The two Orange Bookers who’ve won over the Lib Dem membership

Orange_BookIt’s 10 years since The Orange Book was published. Edited by David Laws and Paul Marshall it was widely regarded as an attempt by economic liberals within the Lib Dems to wrest back control of the party from social liberals.

Both Laws and Marshall would argue their attempt at ‘reclaiming liberalism’ (the book’s sub-title) was more about re-balancing liberalism as practised by the Lib Dems — that the party had grown intellectually lazy, happiest with simply saying ‘tax more, spend more’ as the answer to every public policy problem without thinking through how that would make people freer or society fairer.

And indeed The Orange Book spanned a wide range of views within the party, with three of its nine contributors more identified, at least subsequently, with the social liberal (aka ‘left’) wing of the party: Steve Webb, Vince Cable and Chris Huhne. The latter is of course no longer an elected Lib Dem, but the former two are and have held two senior posts in government for the past four years.

Steve Webb has led on pensions within Iain Duncan Smith’s Work and Pensions department, while Vince Cable has been Business Secretary. It’s interesting to look at their records in government.

Steve has abolished compulsory purchase of pension annuities, famously saying, “if people do get a Lamborghini, and end up on the state pension, the state is much less concerned about that, and that is their choice.” He has also defended the ‘bedroom tax’, arguing that the average weekly loss of £15 could be met by those affected working an extra three hours at the minimum wage to pay the shortfall.

Meanwhile Vince has raised to £9k the maximum amount that universities can charge students in annual tuition fees and privatised the Royal Mail.

Defences can be made of all these policies. I agree with pensions reform in principle – though the legitimate concerns about the ‘moral hazard’ of pensioners blowing their savings, or of being mis-advised, should have been properly consulted on rather than breezily announced in the Budget. I agree with the aims of the ‘bedroom tax’, to try and ensure social housing supply matches social housing demand – but it patently doesn’t work in those areas where demand and supply cannot be matched.

I agree with increased tuition fees and it’s clear these are not deterring low-income students despite the scare-mongering – though the negative impact on part-time and mature students is worrying and needs reviewing. I agree with the privatisation of Royal Mail and tend to think it’s easier with hindsight to say the shares were under-priced – but the way some big private, sort-term investors have been able to cash-in quick gains has tarnished this success.

What intrigues me, though, about the positions of Steve Webb and Vince Cable is that these two ministers have advanced some of the most controversial Coalition policies of this Parliament — policies which, with the exception of pensions reform, large numbers of Lib Dem members are against. Yet the two most popular Lib Dem ministers among party members are… Steve Webb and Vince Cable.

It’s somewhat ironic that these two Orange Bookers, seen as the leading social liberals within the party, have advanced the most economically liberal policies pursued by the Lib Dems within Coalition. The triumph of The Orange Book hasn’t exactly come from the direction many expected.

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

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70 Comments

  • When today’s election results have been announced – it will be interesting to know how ‘The triumph of The Orange Book’ is defined!

    Also – once the new political landscape has been defined and absorbed – won’t it appear a little overcrowded on the right with political parties – and a little sparse on the left?

  • The Orange Booker brigade has been an absolute disaster for the party and those who espouse their right wing Ukip style libertarian views couldn’t care less about the party’s demise. The sooner the leadership is redefined and they are removed from positions of power the better, no wonder the electorate in London and elsewhere are deserting the party in droves for Labour and the Greens. These views are not the radical left of centre party led by Charles Kennedy but an attempt by right wing infiltrators to destroy, We must fight back against them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd May '14 - 10:43am


    It’s somewhat ironic that these two Orange Bookers, seen as the leading social liberals within the party, have advanced the most economically liberal policies pursued by the Lib Dems within Coalition. The triumph of The Orange Book hasn’t exactly come from the direction many expected.

    Perhaps that is because no-one who is a true opponent of the Orange Book mentality can expect to be promoted by Nick Clegg to a position where they would be widely known in the party and thus promoted as “likely next leaders” etc.

    Isn’t this actually quite a devious tactic from the right? Promote people who are actually in the centre of the party, and make out they are the “left” and thereby get the whole image of the party shifted. To me, which is why I always go on about him, the biggest example of this is Tim Farron, constantly being pushed as the candidate of the party’s left in the next leadership election, but who has been a relentless cheerleader for Clegg and the way Clegg has been trying to push the party into being seen as an adjunct of the Tory Party with all these lines about us being “in government”. I suspect Farron is being pushed in this way precisely because the right know he’ll be a safe pair of hands who won’t rock the boat, and will be a reliable “yes man” to them when he’s sold tall stories like “75% of our manifesto implemented”.

  • It says a lot about the current LibDem’s when Steve Webb one of their most popular ministers, is a big fan of Ian Duncan Smith. Is it any wonder they are struggling with the Green’s for fourth place in this election, if the voters want Ducan Smith’s policies why not just vote Tory.

  • Last year for the EU I voted LibDem this year I have voted UKIP. that’s what I think of your orange book. Steve Webb said a new fair single tier pension total rubbish he and the coalition should hang their heads in shame bit like the we cut the EU budget or energy when both actually increased costs

    As for Vince and tuition fees I don’t think a Nick Clegg sorry will wash I am 60 if I was lots younger and you had done that to me I would not forget

  • Popular with the current membership perhaps, but popular with those who were members but have since left thanks to the infouence of the orange-bookers and coalition disenchantment? To these people, myself include, these two are far from popular. Instead they personify the rightward drift of the party. People who could previously be relied on to be competent, compassionate and trustworthy now seem less than competent (cheap sell off of the Royal Mail), lacking compassion (suggesting the vulnerable cover unfair financial burdens by earning a bit more) and lacking integrity (pushing through tuition fees against party policy and despite personal election pledges). I wonder how palatable these views would have been 10 years ago? These sentiments might be enough to win over current members but then current members are a self selecting sample. The loss of both members and votes suggests that the ascendancy of the orange-bookers (regardless of their perception as being socially liberal) is hardly something that could be described as a triumph.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd May '14 - 12:49pm

    Caracatus

    People like David Laws who fancy themselves as some kind of Gladstonian Liberals are ignoring all the reasons the party and voters left Gladstone behind.

