that I have worked with.

    Sometimes our passions carry us away. I wish I still had the passion of youth, or even relative youth. It is enviable.

    All personal experience is by its nature limited, I think we need to accept that our experience of the poor and the vulnerable has led us to different conclusions.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Dec '14 - 12:57pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    Perhaps it is a generational thing, or maybe a geographical one, I am a northerner,

    And so is John Tilley. That proves my point.

    You people don’t know the south. You don’t know what the southern working class is like and why they are like that. So you jump to those old stereotypes that because they don’t seem as keen on the Labour Part as northerners, they must be all horrible right-wing people, Thatcherite by nature, unredeemable, not worth bothering with.

    I joined the Liberal Party to challenge that, inspired by Des Wilson in the Hove by-election. If I am sounding bitter against you and John it is because you have, unwittingly , dismissed what has always been at the HEART of my political motivation.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Dec '14 - 1:47pm

    John Tilley

    When I started writing this comment I did not intend to enter into a competitiom to prove that I am somehow more working class than you imagine. But it does look as though I have fallen into that trap.

    My surname rather gives the game away. It’s a Staffordshire gentry name, I even have a coat of arms I’m entitled to use. My father’s parents moved to Sussex when he was a baby, and we never had any contact with our northern relatives. It was a classic case of downwards mobility, but on my father’s side my family remained staunch Tory. On my mother’s side, however, we’re Sussex peasants, and staunch Labour.

  • Neil Sandison 10th Dec '14 - 1:54pm

    politics is lurching to the hard right with centerists appologetically playing up to their agenda we need progressive democrats and social liberals to stand up and be counted .to combat this form of isolationist political posion entering the blood stream of british politics .Our constituton is the bedrock of liberal belief lets not water it down to be fashionable or the next thing you know facists will be in control of the seats of power.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Dec '14 - 2:30pm

    OK, now to continue my point – geography is the key.

    Growing up southern working class, I experienced the detachment of the working class from politics of all types which became more general across the country a generation later. Back then, in the 1970s, the Labour Party was still seen as essentially the party of the working class. Not the party of the intellectual middle class, that it now seems to be seen as. I actually think Ed Miliband has suffered from very biased press commentary, and he would have been my preferred choice for Labour leader had I been in the Labour Party, so I don’t really like joining in the Miliband-bashing, but somehow this Miliband image of a posh person in a big house with strange ideas now seems to be the one many working class people have of Labour. I am sure the Labour Party wasn’t seen at all like that back when you and Jane were growing up in the north. However, in the south it was already beginning to slip that way.

    The point is that the south didn’t have the strong industry based Labour culture of the north. The Labour Party did seem to be the party of the north. It didn’t seem to speak for the south, and didn’t really need to campaign in the south, and couldn’t so easily anyway as we didn’t have heavy industry and big trade unions. I grew up very angry, the poverty my family experienced, and the class discrimination that there is in the south, affected me badly. That is why my politics are very firmly to the left. We working class southerners are pushed to corners and ignored, judged as soon as we open our mouths and we don’t have the accents you northerners wrongly call “southern”. Worst of all, we don’t exist, at least if you look at the national media and political commentary. What do you think of when people say “Brighton”? Well I bet it is very much NOT the Moulsecoomb and Whitehawk estates, nor the slightly smaller council estate, officially in Hove, where I grew up.

    However, I saw how because the Labour party didn’t seem to be OUR party, working class people in the south who really needed a party of the left to speak to them instead just drifted politically. I could see how everywhere the Tories won by default, because yes there was the rich south which is how you in the north tend to think all the south is, and the rest were floating voters because no-one needed to bother with them. Some of them did drift to Thatcher, because of the way Thatcher was pushed by the right-wing press, and because of the way the Tories exploited north-south differences, making working class southerners angry at working class northerners who got more pay thanks to their trade unions.

    The drift of Labour to become more of an elite intellectual party is seen in the political left elsewhere – see how the US Republican Party works that idea against the Democrats. This added more to the detachment of the working class in the south from the Labour Party, and its vulnerability to propaganda from the right.

