Woolly Hat Lib Dem or Not

I am what you might call an armchair Lib Dem. Rather like most football fans in this country. So far, I have not attended a local match let alone a national one. Although this year I did put the Brighton Conference in my diary, house selling, family and friends, the Boat Show and my other writing took precedence.

On a positive note, my left hand has signed many cheques, and my right hand has pressed the carriage return key on many Lib Dem pages and surveys. It also sent an email to my local Chair apologising for not being able to attend the one local meeting I had planned, due to a bad cold.

However, am I not the mass of people the recent consultancy paper is aimed at!

So why have I not managed to get out of my armchair?

Well, it’s for two key reasons. I have been busy sailing my boat to the Mediterranean and writing books and blogs, so I have not been around at the right time. However, I think my motivation has not been 100%, and I am still not sure the Lib Dems reflect my beliefs.

My schoolmate of 60 plus years says I have grown into a woolly hat liberal.

I come from a working-class background and recall my mother’s stories of begging for food during the Second World War because her father broke both ankles unloading a barge in London and lost his job. However, as a young man in the 60’s I got into business and became a Conservative; until Maggie sold off our electricity and water companies.

Struggling to find a spot to put my cross, I voted Liberal and had done so ever since; thinking if Conservatives are right wing, Labour left wing, Liberals must be middle of the road, especially after joining up with the SDP.

Naïve maybe, but I know lots of people that are searching for to true middle of the road politics: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40498232

They want the freedom to start a business, enjoy the fruits of their labour and pass it on to their offspring. They respect people whatever their colour, culture or gender but ask to be respected too. They also recognise that compassion in bad times is also needed.

My left hand supports wages and benefits for those in need, the desire for a good health system and education for all. My right hand supports the need for a free market and entrepreneurship but with a fair play economy.  However, I had to read through the manifesto to find out that the Lib Dems support the EU directive on workers participation in larger companies. I am still looking to see what they would do to stop Directors ripping off company pensions funds. I wonder how many potential supporters read the manifesto?

So, when I came across the Lib Dem Voice site and read Caron Lindsay article on Universal Basic Income (https://www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll), and it said “It would be a clear, distinct policy and place the Party firmly on the “Left” (which, as Charles Kennedy and Paddy Ashdown proved) is the only place it can survive.” maybe I need to look elsewhere for my centralist party that might have some chance of changing British Politics.

What do you think?

Should I join the voice and try to change the woolly hat image?

Should I resign my Lib Dem membership and accept I will never find a centralist party in the UK.




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This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.


  • James Baillie 24th Oct '18 - 4:25pm

    As one of the decidedly “not centrist” bunch, I don’t think from what you’ve said that there’s a major inherent conflict, except perhaps terminological, between your aspirations for the party and what most of us would want. In general, it’s true that a liberal party in the UK tends to need to lean toward a more redistributive economy, both on ideological grounds (that it’s important for personal liberty to ensure people have a guaranteed economic stability underpinning that) and on practical ones (liberal views on social issues correlate with a redistributive economic position). Support for ideas like a minimum income are very much in line with those standard liberal beliefs – and are, along with a strong emphasis on worker participation in the economy, part of a distinct liberal strand of economic thought that rejects both heavy-handed statism and conservative laissez-faire. Even radical left-liberal economic thought (and I speak as one of its more vocal proponents) is fundamentally friendly to the principle that people should be encouraged to pursue ideas and start businesses, and sees supporting greater income security in part as a tool that will let folk take on the risk of starting a business where at present they simply cannot afford the relevant living cost issues whilst establishing themselves.

    I think the nervousness from people like me about self-describing as “centrist” (though of course a fair number of Lib Dems do embrace that label) is that it too often takes the meaning of “stick with the status quo” – and the status quo is quite far from where many of us want to be either in economic or social terms.

  • Trevor – great question, and the fact you’ve asked it makes me think you are definitely one of us! Here’s my perspective as a 30-year member (also from a working class background). We are a truly broad church, and people of both the centre-left and the centre-right can genuinely claim to be Liberals, so both belong in the party. It is of course over-simplistic to use these terms ‘left’ and ‘right’. I’m not sure they really mean anything any more. Our policy on Brexit, for example. Is that left or right? Or just commonsense??
    If you want to look into our philosophical roots, I’d strongly recommend Conrad Russell’s book ‘The Intelligent person’s guide to Liberalism’. Conrad was on the left of the party but I think understood our broader values as well as anyone, and the book is very accessible. You should also read the preamble to our constitution – the title sounds a bit dull but it is in fact a brilliant statement of who we are and what we are about. I find it genuinely inspirational, so I’d say if you read that and don’t ‘feel’ it, then that’s a sign you might not be in the right place. https://liberalhistory.org.uk/history/preamble-to-liberal-democrat-constitution/ (it’s not very long, and every member should know about it).
    To look at our values in a more practical context, there are two things that I find useful to keep in mind. One is the fact that – even though it was a lean time for us in electoral terms – the two men whose theories defined the nation’s public policy in the second half of the 20th century were both Liberals: Keynes (mixed economy) and Beveridge (welfare state). Neither is perfect but I’m generally proud to defend both as Liberal values in action.
    The other thing is an excellent point that Ed Davey made in a speech at the conference just the other week, which I hadn’t really thought about but it is true: British politicians have faced three massive issues in this century: the Iraq war, the financial crash and Brexit. And – whatever our failings in coalition – we are the only party that has been right on all three of these. We weren’t always listened to of course – though Brexit is still game on (#PeoplesVote) but it’s not a bad record.