    No, they are usually ignoring what Gladstone said and did, or being very selective in picking out bits of it that suit their ideology. Gladstone was pragmatic about the role of the state and certainly did not have the shrieking “state bad, private businessman god” (I meant to write “good” here, but the typo works even better!) mentality of those who like to style themselves “Gladstonian liberals”, “authentic liberals” etc today.

  • Geoffrey Payne 22nd May '14 - 1:48pm

    The problem with Orange Book Liberalism (OBL) is that it has always lacked a book. What we now understand about OBL was only hinted at with the chapters by David Laws and Paul Marshall. It went on to incorporate policies such as free schools and academies – a policy rejected by conference by a 10 – 1 majority but Lib Dem MPs had a 3 line whip to support it.
    I would reverse the charge and say that the Orange Book Liberals have been intellectually lazy. I am not even sure it has been defined properly. Jeremy Browne used the term “authentic liberal” which would appear to mean free market capitalism if his book is anything to go by. So is that OBL? Is it true that free schools have decentralised power when you consider that David Laws, acting as though the gentleman in Whitehall knows best, takes questions in the House of Commons about a Free School in Derby of which he suddenly has to become an expert? And what about the NHS reforms, of which OBL appeared to support without even reading what they were (assuming Shirley Williams was correct). And then there was the Tory policy of Help to Buy, of which Danny Alexander claimed was a million miles away from creating a bubble in the housing market.
    The main concerns of OBL was public service marketisation and cutting taxes – neither of which have impressed the general public or improved the running of the public sector.
    What I am not seeing is these OBL interlectual heavyweights (and I will admit that there are some) who have any idea how their man, Nick Clegg can make any kind of impact to rescue the Liberal Democrats from the electoral abyss at the next general election.
    The Orange Book was published on 2004. Rather than improving the interlectuosity (I invented that word) of the Liberal Democrats, we have gone down an interlectual cul de sac which will be hard to get out of.

  • It’s a right wing clique which has suffocated all opposition from the pre Clegg days when the party used to gain council and by elections, win seats and was highly respected and admired. Its policies on many issues would be at home with the libertarian extremist Ukip isolationist party, don’t let them destroy social liberalism using the coalition as their excuse for a power trip.

  • Stephen – poke the hornet’s nest, and look what comes out 🙂

    There’s a fair bit of straw man burning going on here, I feel.

  • david – “It’s a right wing clique which has suffocated all opposition from the pre Clegg days when the party used to gain council and by elections, win seats and was highly respected and admired. ”

    All that is highly debatable. But even were it true, it was a party that was impotent. The hated Orange Bookers have acheived far more in advancing Liberalism in the last 4 years than the party did in the previous 90.

  • Chris Manners 22nd May '14 - 5:45pm

    I don’t really recognise this caricature of the Lib Dems as intellectually lazy pre-2004. I recall them as having interesting policies, like the local income tax. There was other good stuff like opposing PPP on the Tube. Think Susan Kramer did good work there- not someone you’d say was a lefty.

    With the Orange Book ascendancy, I’ve seen far less of this.

  • Knowing that Steve Webb has said that people affected by the bedroom tax could work three more hours has destroyed my view of him as a Social Liberal. Firstly I thought that it only applied to those who are defined as out of work. However the level of housing benefit is dependent on one’s income. Therefore the more one earns the less housing benefit one receives. A minister in the DWP should know this. NO! Every MP should know this. Therefore working three hours more would not pay the bedroom tax.

    David is right “the Orange Booker brigade has been an absolute disaster for the party and those who espouse their right wing Ukip style libertarian views” It will be difficult to remove the influence these people have on the party. The party will need to discover if libertarians should be allowed to be in the party as they have material disagreements with some liberal values.

  • Tabman

    “The hated Orange Bookers have acheived far more in advancing Liberalism in the last 4 years than the party did in the previous 90.”

    I have absolutely no idea where you get that from. The only acheivement I see is being part of the most nasty right wing government this side of the second world war. They have unfortunately ruined most – if not all – the good work that was done under Charles Kennedy’s leadership and the LibDems may never recover. I can never remember a major political party that was trusted less, surely after this weeks results the party will put them and their orange book in the dust bin where they belong. If Paddy Ashdown objects they could put him there as well!

  • “Meanwhile Vince has raised to £9k the maximum amount that universities can charge students in annual tuition fees ”

    Hardly something to be proud of, not least because Clegg etc assured everyone that fees would typically be 6k and only a very few unis would charge 9K. But they pretty well all charge the max amount.

  • I’m honestly wondering what Vince has done in government that he can be proud of? If Uni tuition fees (really?! Tuition fees?!!) and Royal Mail are thought to be his greatest achievements?

  • Amalric and Marc – I couldn’t agree more.
    Tabman – list what they’ve achieved then. No don’t bother I’ll do it for you. Bedroom Tax- let’s attack the most vulnerable in society; Tuition Fees up to 9K – maybe any party would’ve increased them but up to 9K. Hit the students where it really hurts. Privatisation of the Royal Mail – another disaster with the share price and selling off one of the most successful public services which should remain ‘public’, Abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board – that’s right hit the rural poor on low incomes hard.

    What else will you nasty right wing Orange Bookers do next – privatise the NHS Ukip style? If this is what you plan to do then spell it out as I am going to make sure every voter knows what you stand for in the national press and locally. After all there’s nothing like transparency and democracy and I would hope even the libertarian OBs will spell out what they stand for and how they would destroy our welfare state.

