Tag Archives: identity

The Problem of Centrism

Last time, we established the party’s lack of identity and direction stemming from the overuse of the term “moderate”. With this in mind, we can turn our attention to the problems that the term “centrism” presents.

The centre position is one that the party has found itself in since the 1920s, as an inevitability owing to the rise of Labour, with it being officially recognised in the 1980s during the Alliance as a selling point for possible coalition government. What, then, is wrong with this?

The first problem is similar to that of moderation – the conflation of terms. The term “liberal” has been wedded with the term “centrist” in a similar fashion. This comes from the idea that centrism is, somehow, an ideology unto itself. When it is not. Centrism is a position on the political spectrum but it does not have ideals or a worldview that underpin it.

The Left, collectively, is not an ideology, and neither is the Right. Rather, they are groups of ideologies that run along similar ideas and liberalism, with its myriad and varied schools, is an ideological spectrum unto itself, able to stretch across Left and Right. One would not call a radical a right winger, and an Orange Booker is not leftward. To put it this way – if tomorrow the party dropped all of its liberal trappings and went, instead, toward social democracy and progressivism it would still find itself in the centre. Not because these are “centrist” in scope but simply because the party as an entity is squashed between Labour and the Conservatives.

But this, I acknowledge, can be seen as nothing more than pedantry. A more pressing problem is found in the inherent instability of the centre. Due to the reliance it has upon the Overton Window it is impossible to remain truly in the centre for very long. Indeed, it shifts leftwards and rightwards, or even shatters under the weight of what is considered to be “common sense” and “conventional wisdom”. The Conservatives currently claim the centre as the country occupies a status quo that favours them. Labour, once they win, will, if their plans work out, be able to claim it after the first term. The Liberal Democrats, however, occupy the same space as we did a decade ago, and therefore no longer representative of anyone in wider society, apart from some disconnected special interest groups. In short, during these polarised times, the very term “centrism” becomes meaningless.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 17 Comments

The Problem of Moderation

A question that has plagued the party since inception and has, in recent years, come to the forefront is the question of identity. How do the Liberal Democrats define themselves? It seems to me that when members and supporters speak about the topic the same two words repeat themselves – “moderate” and “centrist”. As a result, these words have become synonymous with the term “liberal”. This article, the first of two, will cover the problems I have identified with this synonymity, the first target being the term “moderate”.

The main problem lies in how the term is actually used. For example, when one takes a diet of moderation all things are accounted for and everything is presented on the plate in equal measure. This approach, however, is not one that quite works within internal party political discourse. When we mention, say, Ken Clarke we can quantify him as being a “moderate Tory”, a believer in conservatism with a leash. Owen Smith is a “Labour moderate”, a social democrat rather than a democratic socialist – a Labourite with a leash. They still belong to the Right and to the Left but they do not take their ideologies too far.

Yet when it comes to a Liberal Democrat the same cannot be said. Who can, or could, be described as a “moderate Lib Dem”? This term would be akin to tying a tight leash around a short leash in a mobius strip of stasis.

So, then, one can only be “moderate” relative to the rest of the party or ideological camp that one finds oneself in. Now this is established we can get to the root of the problem, one of the party’s actual ideology, or ideological spectrum. The other parties can have moderates as they have ideological principals that underpin their ideas. Moderates, just like everyone else around them, agree with the means, goals, and ends of the parties they represent.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 23 Comments

Opinion: a request to our boys in the BIS

Every now and then I do something that requires me to provide “proof of address”.

There’s starting a phone contract, applying for security jobs, signing on, etc. For whatever reason these companies need “proof” of my address, either a utilities bill or bank statement and unfortunately for me I struggle to provide it.

Posted in Op-eds | 10 Comments

Opinion: Identity and narrative – ignored at our peril

Policy, relationships, practicalities, even thinking about a little bit of governance and leadership – these will all undoubtedly all pre-occupying the minds of many senior LibDems (and no doubt Conservatives). But right from day one of this coalition, the LibDems, probably more than any other party, will need to keep two things clear in their consciousness – those of identify and narrative.

The LibDems for generations have enjoyed an easy identity – the third party, centre-left, progressive even maverick – even though it didn’t feature strongly on the radar of the general public. Well it does now – with …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 9 Comments
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