  • Steve Trevethan 24th Oct '18 - 7:27pm

    What is wrong about wool for hats and other clothing?
    It insulates well, is natural, affordable, washable, warm and comfortable.
    Perhaps a razor wire hat might sound more impressive but is it really as useful in practice?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Oct '18 - 10:29pm

    Trevor you are in the correct party, as am I, but it really is the problem of the party and some of its inconsistent who are making you feel it might not be for you.

    There are some, like James here, who on many things are actually in the centre ground, others like me who are often radical.

    He likes the label radical I am happy to be considered in the centre ground.

    I call myself a radical moderate. Some in the party detest the word moderate as they do centrism.

    Centrism does not exist in a sense, because it makes an ideology out of an area of political orientation. Is there leftism r rightism?!

    I am a Liberal Democrat in this party who is a radical moderate in the radical centre and moderate centre left. I was a social democrat of same hue once in the Labour party.

    We accept self identification. It is time for people to stop saying the party is this not that, and let people be what they are, members and yes, supporters of the party that is between conservatism and socialism , this one, which adheres to Liberalism, which is centre, centre left or even centre right.

    Sorry to do those who would think otherwise, but most of them need us to do it, let them know, nearly every liberal party in the world is in the radical centre, moderate centre left or right, not , on the left.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Oct '18 - 10:33pm


    Read my introduction on this, opening page of…www.theliberalartscause.com

  • Hi Trevor,

    interesting article.

    Universal Basic Income is a utopian idea; the practicalities and cost (at any significant level of income) rule it out – in my view and that of many other liberals.

    Of course, you’re a liberal and should stay in the party. There’s far more that binds leftward- leaning liberals and centrist liberals than separates them.

    All the best

  • David Evershed 25th Oct '18 - 12:17pm


    Get more involved in the party and help shape its policies.

    For example use your voice, as you have here, to block any policy proposal for Universal Basic Income or other policies to turn us into the Green Party or other lft wing group.

    Being Liberal means being neither left wing nor right wing but supporting freedom and being anti authoritarian.

  • Sue Sutherland 25th Oct '18 - 3:07pm

    I think you’re in the right party because we recognise that entrepreneurs are vital to our economy but that the riches acquired need to be more fairly shared to enable other wealth creators and talented people to emerge from the future working classes.
    So, it may be that to achieve the benefits for those people you may not be able to pass on the fruits of your labour in their entirety to your offspring.
    For me the Lib Dems are about achieving the maximum good for everyone in society which obviously involves balancing the rights of everyone. So, we are not for the few, neither are we for the many but not the few, but we are for the rights of the individual until they involve damage to others.
    I think governments over the last 30 to 40 years have leaned too far in favour of the wealthy few because my belief in community and individual rights leads me to deplore the fact that many people can’t make ends meet even if they’re doing several jobs, whilst a relatively few people use their wealth, power and influence to improve their position at the expense of everyone else.
    I hope you will become more involved in the party because we need your knowledge and expertise to come up with ways of improving our economy for everyone’s benefit without alienating those who have created wealth for themselves and others.

  • Phil Wainewright 25th Oct '18 - 6:05pm

    The concept of Universal Basic Income (or Citizen’s Dividend as I prefer to call it) is supported by many very wealthy technology industry leaders and investors in the US, quite a few of whom are right-wing libertarians. So it’s wrong to define it as inherently left-wing.

    Left-wingers support it as a means of redistributing wealth without means-testing, right-wingers support it as a way of enabling freedom of choice. You might therefore define it as “neither left wing nor right wing but supporting freedom and being anti authoritarian.”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Oct '18 - 10:04pm

    David Evershed is correct to not want this party, our Liberal Democrat party, to become Green/Labourlite, yet I reckon Phil on the particular area picked is correct here, universal income, can indeed be keenly backed by those of us by no means leftie, but centre or centre left, classical liberals of a centre right kind like the late Milton Friedman even rather had interest in it.

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