    I seem to remember pre 2010 and under Charles Kennedy the Party achieved its highest ever number of MPs, now that’s an achievement in the first past the post system. Also the Party fought on Social Justice and was respected for it, remember the 1p on income tax to support and fund the NHS which was a popular policy with voters. How popular are all the ones I’ve listed above, don’t worry you’ll find out in a few hours when the Party thanks to your ilk taking it over gets marginalised even further. Make no bones about it, these are horrible nasty people who have infiltrated our party who should really be in the Conservatives or Ukip.

  • Malcolm Todd 22nd May '14 - 7:22pm

    Tabman
    I think it’s odd to suggest that the only way liberalism can be advanced is by forming part of the government at Westminster.
    Did all those Liberal and Liberal Democrat councillors in controlling groups really achieve nothing?
    Was Lib Dem participation in the Scottish Government 1999–2007 a mirage?
    Did Liberal and Lib Dem MPs, despite being in “opposition”, truly play no part in shifting the views of the public and therefore the political discourse in more socially liberal directions over the last 50 years of the 20th century?

    Are you perhaps indulging in a little strawmanning of your own?

  • jedibeeftrix 22nd May '14 - 7:40pm

    “What else will you nasty right wing Orange Bookers do next”

    Nasty, really?

    Is this not unbecoming behaviour for a party in the middle of an election, whichever ‘side’ on stands upon…

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd May '14 - 7:42pm

    Tabman

    The hated Orange Bookers have achieved far more in advancing Liberalism in the last 4 years than the party did in the previous 90.

    In what way? The fact that we have had a coalition government for the past four years is just down to the random way the first-past-the-post system works. It’s something that could have happened any time since the big revival in the Liberal vote in the 1974 general elections. There was nothing specific Clegg and the Cleggies did to make it more likely to happen in 2010 than previously. The one factor that did help was local activists concentrating work in certain constituencies, resulting in 23% of the vote returning many more MPs than it did previously when the vote was more evenly spread. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the Orange Book and its supporters. The model of the Liberal Democrats that Clegg and the Cleggies keeps pushing, one which is about being “in government” and attracting a particular small ideologically inclined proportion of the population will return us to the days when our vote was thinly spread out so returns few seats under FPTP.

  • Yes it is nasty and I stick by it. It’s a total betrayal of the party I’ve supported and the fact so many voters are deserting in droves proves it. The policies they are advancing are hated, just listen to LBC in London when Call Clegg is on and you’ll get the measure as to how people think on the bedroom tax, dismantling the welfare state and privatising public services etc.

  • It doesn’t matter. By Sunday the political failure of the Orange Book approach will be very apparent, and it will be up to ordinary Party members to start retaking control of the dialogue and direction of the Liberal Democrats.

  • jedibeeftrix 22nd May '14 - 8:07pm

    hmmm, failure of the orange bookers or failure of the “party-of-in” election message?

  • David1 -I agree totally. This is the worst crisis the party is facing in its history since it was formed. The far right are trying to infiltrate it under the guise of the Orange Bookers and you can see from their posts and comments they are against social liberalism and preach the language of free markets, franchising out public services and destroying the welfare state and NHS. Think Ukip and Conservative even as that’s where these people have come from starting with Stephen Tall, Nick Clegg and the extreme right wing libertarian Jeremy Browne. There are the people who have taken over our Party and now we must recapture it with a media campaign and by putting candidates up under the Social Liberal Democrat banner against them.

  • One of their ilk is even anti EU from the above comment so I expect them to push Clegg in that direction since he’s powerless against them.

  • Jedibeeftrix, the voters, or at least the ones I know, aren’t angry about the party being for EU membership. Polling suggests that even as UKIP support rises, support for EU membership is itself actually up. What’s going on? I suggest that its the message on staying in that’s getting across, but not translating into a Liberal Democrat vote.

    Why?

    Well, if people aren’t angry about our position on Europe, maybe we might be able to find possible anger provoking ideas elsewhere

  • jedibeeftrix 22nd May '14 - 8:33pm

    “One of their ilk is even anti EU from the above comment so I expect them to push Clegg”

    Lol, and so the night of the long-knives begins!

    “One of their ilk” Roflmao. I am not actually a lib-dem, and hesitate even to agree with someone lest I contaminate their own standing within the ‘community’.

    Let’s hope we all exit this civil war feeling like it was worthwhile, tho experience should caution us against this. Tribalism is just something for Tories and Labour, eh?

    @ TJ – “Polling suggests that even as UKIP support rises, support for EU membership is itself actually up.”

    Optimistic, not necessarily a bad trait.

  • jedibeeftrix 22nd May '14 - 8:40pm

    Further:

    “One of their ilk is [even] anti EU from the above comment so I expect them to push Clegg in that direction since he’s powerless against them.”

    I note the “even” with some measure of amusement. So far beyond the pale of civilised discourse that it must be emphasized beyond the mere ‘destruction’ of the party ideals we all so love.
    I have been attempting to push this party in the direction of electoral relevance since i first took an interest in March 2010:
    http://jedibeeftrix.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/uk-election-2010-%E2%80%93-and-why-voting-lib-dem-isnt-a-waste-of-time/

    It would be difficult to claim any success, one might even say I have hindered given how divisive my input can be.
    Still, i like adversarial politics, and accept the thrive or die consequences of our electoral system.

    Your call…

  • Childish text speak that says it all really and if you’re not Lib Dem then even better since I’ll just ignore your barbed comments. Has the labour and conservative vote diminished by half over the last 5 years, no I thought not.