    I joined the Liberals and became active in the Liberal because I saw the Liberal Party as the only force fighting against that. And winning. Adur and Eastbourne came under Liberal control in the 1970s – and to this day we have Liberal Democrat MPs in two Sussex constituencies that were supposedly “safe Tory” before. There was a time when it looked like Worthing and Hastings and Mid-Sussex would go next. The Tories would be pushed back to just the poshest country parts, and the few really wealthy city parts (there is just ONE ward in Hove which I would say is truly and deeply Tory by nature and wealth).

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Dec '14 - 3:32pm

    To continue – actually Labour did fight back in Brighton and Hove, a combination of enough liberal elite types and enough really big council estates where the old working class Labour vote didn’t completely die out did that. I was part of the bitter battle between Labour and the Liberals in Brighton and Hove as to who would emerge as the main challengers to the Tories – and Labour won.

    Across the rest of Sussex, however, it was the other way round. The starting point for the Liberals in winning over supposedly “true blue” places was always those wards which were lower down the wealth scale. Now, if you look at the last County Council election results, in both East and West Sussex, those are the places where UKIP is winning. Looking at those wards which UKIP won, I can almost see why. They’re not council house places, but not big country mansion places either. I could see how the sense of insecurity people have in those places could easily be exploited by UKIP. But I very much reject the notion being put across that the people in those places are all incurably racist, right-wing to the heart, that we should just leave them to UKIP. No – they are JUST the sort of people we should be appealing to, just the sort of people who have been so damaged by Thatcherite economics, and yet misled by its false promises. People whose economic insecurity CAN lead to attitudes which are small-c conservative, and somewhat aggressive “chip on the shoulder”, but actually what it really means is that they need a more decent economic system which resolves those insecurities.

    Instead, it seems to me that Liberal Democrats are abandoning those people. Sorry, but if we want to lose votes we used to win, the sort of dismissive lines used here against the people of Peacehaven and Lancing, Shoreham Beach and Telscombe, and so on, are just the way to do it.

  • Jayne Mansfield 10th Dec '14 - 3:45pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach,
    I try not to give people advice, ( not very successfully according to my husband and children) preferring to ensure that they have all the facts so that any choice that they make is an informed choice. However I am prepared to break my self- imposed restrictions and offer you one piece of advice. That is, know your enemy.

    There are so many assumptions in your post. I grew up in Rotherham, as did those comprehensive educated kids William Haigh and Justine Greening. I spent ten years of my adult life living in the south. I fear that it is you, given your anger that is falling into the trap of thinking in stereotypes.

    I know my enemy. It isn’t people on the left or the even the right of the Liberal Democrats, even though I might disagree with one wing. It is a party that I find far more sinister, and I don’t think that some ill -defined, moveable feast like taking the middle ground is the way to counter them.

  • Matthew Huntbach

    Whilst I regard myself as a northerner and have been a proud supporter of Manchester City for 60 years, my family moved south when I was almost eight years old. I still say BRASS instead of BR-ARSE, and GRASS instead of GR-ARSE, but I can speak ‘Sarf London’ if required to do so. If you think being working class in Sussex was bad, my guess is that being working class in suburban Surrey was not that different.

    The ward I represented on the council for 16 years had previously been rock solid Labour since the 1930s (with one brief exception when every ward in my borough elected Conservatives). So I agree with you about winning over working class voters in the south.

    I agree with you when you say —“..reject the notion being put across that the people in those places are all incurably racist, right-wing to the heart, that we should just leave them to UKIP. No – they are JUST the sort of people we should be appealing to, just the sort of people who have been so damaged by Thatcherite economics, and yet misled by its false promises.”.

    I am sorry if I have given the wrong impression, but I fully agree with you.

    To win over people to a habit of voting Liberal means knowing where those people are starting from and then working with them on their own terms. Some will be traditional Labour voters, but some will be working class Tories or nowadays UKIP. I am not saying that anybody is to be rejected or abandonned – quite the opposite.

    It is particularly important now, with oligarchs and big business buying up politicians of all parties, that we build something Liberal and of the Left which provides an alternative for exactly the sort of people you are talking about.

  • Unless parties come to terms with the tens of millions of technically skilled people in India and the Far East entering the workforce and how these factors will influence trade and technology; then all their views are irrelevant. Knowledge is power and even more so in the Knowledge Economy. The Asian respect for scholarship which dates back 5,000 years combined with their mental strength which enables prolonged periods of study and practice is a power which no party appears to comprehend.

