The View from the Dutch Social Liberals: Lib Dem Phoenix rises above Tory Ashes!

“Men of Harleigh, ye whose action
Put to rout the Tory faction
In their ranks spread wild distraction
Vanquished all their bands.
Shoulder press to shoulder
Onwards march and bolder
Triumphs more we yet shall see
Before we get much older.
“Peace, Reform and Liberation”
Be our triune aspiration
Till we win them for the nation
And our land be free!”

That was the hymn I hummed all day on Friday when I heard the news from Eastleigh!

We, the Dutch Social-Liberals from D66, know that (in Dutch coalition government politics) “Regeren is halveren”: every time D66 joins a government coalition, we risk getting halved (or worse) in our proportional electoral system because we get squeezed between the:

    · political conservative Labourites (PvdA and, even worse, SP)
    · the Euro-sceptic “National Liberals”, right-wing Liberals (VVD) and
    · the Christian democrats CDA (up to five years ago the Tories were in their group in the European parliament).

The xenophobes from the PVV of Geert Wilders, the man with the white-painted Koala haircut, aren’t a problem, but an ideal stooge to strengthen our profile against. (Like the Anita Bryant / Mary Whitehouse / Sarah Palin the Tories put forward in Eastleigh.)

But right now, with a VVD-PvdA-governement with a minority in the Senate, it’s D66 which is mobilising the constructive forces in the opposition to realise the reforms (and the pro-European attitude) from our election platform.

But let’s talk about the big news of the week: David Cameron is starting to look like John Major or Harold Wilson (in 1966-70), with a rising Euro-sceptic wing in their party and environment, and a lack of by-election victories to ward this wing off. The similarities between Wilson’s duplicitous handling (from 1971, the same timeframe Cameron takes!) of the 1975 EEC referendum and the way Cameron handles his own proposals ought to be emphasised more by Lib Dem spokespeople.

We are absolutely delighted with the Lib Dem hold in Eastleigh, the proof that ‘Community Politics’ offer a more solid base to rise again than the loose organisation from the Orpington days. And to judge by the The Economist’s Blighty column, the Lib Dem message of being the constructive, centrist, social wing of this Coalition is getting through.

And you know what the newest edition of a “special relationship” looks like? Cameron joining Obama (and Clegg) on a Gay Pride March past the Fox News studios and Republican Party Headquarters!

Congratulations with your victory and keep up the good work!

* Dr. Bernard Aris is a historian, a D66 parliamentary researcher and a LibDem supporting member.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.


  • Steve Comer 3rd Mar '13 - 12:58pm

    Thanks Bernard, its good to hear from D66. We can learn a lot from your party which like ours was once close to disappearing, but has now established itself as the long term voice for civil liberties and Social Liberalism in the Netherlands. It would be good for ordinary party members to hear more from our European allies. Perhaps we could see some people from D66 participating in fringe meetings at autumn conference in Glasgow?

    I think the fall out from Eastleigh not only gives some of us defending seats in two months time increased hope, but the division in the forces of Conservatism gives us an opportunity. If Lib Dems in Government hold firm, and are clear about what we cannot accept, the Tories cannot ‘tack to the right’ without breaking up the coalition government. And if they do that they’ll look like they’re being irresponsible and putting party before country.

  • Stephen Donnelly 3rd Mar '13 - 1:04pm

    BERNARD :Thanks for that. The message that “Regeren is halveren: every time D66 joins a government coalition, we risk getting halved (or worse) in our proportional electoral system because we get squeezed ” is worth repeating. It illustrates that the same (reduction in our national share of the vote) thing would have happened in a coalition with Labour, and does happen also under a PR system.

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