  • There was a political gamble that the Liberal Democrats had tapped out the social vote, and a feeling that those people weren’t very reliable anyway, and that a rightward tack would bring in more reliable votes than it lost. The idea was that the Liberal Democrats could find a more solid footing by entrenching itself in a centre-right position.
    The actual results have been that the Lib Dems have alienated a large number of their formerly reliable voters and have attracted a negligible number of new centre-right voters, resulting in a net loss of more than half of their former support. This is a political failure on the grandest scale (at least for a party of the Liberal Democrats’ previous size). One can only suppose that the reason those responsible for this political failure have not been held accountable is the incurable optimism of most Liberal Democrats (which is, it must be said, a very attractive characteristic) that things will get better. However, on Sunday there will be an undeniable dose of reality. At that point, the fault lines underlying the party will no longer be able to remain locked in the same pattern. Something will have to give.

  • No I am not really interested in your calls and childish poster baiting and bullying. Neither will I bother reading your input from the link obviously another spoiler who will have a field day when the results are out tonight.

  • “The far right are trying to infiltrate it under the guise of the Orange Bookers …”

    david anonymous – your paranoia is showing. What the Orange Book did was to remind us (see the article above) that aping the Labour tax-and-spend approach to every problem is not particularly Liberal. The Lib Dems (like all political parties) have different and sometimes conflicting strands in their philosophical make-up. I’m afraid your assertion that our party is anything like UKIP is rather silly.

  • The problem with that David1 is the Pangloss theory of optimism from Voltaire’s Candide is absurd and out of touch with reality in that everything happens out of necessity in the best of all possible worlds. It’s the sort of burying your head in the sand approach until it’s too late. At least there’s a year left to do something and try to re-connect with a proportion of those voters who left but the steps need to be taken now onwards. Firstly there needs to be a new leader as Nick Clegg has clearly failed and it needs to be someone who is untainted by the Coalition and can re-build trust. Secondly it needs more members and activists to speak up in the media, at conferences etc and thirdly a radical review of party policy away from the Orange Booker direction and back to the left of centre approach which serves the party so well and managed to increase its MPs.

  • Not at all and I stick by it. I don’t recall calling myself anonymous so another invention on your part. There’s nothing paranoid about hearing a Lib Dem politician calling for more privatisation and dismantling of the welfare state as your lot seem to do. Neither is it paranoi to point out libertarianism is not liberal democracy it is something very different which the Orange Bookers aspire to and is closer to the Isolationists policies on franchising out services and marketization of the NHS. Taxation is about getting the amounts right and I understand the Orange Bookers have pulled out of the mansion tax and lowered the higher tax rate agreeing with their conservative allies in government. Charles Kennedy got it right and that’s why his popularity was so high, your popularity as Orange Bookers is on the decline and if it gets rid of your lot once and for all at least we’ve achieved something come the next general election. I’d even go so far as to stand against an Orange Booker.

  • @Jedibeeftrix

    ‘optimistic, not necessarily a bad trait’

    Dismissive. Almost certainly a terrible one.

    Do you have alternative polling results that point to UKIP’s support being matched by a rise in anti-EU opinion?

    I’m basing my statement on YouGov’s recent (18th/19th May) research, but its backed up by Ipsos Mori. A much larger Ashcroft poll in January had In and Out at a dead tie, 41% each, but you need to accept that this represents a loss on the 2012 situation when it was more like 60-40 for Out.

  • david: I’m afraid if you call yourself ‘david’, that’s fairly anonymous.

    Your reference to ‘your lot’ and ‘Orange Bookers’ is, I’m afraid, a very simplistic reading of the situation, as is your identification of the Orange Book approach with libertarianism. If your answer to everything is tax and spend, you might be better off in a tax and spend party like Labour.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd May '14 - 9:37pm

    Well said Sid, it’s good to hear a bit of Labour bashing on here. Their activists are on the extreme left and let prejudice get in the way of social justice. Ramping up the costs of small businesses, even if they aren’t making profits? Yes Labour activists will have a bit of that. Take over the recruitment policies of firms because the public can’t be trusted not to be sexist or racist? Yes Labour activists will have some of that. Soft on female criminals, but not male criminals, because men can’t be trusted, yep Labour activists would like a bit of that. We’ve “ran out of ammo” on the UKIP attacks and I was glad to see Nick Clegg brand Labour as a regressive party in The Times today.

  • @Sid Cumberland

    Let’s not be too quick to show each other the door, especially in what is going to be the aftermath of a fairly poor showing at the polling stations.

    Of course retrenchment and reform are part of our generic solutions to problems, but taxation and spending have their role to play as well, depending on what service it is we’re talking about.

  • malc – “I have absolutely no idea where you get that from. The only acheivement I see is being part of the most nasty right wing government this side of the second world war.”

    malc, I remember Thatcher’s government. Clearly you don’t – and this totally ridiculous claim shows how seriously we should take your arguments.

    Malcolm Todd – Mea Culpa 🙂 But we need a little yang to leaven the monotous diet of ying on this thread.

  • The Orange Book and the rise of Nick Clegg was really just a reaction to the economic orthodoxies of the day. It could have come from a set of Blairites or a Camaronies. The problem with that is that the Lib Dems had attracted a lot of voters who were turned of by that kind of thing and rather liked the progressive social liberal model the orange book was trying to overhaul. .
    I wouldn’t describe the Orange bookers as far right , I do think they lead and are still leading the Lib Dems down the wrong path. But then again I’m loosely a centre left social liberal bod and would say that wouldn’t I.

  • Tabman

    “malc, I remember Thatcher’s government. Clearly you don’t – and this totally ridiculous claim shows how seriously we should take your arguments.”

    Why are my claims ridiculous? Duncan Smith’s wefare reform policies are far more right wing than anything Thatchers government introduced. Under Thatcher there were no tuition fees , bedroom tax, secret courts etc. The list could be endless, yes Thatcher had her bad points, but she didn’t drift as far to the right as this government.. I stand by my comment that this is the most right wing government since the war and I’m pretty sure many people would agree – although not perhaps on the LDV site.