    The political parties need to start trying to understand the impact of technology. The USA invented the transistor in 1947 but it was the Japanese who probably most effectively used this technology to start the electronics studio and now Sony owns American film companies!

    What would may earn peoples respect is to tell them the truth of the magnitude of the challenge in competing with Asian technology. The first step is to make sure the British education and training in STEM subjects is more rigorous than in Asia: sports people do not win by training less rigorously and less smart than their opponents .

  • Ian Bailey ( Labour) if you are really interested in helping Britons then you had better make sure they are better educated and trained than Germans , Indians and East Asians . Labour has dominated education since 1945 and the only politician to point our the that something was wrong was J Callaghan in 1976. Those Britons who do read STEM subjects at Russell Group Universities largely come from middle to upper middle class backgrounds , live in middle class catchments and attend public , grammar and comprehensives which were former grammar schools. Very few children from inner city areas , attending comprehensives which do not have a grammar school heritage manage to read STEM subjects at Russell Group universities ( especially Oxbridge/Imperial) because Labour has destroyed education – Labour MPs rarely send their children to comprehensives in their constituencies – Blair-Oratory, Harman- Oratory,St Saviours, Abbot- City of London and recent one Emily? Dame Alice Owen, Callaghan- Habs School for Girls.

  • Charlie,
    Asia is only strong at the moment because they have the West as a market. In terms of innovation and grip on the information market the US dominate. Japan by the way has been in recession for about ten years or more, And of course China is a totalitarian state that practices a variation on state capitalism and vast numbers of people doing manual work that could be and is done pretty much anywhere in the world. What it actually benefits from is cheap mass production not technological innovation. This is because the form of capitalism we practice likes cheap labour and in some cases that also means child labour. The idea that this as anything to do with education or advancement is just baloney. America imports from Mexico which has high levels of illiteracy, we import from India which has high levels of illiteracy, though now less so. You do not need to understand how something works to put the components together. We would just rather import stuff than pay people properly, hence the closure of potteries, steel works, and coal mines and the shift overseas for plastics , clothing and electronics. Believe me if we imposed high import tariffs as was the norm in until the mid 20th century then things would look very different. The whole education argument has been peddled for years. It just means you have graduates doing the same jobs school leavers were doing twenty years ago and school leavers being shunted from course to course to keep the dole figures looking acceptable.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Dec '14 - 9:02am

    @ John Tilley,
    How do you start to rebuild a vision that enthuses people? There is nothing visionary about the middle ground, whether it be inhabited by soft tories or soft socialists.

    In my opinion, of all three main parties, the tories seem to come closest to articulating a vision of a society that would be the end result of their policies, and it is one I reject.

    I also reject Nick Clegg’s ‘”lessons of Government”. I did find your original preamble inspiring.

    I am intrigued by Tony Hill’s post.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Dec ’14 – 9:02am

    Jayne, I did not say it was going to be easy. If there was a plan in my back pocket, believe me I would share it.

    A Liberal re-build is possible, especially if linked with others on who regard themselves as being on The Left but would at the moment hate the Liberal Democrats and everything that Clegg, Alexander, Laws have brought with them from elsewhere when they joined our party.

    Meanwhile I hang on to the words in The Preamble as a sort of life-raft, knowing full well that the winds that will blow in April and May will destroy the life’s work of thousands of good Liberals over more than one generation.

    The words in The Preamble appeal to idealists, to youth and to The Left.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Dec '14 - 11:48am

    Jayne Mansfield

    I know my enemy. It isn’t people on the left or the even the right of the Liberal Democrats, even though I might disagree with one wing. It is a party that I find far more sinister, and I don’t think that some ill -defined, moveable feast like taking the middle ground is the way to counter them.

    Well, I hope that when you wrote this you weren’t thinking that I was one of those advocating “some ill -defined, moveable feast like taking the middle ground”. When you write “know your enemy”, that is very much a summary of what I myself was saying against what you were saying.

    In fact I was accusing you of NOT knowing your enemy, in the way you seemed to be advocating not even bothering trying to work with people who have been fooled into voting UKIP or even BNP and instead dismissing them as unredeemable right-wing types.

    Sure, there is a hard right-wing core of UKIP/BNP types, who aren’t going to be won over, and we wouldn’t want to win them over. However, there are many others who are drawn into voting for UKIP/BNP because they accept the superficial “we’re on you side against the establishment” line that sort like to use. Funnily enough, the BNP while horribly racist, was actually quite left-wing in economic terms. Whereas UKIP isn’t outright racist in the way the BNP is, but underneath is very much extreme right in economic terms.