  • malc:

    – tuition fees – introduced by Labour
    – welfare reforms – introduced by Labour
    – secret courts – introduced by Labour

    Clearly right-wing, then.

  • daft ha'p'orth 22nd May '14 - 11:26pm

    @Tabman
    Well, yeah. That’s kind of the problem that many voters are facing at the moment: lots of parties, very little to differentiate them. You can find one that follows any policy you like, as long as it’s the same policy the other parties also happen to prefer. A different choice of party simply means that they will offer you a slightly different explanation for adhering to the same old same old.

  • Tabman

    I didn’t say some of New Labours policies weren’t right winged – it was Thatcher’s government we were talking about..

    However, it was this government that raised tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 and Duncan Smith and his LibDem side kick who completely changed Labours Welfare Reforms to the brutal ones we now have.

  • Tuition fees introduced by Labour, and modified by this government so that the poorest pay less, and participation by the poorest has gone UP. Bit inconvenient that, eh?

  • Little Jackie Paper 23rd May '14 - 12:30am

    daft ha’p’orth – I have some sympathy for that, but the parties, both mainstream and fringe, ultimately have to work with the electorate that there is and the electorate’s reasons/interests. Not perhaps the electorate they (or those that write on internet forums) would like there to be.

    There has been this, ‘sameness,’ for I suspect the reason that it is what a lot of voters actually want. I say voters here quite mindful of those that don’t turn out however decisions are made by the people that show up. If there really were the great constituency for change it would manifest itself in ways other than people staying at home and griping on the internet.

    We have protections for the boomers and pensioners because that is what the voters like. We have the combination of low interest rates and house price hyperinflation because that is what the voters have endorsed. For all the online bile Blair (and Bush) were re-elected post-Iraq. It is not as if Iraq was not an issue in 2005. Take a look at the RESPECT vote for some idea of how far Iraq as an issue resonates outside the internet. (Indeed those who think Chilcot is some magic arrow might want to dwell on that). We don’t have the fracking we need because the propertied voters won’t wear it. If people wanted to have less privatisation we would have had an SWP government.

    Class politics is still with is, but is has changed from the classic Labour Left/Conservative Right. There is no working class any more – or at least not in any sense of the term that my grandparents (miners and cotton workers) would have understood. Appeals to the proletariat are doomed in the atomised society we now have. It is of course for this reason that bank bailouts have proved so toxic, the sense that old industries can be cast aside, but the political class will save some. Would UKIP have bailed out banks one wonders?

    What happened in Coalition is that the LDP (with of course 1 MP to 6 Conservatives) found that push does come to shove. If the young feel that they were shoved for boomer benefits then it is not hard to see where that conclusion came from. Government is rather different to politics and I hope the party has learnt.

    Should politicians follow the people or should people follow politicians? I don’t know. But politicians and parties are products of the society they emerge from. The poll tax stands as the most grisly example of what happens when a political party forgets that. We have the sameness you talk about because that’s a reflection of what the voters will wear.

    I should stress here that I’m not saying that I particularly like any of this or that I buy into the mainstream sameness. Some of what I would like to see would be popular I suspect, some less so. But if the voters don’t agree with me I don’t get to blame them or say decide what yardsticks they should use to judge their candidates. What I am saying is that being an, ‘outsider,’ to sameness can’t fall into the trap of saying the voters are wrong. I am simply staggered by how many seem to want to tell students that they are wrong to be miffed and should be grateful that fees are just £9k+.

    I’d love to set the bar high for candidates. In my 19 voting years I have cast votes where I have had to set the bar so low I fear to look at it quite frankly. However politics is not about the legislation of mine or any other prejudices. We’ve got what’s been voted for by the people, whatever internet or any other court of opinion thinks.

    These euro elections will very likely show that this is not a country of IN and the LDP has to work with that.= heading to 2015.

  • daft ha'p'orth 23rd May '14 - 12:40am

    @Tabman
    Tripled by this government.
    And participation by mature and part-time students has fallen through the floor. Bit inconvenient that, eh?

  • Tabman

    No matterhow you sugar coat it the great majority of young people who go to university will now leave with massive debts. I never thought Lib Dems would support such a policy or the brutal Welfare Reforms introduced by Duncan Smith, but I guess times are changing which is why they lost my support. The party is now all yours and people who think like you and read orange books – it’s far to right wing for me. Good night.

  • I’ve watched from the sidelines for awhile now and have a new-found respect for some LibDem supporters. I like that many of you are still passionate about fighting for the party that was once yours. Whether that’s still possible is for you LibDems to sort out.

    Myself and many friends will never be able to forgive the LibDems for what enabling the most right-wing UK govt I have known in my lifetime. The core argument that everything that has been done was in the national interest is contemptible. List the policies that your LibDem MPs have voted through and ask yourself if you would have voted for each and everyone of them. Remember when you were a student, if you’d been given a promise for your vote only to find it was a lie (don’t call it anything-else, because that’s what it was) would you ever trust the people who stole your vote? And let’s not discuss the bedroom tax or the NHS because I don’t need my blood pressure to go through the roof.

    I don’t want the LibDem party to be destroyed – I’d settle for Clegg, Alexander, Laws, Brown and the rest of their ilk to lose their careers and see what life is like on the welfare state they think is fair.If only Williams wasn’t beyond reach.

  • @ David-1 – “One can only suppose that the reason those responsible for this political failure have not been held accountable is the incurable optimism of most Liberal Democrats (which is, it must be said, a very attractive characteristic) that things will get better. However, on Sunday there will be an undeniable dose of reality. At that point, the fault lines underlying the party will no longer be able to remain locked in the same pattern. Something will have to give.”