    I was trying to explain why there are people who are alienated from the current Labour Party as much as from the Conservative Party, angry about the unfairness of life, and actually open to a left-wing politics which clearly speaks with them and for them, but who in the absence of such a politics drift into voting UKIP/BNP. So, I am advocating a firm politics of the left to attract those people, not some sort of “centre”.

    The mistake is to think in terms of a simplistic left-right spectrum, whereas most people don’t think that way. People who aren’t particularly political can often veer from expressing extreme right-wing opinions to extreme left-wing opinions, backwards and forwards, and not see any contradiction. My point is that we should not let the extreme right capture them because those of us on the left hearing such people voicing their opinions hear the ones to the right and go “Ugh, you are horrible, go away, we want nothing to do with you”. Instead, I think we can rationally argue them out of this. Well, not just think, I’ve done it.

    I did it in the very first election I fought as a candidate, where for various reasons I was left completely alone to run my own campaign in a three-way marginal ward for East Sussex County Council. Well, I made it more radical and left-wing than I’ve ever been able to do afterwards, and came into the count thinking I’d probably lost half the Liberal vote to the Tories for doing that. Instead, it was the Tories who were pushed into third place, and Labour won.

    I wasn’t in control of the campaign in Downham ward, London Borough of Lewisham, where I as one of the three ward councillors for twelve years. This was a notorious “all white” council estate in the far south of the borough, in the 10% most deprived wards in the country, and seething with people who were angry because they felt they and their needs were ignored by the Labour-run council who were only interested in he more obviously deprived tower-block and multi-ethnic wards to the north of the borough. In their seething, when you canvassed them, you’d often get racist comments thrown at you, and the ward was originally won by the SDP in a three-way split with Labour third as a proportion of that seething anti-Labour feeling went to the Tories. Then the BNP started working it actively.

    We kept that ward by fighting on behalf of its constituents – but never compromising on anything that might be considered racist. That did mean listening to people ranting, calming them down, accepting their fear and anxieties, and talking them out of racist attitudes that might have built up in them. It also meant pushing the case for the white working class as not having the attention they needed, which was at that time quite a new and controversial thing to do, though it has become more accepted as an issue since. There was a very genuine case that Labour HAD neglected that ward and concentrated resources and attention elsewhere.

    We saw off the BNP, and managed the situation where the ward over time gradually lost its “all white” nature. We worked out from that ward, starting with its three seats and built up to 18 councillors. Thanks to Clegg and the Cleggies we lost the lot in 2014.

  • Matthew Huntbach
    Your experience may signal an opportunity for campaigners after May.
    I recognised something when you said —
    “… I was left completely alone to run my own campaign in a three-way marginal ward for East Sussex County Council. Well, I made it more radical and left-wing than I’ve ever been able to do ”

    In the 70s and 80s there were singleton Liberal Councillors dotted around the country doing their own thing, well to the left of the national party at the time (and light-years to the left of the entryists like Clegg and Laws). In some cases these pioneers became the base for a growing successful local party rooted in their community which eventually achieved majorities on councils and the election of MPs.

    A lesson for any young left Liberals out there who want to pick up the bits after the coming disaster.

  • Glenn
    I would look at the percentage increase of Indians and Far East Asians in the USA and UK’s top engineering and science faculties- it is dramatic.

    From 1948 to 1965 , W Germany greatly increased it’s technical education and was major reason fro their economic miracle. Germany developed Fraunhofer Technical Institutes ( there are about 60 of them ) to undertake R and D for local industries: the British equivalent were the Colleges of Advanced Technology of which there were about 7-10 of them ( Aston, Salford, etc, etc). Britain in the 1960s opened far more arts and social science departments at universities than technical ones- sociology and media studies will not create the Germany industrial capability.When Blair said that 40% of British schoolchildren would be attending university , a German minister laughed- what a modern country needs are large numbers of technicians , not arts graduates from ex-polys and colleges of higher education.

    In the early 1980s , factories had rooms full of skilled draftsmen, this work is now done by a few CAD technicians.
    In the USA the increase in manufacturing employment is largely for NVQ 3-4 craftsmen/technicians and that is what is needed for entry level employment in a high value industrial/knowledge economy.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Dec '14 - 1:25pm

    JohnTilley

    I recognised something when you said —
    “… I was left completely alone to run my own campaign in a three-way marginal ward for East Sussex County Council. Well, I made it more radical and left-wing than I’ve ever been able to do ”

    I had just moved back to my home town, after going away to university (Imperial College, Charlie, and no, I didn’t go to a grammar school) and working away for a couple of years, and in the meantime a Liberal campaign group had grown and won the ward at both borough and county level. Having got involved with the Liberal Party at university, I as obviously keen to get involved back in my home town, and was surprised to be asked would I fight the ward in the County Council elections. It was only after I had accepted that I found out the guy who was the councillor stepping down had had some sort of personal issues and had been inactive for a long time, and the ward organisation had collapsed …

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Dec '14 - 2:07pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    There are so many assumptions in your post. I grew up in Rotherham, as did those comprehensive educated kids William Haigh and Justine Greening. I spent ten years of my adult life living in the south. I fear that it is you, given your anger that is falling into the trap of thinking in stereotypes.

    It may not apply to you, so don’t take this as a personal attack. However, a phenomenon I am aware of (I see it quite often in media commentators) is this. Someone from the north has a successful professional career, and as part of this moves south. Then they tend to think of the “south” as being the sort of people they work with in their professional career and the posh place they’ve moved to, and are hardly aware of the other side. When I was young, we thought of a northern accent as a posh accent, because we tended to hear it coming from professional people.

    What I was really getting at here is that the old pattern of politics was that Labour was the party of the working class and the Conservatives were the party of the posh, and politics was on a left-right scale based on that idea. The modern pattern of politics, however, is that Labour and the Conservatives are the same, two different groups of posh people, maybe with different strange ideas, but neither is the “party of the people” and left-right is just some sort of incomprehensible argument between these two groups of aliens. The extent to which this is now the dominant mode of politics in the mind of many is quite striking – and perhaps hard to grasp for those of us old enough to remember how things used to be. The geographical issue is that I believe – and it comes very much from my own experience – that this change in the way ordinary people view politics, happened first in the south, perhaps two or even three decades ahead of it happening in the north.

    So, what I observed already taking place when I was young in the south – ordinary people alienated from all politics, not seeing it in old-fashioned left-right terms, and thus vulnerable to being seduced by the extreme right pretending to be a new force on their side – has, I think, become a more general pattern across the country. There are sociological reasons why it is particularly strong in particular places – it comes as no surprise to me where UKIP is doing well, and I think the analysis you made of it is completely wrong, and damaging in the way it dismisses the anxieties people have in those places which lead them that way.

    In terms of the original header to this thread, if ordinary people no longer see politics in conventional left-right terms – and I believe mostly they don’t – then there is no centre to try to be in to win support.

    However, given that inequality is growing, class divisions are becoming wider, there is actually MORE need for a left-right politics in the conventional sense than there was before. So I want to see a new left which brings this about. But I want that new left to avoid all the things where the old left got it wrong and so alienated those who ought to be its natural supporters. That’s why, even now, I have no interest in getting involved in the Labour Party.

  • Charkie,
    I.m not desputing the need for technical staff or any such thing. I was merely pointing out that China as vast production capabilities and cheap labour and it is in truth this that means they export lots of stuff. Mexico exports lots of stuff, india exports lots of stuff. We used to export lots of stuff, The reason for this is labour costs and it’s attractiveness to shareholders and companioes. Nothing whatsoever to do with work ethics. German industy worked very closely with their trade unions and constantly modernised its production methods. We bypassed that by exporting production to save on labour costs and lot of the time this means unregulated work, child labour and other exploitative practices that are illegal here, Now we also import cheap labour on tempory contract rather than train people and the growth areas in Britain are in fact zero hour service industry, part time jobs and such as like. We live in a country where a pair of trousers from Primark are cheaper than a steak and the plate you put it on can be purchased from a discount shop for less than the vegetables you serve it with. This is to do with numbers and bulk not education. And as I said before China is a totalitarian state. Labour and do-gooders didn’t create modern Britain shareholders did. And actually Grammar schools concentrated on the Arts where as secondary moderns concentrated on manufacturing hence subjects like technical drawing, metal work, mechanics. Grammar Schools were a symptom of the problem not is solution. What they produced was a few examples here and there of people from humble backgrounds who could pass for posh, most of whom seemed to have gravitated to politics or media careers. Germany pumped funding into technical colleges instead of treating them as somewhere you went if you failed to get into a proper university to study English Lit.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Dec '14 - 5:33pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach,
    Thank you for the taking the time and effort to give a full explanation. It is much appreciated.