    There may be optimistic Liberal Democrats, but I would say there optimism is misplaced. We should have recognised that once we went into Coalition we would lose support. I think this happened during the Lib-Lab pack of the 1970’s. Even if they were optimistic in 2010 about the 2014 and 2015 election results I think by now they should have loss that optimism. We may be optimistic that we can hold most of our current MP seats and locally we may be optimistic that where we work really hard all year round we can hold our councillors. This will not have changed later today or on Sunday. The membership will not call for a leadership election in the near future because I can’t see 75 Local Parties holding general meetings to agree the necessary requests. I think there might have been an opportunity last autumn if there had been a group of people who really had wanted to put in the necessary effort. The only way Nick Clegg will go is if he resigns himself and that will only happen if he loses the support of the majority of our MPs, which I think is unlikely.

    @ Sid Cumberland – “Your reference to ‘your lot’ and ‘Orange Bookers’ is, I’m afraid, a very simplistic reading of the situation, as is your identification of the Orange Book approach with libertarianism. If your answer to everything is tax and spend, you might be better off in a tax and spend party like Labour.”

    There are many members of the party who even call themselves libertarians (as there were in the past too) and libertarianism is not liberalism while in some areas they both want the same things. It is by how they see the role of government that you can tell a Libertarian from a Liberal. A Libertarian sees government involvement as a bad thing, while Liberals accept that the government has a huge role to play in creating and securing a liberal society and have always believed this.

    To tell a Liberal to join the Labour Party means who either do not understand Liberalism or you can’t see how authoritarian the Labour Party is, and you can’t see that the Labour Party is often about protecting certain power bases and is illiberal. For a Liberal to say to a Libertarian you should either join the Libertarian Party or you might be more at home in the Conservative Party who often share the view that government should be reduced in size is not the same.

  • Are people here criticising the decision of entering the coalition orbits some of the decisions /compromises that have been made in government ? I don’t see given the state of the parties after the 2010 there was any real choice for us than the coalition with the Tories. – if we had not done so we would now be in the fourth year of a majority Tory Government.
    If it is the resultant policies some can be understood as the necessary compromise eg Tuition Fee (Labour would have implemented the Taylor report) others I cannot understand eg Post Office sell off.
    Surely the main aim of LDS supported by Steve Webb that those who deserve benefit should not lose benefit at the high rate they do at present as the gain income is to be applauded. I accept there appears to be huge problems in the details and computerised implementation.
    Steve Webb’s “support” for the Bedroom Tax is clearly a compromise to meet Treasury “savings” target on his department – just we who have make cuts in council’s welfare provisions are having to do.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd May '14 - 9:10am

    Mike Drew

    Are people here criticising the decision of entering the coalition orbits some of the decisions /compromises that have been made in government ?

    No.

    I’ve always drawn a clear line between the two separate issues, accepting that the situation in May 2010 meant we had little alternative to agree to the coalition, and supporting the way Clegg and the Cleggies have chosen to play it. They love to mix the two as if anyone who doesn’t play the line “It’s all so wonderful to be in government and have these nice cushy jobs working with the Tories” is a fantasists who doesn’t understand the reality of the situation. We COULD have joined the coalition, but played it quiet differently, as a “miserable little compromise” as it was just that.

  • My first name is David, nothing anonymous about it. I am not a party candidate so don’t need to give a surname. I’ve identified myself as a Greenwich member so if you want to pursue a witch hunt then you have all the information your Orange Bookers need and I will carry on fighting against you and your infiltration and destruction of the Party. The Party as I understand it still believes in funding public services; this is done by taxation and most people support funding the Police, NHS, Fire Service etc.. If your lot are really against it and want excessive privatisation then spit it out and say it so we really know where we all stand. Then we can fight against each other openly to give voters a real choice between Social Liberal and Orange Booker Liberal. Nothing simplistic about it and I as many other Inner London activists have fought against inner city decay under Labour so your attempts to force me out don’t wash. “Take over the recruitment policies of firms because the public can’t be trusted not to be sexist or racist? Yes Labour activists will have some of that. Soft on female criminals, but not male criminals,” Well I’ve always been staunchly in favour of diversity myself and opposed to sexism and racism in employment practices as well as ageism and why bash labour on crime when they set up Safer Neighbourhood Teams and community policing which have been cut back under this government, I think you’ve picked the wrong areas to attack Labour but at least we see where the Orange Bookers stand on these issues. Again this is all good for differentiation between them and the Social Liberals. Margaret Thatcher was totally against privatising the Royal Mail and wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole just look at what good old Vince has gone and done.

  • Jimble – I entirely agree with you.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd May '14 - 12:30pm

    Glenn

    The Orange Book and the rise of Nick Clegg was really just a reaction to the economic orthodoxies of the day

    A reaction? It WAS the economic orthodoxy of the day. That was the thing, perhaps talking about a more market oriented approach would have been fresh and radical in the later 1970s and early 1980s, but by 2004 it had become thoroughly talked about, Labour had taken it on board alongside the Tories, and politics had been pushed well down that road with all that Thatcher and Blair had done.

    So if you wanted to be new and challenging in 2004, you needed to be QUESTIONING free market assumptions, not jumping on board the bandwagon and saying “us too” to it. That is even more so now, because 10 years later those assumptions are still the predominant orthodoxy, yet their failing are becoming more and more apparent.. Anyone who wants to revise liberalism with something new should be asking WHY the free market theories have worked out so badly and left many, perhaps most, people feeling less free and more depressed than before, not trying to squeeze those little remaining patches of opposition to them out of existence.

    As to the words “Orange Bookers”, it is perhaps a little unfair to those who contributed to that book. It was a collection of essays by a variety of people, although it had the general theme of looking at more market oriented approaches, it was not a unified manifesto pushing that way. I would certainly not want to suggest that discussion should be discouraged in our party, so of course this book and any other discussing political issues is welcome. I just have a bit of concern that the debate is rather one-sided owing to the large amounts of wealth and power that have a vested interest in pushing the free markets approach, and the lack of such support for anyone for anyone putting things the other way.