    No I don’t think you are part of some sort of middle ground. I am just so sorry that things have turned out the way they have for you and the heartbreak that must have caused.

    Reading Liberal Democrat Voice is the closest I have come to learning about the arguments and ideological conflicts that take place within a political party , but I can’t imagine that they do not take place within other parties.

    I was Mrs Angry when I came on here , ( The NHS), and I was just a voter not an activist who had given a large slice of my life to the party. I was soon slapped down by you for or criticising the ‘Liberal Democrats ‘ rather of the actions of a particular group within the Liberal Democrats.

    It seems to me that the only way that John Tilley and yourself are going to find the party that reflects your beliefs is to re-establish the party that you once had. As John Tilley says, it won’t be easy, but Matthew , what is the alternative?

    Even if you are feeling too worn down start all over again yourselves, you would be much needed mentors to a new generation of young people who share your ( and my, ideals), along with those of a large section of the population who are politically homeless at the moment.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Dec '14 - 6:00pm

    Charlie

    Very few children from inner city areas , attending comprehensives which do not have a grammar school heritage manage to read STEM subjects at Russell Group universities ( especially Oxbridge/Imperial) b

    I teach a STEM subject at a Russell Group university, and have some involvement with admissions. Most of our students come from comprehensive schools.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Dec '14 - 6:11pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    It seems to me that the only way that John Tilley and yourself are going to find the party that reflects your beliefs is to re-establish the party that you once had. As John Tilley says, it won’t be easy, but Matthew , what is the alternative?

    My only political activity now is contributing here, and I do far more of it than I can really afford time-wise, because I am quite desperate to do what I can to re-establish the party. It’s the last throw – if it doesn’t happen soon after the next general election, I have no choice, I will give up completely.

    As when I was a councillor in Lewisham, I am trying to be constructive in my opposition. That is, not just criticising Clegg and the Cleggies negatively, but saying where they are getting it wrong, and suggesting what they should do differently. I won’t criticise them if, in my analysis, I can see that actually there wasn’t anything better they could have done.

    I despair at the constant negative and destructive opposition coming from Labour, which I think isn’t helping our case at all, and isn’t designed to – they want to destroy us, left and right, and re-establish the two-party system. But the consequence is that a negative message about all of politics prevails, and this serves only to help UKIP and the “cut the state and hand it all over to businessmen because politicians are bad people” brigade.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Dec '14 - 6:18pm

    Glenn

    And as I said before China is a totalitarian state. Labour and do-gooders didn’t create modern Britain shareholders did.

    Plus note the constant message coming from above which says we should all become thrusting entrepreneurs,and that means being self-centred and aggressive. An “entrepreneur” here is not someone passionate about providing and developing an exciting new product or new service, no it’s someone who manages to sell rubbish to people who don;t really want it or need it.

    Unfortunately, this leads to an attitude which makes people almost unemployable in most jobs that are going.

  • David Allen 11th Dec '14 - 7:55pm

    I am appalled to read this Capstick competition

    http://www.epicure.me.uk/capstick.html

    for two reasons. One, we’re never going to beat the Tories if we fight over who’s got the most authentic working class accent and life history. Two, I am the son of a tax inspector who lived in London suburbia, so I just haven’t got the back story that is clearly essential for success in politics. I do have the occasional good idea, and I do very sincerely loathe and oppose the Right, the Bullingdon, and their fellow travellers with their Orange Book. But heck, ignore what I say, nobody who came from Pinner can ever be trusted, eh?

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Dec '14 - 8:32pm

    @ David Allen
    1. – You aren’t going to beat the tories – certainly not at the next election
    2. – A little sensitivity and human empathy for someone who has given a large slice of their life to building up your party and now feels distressed because this achievement has not continued , might demonstrate that you really do believe in a different type of politics.
    3. – Where is Pinner?

  • Jayne
    Pinner – near Ruislip, Northwood etc – smack in middle of (former) Middlesex suburbia!

  • David Allen,
    I agree. My mum was a computer programmer and a lot of the kids I went to school with were regulars of the Quorn hunt.

  • Jayne,

    Pinner is a mile from Eastcote, where I was actually brought up – but nobody knows Eastcote, so I mentioned Pinner, which is almost famous by comparison.

    I have given a large slice of my life to building up my party and now feel distressed, indeed mortified, that this achievement has not continued. I do think that the Orange Bookers are principally to blame, but their internal opponents have sometimes not helped. Falling out over trivial issues is one way to not help.

  • Matthew.
    I know exactly what you mean.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Dec '14 - 11:10am

    David Allen

    One, we’re never going to beat the Tories if we fight over who’s got the most authentic working class accent and life history.

    The usual Liberal/LibDem position is to say we don’t believe is social class distinction, therefore we will pretend it does not exist. That is a bit like saying we don’t believe in racial discrimination, therefore we will never even talk about race, and certainly not make any sort of effort to make our party a bit more balanced ethnically.

    Social class division is GROWING is Britain, not shrinking. It is a bigger issue now than it was in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was what the political spectrum was all about. How weird is that – a problem grows bigger, so politics stops being about it, and it becomes considered rude and an election-loser to talk about it?

    Now actually, the issue is that we shouldn’t be arguing about who’s got the most authentic working class accent, or who grew up right at the bottom, because the real point is that the division is opening up higher up. That was underneath some of what I was thinking about when I mentioned the places UKIP was doing best in. They are places where the people used to think they’d made it. But now people living in those places have found they haven’t made it, this country is NOT run by the plebs-made-it-good living in Lancing and Peacehaven, it’s run by people far above that sort, and the barrier to getting there is firmer than ever. I don’t know Pinner so well, but just maybe it’s similar?

    UKIP’s railing against the “liberal establishment” is playing straight class warfare. Obviously not using Marxist language to do so, but it is very much about exploiting the insecurities of people who might have though they had made it to the “middle class”, but in Marxist terms are very much proletariat.

  • Matthew,
    I think we need to point out that there is no Liberal establishment. The old establishment has simply become a little more socially liberal which is not really the same thing. If you look at politics it’s pretty much the old ruling c lasses from the same schools and universities it was 19th Century and in truth even before that and I do think it’s interesting how they also cling onto the news departments of publicly funded institutions like the BBC

  • Matthew Huntbach

    Most comprehensives which do well are former grammar schools,often Roman Catholic, in middle class suburban, areas with a large middle class intake – Camden Girls School, Dame Alice Owen, Habs Aske’s , Oratory, Cardinal Vaughan: they are not former secondary moderns or formed comprehensives within inner city areas.

  • Charlie 12th Dec ’14 – 3:00pm
    “…Most comprehensives which do well are former grammar schools,often Roman Catholic, ”

    Charlie.
    Most grammar schools ceased to exist before the end of the 1970s.
    Do you have any evidence to show that if a school was a grammar school before 1980 it will “do well” in 2014.

    It would be extraordinary would it not if after 34 years of changes in society and in teaching practices, along with endless changes in eduction policies from both Labour and Conservative governments, that the key indicator of a school “doing well” today is the status and entry requirements of that school before Maragaret Thatcher became Prime Minister ?

  • Glenn 11th Dec ’14 – 10:47pm
    “……a lot of the kids I went to school with were regulars of the Quorn hunt.”

    It must have been a very advanced school to have Quorn on the menu. I guess that was before free school meals?

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Dec '14 - 5:25pm

    Charlie

    Most comprehensives which do well are former grammar schools,often Roman Catholic, in middle class suburban, areas with a large middle class intake

    I’m not saying there aren’t big differences in where those leaving different secondary schools go to, but you are wrong in suggesting that no school-leavers from standard inner city secondary schools ever make it to places at decent universities. I was admissions tutor for my university department for 10 years, and though I’m not in that role now, I do still help out with admissions, so I do know what I am talking about.

    I also wonder if you’re aware of the extent to which the Roman Catholic Church in London is becoming non-white. It used to be the Irish immigrant community at prayer, apart from a very few places where the old aristocratic Catholics hung out. Nowadays, well, a Catholic in London with a surname beginning with O is much more likely to be Nigerian than Irish.