    Many of us use “Orange Bookers” to mean “the people in the Liberal Democrats trying to push it into a more market oriented way” because we don’t have another suitable term for them. As has already been argued. “libertarian” is not really the right word. Many of us strongly object to the attempts of these people to hijack the word “liberal” to mean just them, so we are not happy to use any such terminology that might suggest agreement with their proposition, such as “classical liberal”, “economic liberal”, “authentic liberal” and so on. All these terms involve accepting their somewhat dubious propositions, they are not neutral terms, that is why I would rather call them “Orange Bookers”.

  • Julian Tisi 23rd May '14 - 2:48pm

    One of the things that initially attracted me to the Lib Dems – and still does – is their combination of economic liberalism and social justice. It’s the only party that really has this USP – though there are clearly outnumbered proponents of this combination within the big two parties in Labour moderates and Tory “modernisers”.

    I haven’t read the Orange Book (suppose I ought to) but if nothing else, I admire the fact that this was an attempt to define a genuinely liberal philosophy. I think this is important because one of the biggest problems we have as a party is that people still say they don’t know what we stand for. Articulating something clear and distinctive is good for this reason. And I would be as equally interested should the social liberal side of the party want to respond, as it were, with a slightly different but equally liberal view of things – the Yellow Book for example (hasn’t Lembit got there first with that one?).

  • daft ha'p'orth 23rd May '14 - 4:18pm

    @Little Jackie Paper
    “the parties, both mainstream and fringe, ultimately have to work with the electorate that there is and the electorate’s reasons/interests. ”
    I went to vote yesterday in the European elections. My options were limited to:
    * UKIP, the BNP, the English Democrats, An Independence From Europe — in what I personally think of as the fruit n’nut category (I have a worrying number of friends and relatives who voted UKIP, though: quotes include ‘a vote against political correctness’ and ‘a wake-up call for the mainstream parties’. Personally I believe that the best way to get a wake-up call is to buy an alarm clock or ask at reception, but I can see the motivation even if I violently disagree with the action.)
    * Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dem in the More Of The Same camp.
    * the Greens in the sandals n’hemp no more nukes but more weed dude camp. I disagree with their stance on nuclear power, have no use for drugs and consider the environment to be one concern in many.

    This may be a marketplace but if so it is a pretty dysfunctional example of the genre. A large proportion of people can’t be bothered to ‘purchase’ anything at all, even though it’s free-at-the-point-of-use! People who do buy make their selection based on packaging and identity politics, then open up the parcel and like as not find something unspeakable squirming around inside. Maybe England really is full of people just aching to live in a neolibertarian future, but I’m guessing that politics is as prone to silly fashions as any other field of endeavour. This MARKETS RULEZ OK LOLZ!!1eleventy1 stuff is the political equivalent of flared trousers.

  • Chris Manners 23rd May '14 - 5:14pm

    “I haven’t read the Orange Book (suppose I ought to) but if nothing else, I admire the fact that this was an attempt to define a genuinely liberal philosophy.”

    As opposed to what? The pre-existing bogus one? The conservative one?

  • malc 22nd May ’14 – 10:51am

    It says a lot about the current LibDem’s when Steve Webb one of their most popular ministers, is a big fan of Ian Duncan Smith. Is it any wonder they are struggling with the Green’s for fourth place in this election, if the voters want Ducan Smith’s policies why not just vote Tory.

    Talking of IDS,

    Universal credit, the government’s recasting of the welfare benefits system, has had to be reorganised so fundamentally that the government watchdog responsible for grading its implementation has judged that it is now an entirely new project.

    In its annual assessment of the implementation of nearly 200 major infrastructure projects, the Major Projects Authority (MPA) has listed universal credit as “reset”, the only one to be listed as going back to the drawing board. The scheme has been dogged with IT design faults, leading to successive delays.

    Source:

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/23/universal-credit-reset-iain-duncan-smith

  • Chris Manners 23rd May '14 - 5:39pm

    “I don’t see given the state of the parties after the 2010 there was any real choice for us than the coalition with the Tories. – if we had not done so we would now be in the fourth year of a majority Tory Government.”

    Confidence and supply. Even if the economy was as bad as you said, get on with stabilising that. Anyone stick up anything that’s going to waste billions- like free schools and the NHS changes- then you remind them there’s no money left.

  • Matthew ,
    I meant reaction to a perceived political reality ;a way of looking more like the other two parties. I think the main problem with the Orange Bookers, for want of a better tag, is that they share Nu Labour’s obsession with PR and Spin. which is why they demand that the party stick to the 75% of the manifesto line and act like 2010 election result was part of a master plan , Unfortunately it’s also why they are so good at instilling party discipline and so bad at acknowledging obviously disappointing results ..

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '14 - 9:15am

    Chris Manners

    Confidence and supply.

    Confidence and supply means voting for their budget with all its cuts (that’s what’s meant by “supply”) or any other of their policies where they say “If you don’t agree, we resign” or where the opposition say “If it doesn’t get through, they should resign” (that’s what’s meant by “confidence”. So it would actually mean the Liberal Democrats voting for all the nasty things they’ve had to vote for and even more without having the direct influence of being a part (albeit a small one) of the government.

    True, a confidence and supply agreement would have signalled that this was not OUR government and not OUR ideal, in the way that continually boasting about being “in government” does not. But I don’t think the subtlety would have been got. The problem all along has been that the Liberal Democrats were not in a position to issue threats, because there was no alternative government arrangement with Labour that could have worked, and the Liberal Democrats were always going to be the main losers if another general election was called early.