  • Charlie,
    How many people actually went into higher education when grammar schools were at their height and how many left school with no qualifications whatsoever,? I can’t help noticing that those in favour of grammar schools narrow the argument down to poor kids and top universities rather than note what happened to the bulk of kids from ordinary backgrounds. In truth most people failed the 11 plus and most never went into any kind of higher education and most left school with virtually no qualifications or with CSEs because the exam system was also divided.

  • The reason for the dissapearence of the centre ground is that existential issues are resurgent . If you’re flying a plane, you don’t aim straight to go straight. You aim up to go straight. Extreme move in aid of a stable outcome.

    What, for example, is a centrist immigration policy? In view of the rapid mass immigraiton that has already happened? When the cultural status quo itself is extreme, who’s to say what’s ‘centre’?

    Left wing parties come with perceived civilisaitonal\national risks attached — the destruction of the familiar canvas upon which the left wants to paint something constructive. Dictator hugging mayors and oooh weird people.

    And right wing parties come with a perceived plutocratic tendency, which seems incorrigible and immune to mere tinkering, which repels people toward the other extreme.

    Contrast with Scotland: Has been governed in quite a centrist manner internally, precisely because it is monocultural and Scottish culture is not at any risk of being undone in any way. So voters feel at ease and at liberty to vote for centrist parties such as the SNP, safe in the knowledge that is not in the Scottish Government’s gift to screw up their civilisation (without indepenence that is).

    Invent a party which is low-immigration, high welfare state, favours a traditional canon-based education party, freeish market, anti-plutocratic principles, etc — and if this was all believed and explicitly stated, it’d do rather well….but even then the closest you get to such mixuteres come in the form of Marine Le Pen and authoritarian weirdos.

  • Let me try and articulate better the dissapearence of the centre ground.

    Basically the centrist-at-heart feels obliged to support extreme parties.

    Both normal left and normal right are flawed in such a way that only an extreme rejection of each is seen as likely to get rid of the flaws. That is to say, centre-left and centre-right are seen as so incorrigible in some ways such that the opposite extreme is always very appealing.

    So for example the normal centre-left is incorrigibly and perversely determined to mash up Britain’s venerable institutitons, absorb them into a nebulous incomprehensible European superstucture, muck up social cohesion, abolish border controls, replace education with Mickey Mouse PC drivel — all so doggedly, that a moderate critique of the left doesn’t do anything. Not even Nigel Farage snapping at Cameron’s heels has actually _done_ anything in terms of governance in such areas.

    And by contrast the right — the Tories especially — are begginning to look like one of those browsers where the adware keeps coming back no matter how decisively you think you got rid of it. Corporate and commercial interests keep creeping in. One is left feeling that in order to end that nonsense, one has to throw out the whole party aggressively. Extremely rejection again. It wears on you after a while, the fact that if you believe in low taxes and sparing use of benefits, you have to vote for the Murdochoid party.

    The Liberal Democrats, could, but don’t, answer the prayers of the centrist-at-heart. Instead they just behave NuLabourishly and that’s that.

    And as evidence of this diagnosis, I point to Scotland, and whose executive lacks the power to realise the worse fears of both sides, so the people vote for a centrist party similar to the Lib Dems (the SNP, centrist in terms of internal governance at least). Also the culture is nice and homogenous and well served by the education system, vernacular dialects enduring in to the 21st centriy etc. Scotland is a monocultural suc cess story and there is no venerable constitution to protect against oafs, and the maximum oafishness of the government is constrained by lack of devolved powers.

    -Iain

  • ” I think we need to point out that there is no Liberal establishment. The old establishment has simply become a little more socially liberal which is not really the same thing. If you look at politics it’s pretty much the old ruling c lasses from the same schools and universities it was 19th Century and in truth even before that and I do think it’s interesting how they also cling onto the news departments of publicly funded institutions like the BBC”

    Um, weeell, surely the old establishment is only really objectionable in as much as it was racist, ludicrously exclusive, and forced gay men to grow tits. Otherwise leave it alone and go look for real problems — it’s the shape of your civilisation. Besides, where DO you see a resurgence in old aristocratic values? Nowhere. The outgoing aristocracy is being replaced with the snug beneficiaries of the neoliberal economy. I shudder to think what you would envision as a ‘liberal establishment’.

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