    That problem has been made much worse, of course, by a leadership which seems determined not to point out the reality of our situation and instead wants to boast about being “in government” as if it is just as big an influence on government policies as the main government party, and which has surrounded itself by people who want to use the situation the party accidentally fell into to push it permanently down the path of being a party of right-wing economics.

  • Michael Parsons 24th May '14 - 9:19am

    Policies to turn public services into profit-generators for private companies(instead of for State provision) go back to the Adam Smith et al campaigns for contracting out refuse collection in the 1970’s, or analyses suggesting health provision free at point of delivery would have infinite elasticity of market demand, so rationing by price was the necessary choice (without explaining why rationing by itself would not do). and so on. The farcical nature of the Orange Book and subsequent Lib Dem collapse is that it is actually based on all this outdated stuff as if it were amazingly new! A Labour Party that had not lost its nerve (or been taken over by careerists of the Blair kidney) would have laughed it out of court.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '14 - 9:24am

    Glenn

    Well, OK, but I thought the Orange Book was more about party policy than party strategy in terms of how it presents itself.

    I quite agree that a strategy of wanting to look just like the other two parties, of wanting to throw out all that made us look a bit different and alternative, of wanting instead to say “hey, look, we’re a bunch of stuck-up out-of-touch aliens from Planet Politician just like the other two” was electoral suicide at a time when anti-politics feeling is not just growing but has become dominant. We have been led by a bunch of people, and in particular by a person, who seems determined to destroy most of what ever won our party votes. The chance effects of FPTP in May 2010 then gave them the best chance of doing it.

  • The timing of all these posts on 22nd May interests me, especially the afternoon and evening ones.
    Comforting to know that while I was struggling with backache and pain from my arthritic knee whilst tramping the streets in the cold and damp to get out the vote in one of our key target wards, others were sat in the warm at their keyboards having a theoretical discussion about some crap book form 10 years ago that hardly anyone read!

    An old expression about ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ springs to mind!

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '14 - 4:50pm

    Steve Comer

    The timing of all these posts on 22nd May interests me, especially the afternoon and evening ones.
    Comforting to know that while I was struggling with backache and pain from my arthritic knee whilst tramping the streets in the cold and damp to get out the vote in one of our key target wards, others were sat in the warm at their keyboards having a theoretical discussion about some crap book form 10 years ago that hardly anyone read!

    An old expression about ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ springs to mind!

    Steve, I wanted to say something very rude to you, but I’ve stopped myself.

    I’ve spent 35 years as an activist for this party, huge amounts of my time and money going to it, tramping the streets in cold and damp and much more. From about 1992 to 2012 I was deeply involved as an activist in the London Borough of Lewisham, as part of the team (I was a councillor from 1994 to 2006, for part of that time, Leader of the Council group) which pulled the party up from a poor third place in the borough to closely challenging Labour in all three of its constituencies. I almost lost my job at one point because that is where my energies were going, and certainly lost career opportunities I will never regain. So don’t you DARE lecture me on not putting in the work. I’ve done plenty of it in the past, but a couple of years ago I’d had enough, I gave up, I could not actively work for the party any more.

    I’m not “fiddling while Rome burns”. For four years now I’ve been putting my time and effort trying to point out how the national leadership is getting it so wrong, how that is destroying all the hard work us activists have been doing, and what it should be doing instead to keep us going. All the time, the party was doing the opposite of what I recommended. I dropped out of activity because I could see where this was leading, I felt I was wasting my time promoting the party on the streets while the national leadership was doing all it could to wreck the message I would want to put across, to turn the party into something very different from the one I had been so proud and keen to work for over so many years.

    So, no, I wasn’t involved in the election campaign this year. That was a deliberate choice, I felt I could not carry on doing it when all my effort was being wrecked by the leadership. I stayed quiet at local level, because I did not want ti make things worse for my former colleagues. But they lost everything anyway. During the time I was a councillor we went up from 3 to 18 councillors in the borough. Now we have none.

    If the leadership had listened to people like me, if it had not carried on down the path of destruction, the hard work of you and others this year would not have been wasted as it was. So don’t blame me. My latest contributions have been to make the point, that I predicted this in advance, that the party should have listened to people like me.

    It may be that hardly anyone read the Orange Book, but it has widely been identified as the turning point at which the party went to the right, at which it gave up being a party influenced by what we used to call “radical liberalism” and became a party of “me too” to what we used to call Thatcherism. As I’ve said, that’s a little unfair, because it was just a discussion on these themes, and discussion from all directions should be welcome. However, it’s become clear that those responsible for the Orange Book have managed to seize control of the party and exert far more influence on it than their numbers warranted – in part because there is big money behind pushing these ideas. The chance effect of the FPTP electoral system which forced us into a coalition with the Conservatives in a very poor situation was used by then to take complete control. Clegg has made sure that Orange Bookers got all the key positions in the party, and has made speech after speech in which he has pushed the ides that the party has to move in this economic right-wing direction, and hinted that old timers like me who object to that aren’t even welcome in the party. He has done nothing to stop the rumours that the coalition is the start of some sort of permanent arrangement with the Conservatives, but I joined the Liberalsl because I saw them as the most effective opposition to the Conservatives. So why should I have carried on working for the party when there is almost nothing left in it of the sort of radical Liberal party I joined in the 1970s?

    If Clegg and those surrounding him go, and he is replaced by someone who has the same sort of vision I had when I joined the party and when I was active in it, I will gladly get back into activity for it.

  • “and the Liberal Democrats were always going to be the main losers if another general election was called early.”

    I don’t think enough attention has been paid to how precarious Cameron’s position was when he failed to get a majority. The Tories are still berating him for that. Cameron was desperate to get into 10 Downing Street and the LibDems were therefore in a strong bargaining position. No, there was no way Cameron was going to risk a second election.

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