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Lib Dems in liberalism shocker?

Brian Micklethwait was on 18 Doughty Street on Monday along with James Oates from Cicero's Songs. One of the best things I've seen on the station so far.

Before the show went out Brian seemed to have been pretty suspicious of James. In a posting on his blog earlier in the day he had this to say:

[W]hen you meet a Liberal Democrat you never know what he will believe.  The one who talks to you is likely to say what you want to hear.  But the others will simultaneously be telling other people with quite different views what they want to hear.  So don’t vote for these lying creeps.  At least the two leading parties do stand for a recognisable attitude that unites their members, although less and less as time goes by.

Having had some correspondence with James and having been favourably impressed (EU-enthusiasm excepted), I was interested to know what Brian made of him.  The answer was..

I liked the guy, and he convinced me that the Lib Dems may indeed be moving towards a more principle classical liberalism than was the case in former years.

Which I thought was quite an interesting thing to say. I've spent quite a lot of time hanging around LibDem blogs in the last year or so, trying to assess just this issue. I so think that, in common with the rest of the blogosphere, there is a libertarian feel to the LibDem blogs. Cicero is sound, Jock Coats is sound. Liberal Review is pretty good too, although some of their guest posters occasionally come up with some good old fashioned statism. Whether the rest of the party is liberal too is another question - as a commenter to a post of Jock Coats about the political compass makes clear. Tom Papworth of Liberal Polemic says:

I expect there are a lot of us in the truly liberal bottom-right. Just none of our leaders. This is the lamentable lot of the liberal!

How right he is. As an example of just how statist the party remains, take a look at this thread on the Liberal Democrats Youth and Students forum (an excellent site, by the way, with a well-mannered clientele - but my God, the statism, the statism!)

The problem seems to me to be that the Lib Dems are still effectively two parties. There is a liberal wing, and a social democrat wing -it just hasn't been exposed because the LibDems are never going to win an election outright and so are never subject to the same scrutiny as the other parties.

Mind you, the Conservatives are just as split with the big-state, "one-nation" wing apparently having the upper hand at the moment, and the small-state libertarians in retreat.

It's very, very sad that the liberal movement is split between two parties and has found itself in the minority in both. This is the tragedy of liberalism in the UK.

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Reader Comments (2)

Not sure it's as much between liberals and social democrats, more between populists (doorstep politics) and Liberals (theorists, policy wonks, etc).

I used to describe myself as a Social Democrat, I'm certainly on the Left of the party, but I'm also, as you know, at the Bottom. So I know call myself either a Liberal Socialist or a Left Libertarian, depending on mood/audience.

All parties are going to attract statists. Many Lib Dems are members because in many areas they're the only valid electoral alternative to the Tories/Labour. Torbay has a number of natural Labour members voting/joining the LibDems. Areas like Manchester have should-be Tories as LibDems.

Really need to rekick Lib-Central at some point. Fix the electoral system, bring in STV and thee can be in the Right/Liberal party, alongside Jock, Cicero, Tristan and others, and I can be in the Left/Liberal party alongside the sane Greens and other Liberal Socialists.

Sort of like the new place, but I'm surprised you went for squarespace, surely or your own domain? Ah well, your choice. Sort of getting back into blogging. Sort of.
Dec 1, 2006 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterMatGB
I use Squarespace for work, and know it and like it. I'm not too hung up on total flexibility, so it suits me just fine. I really ought to spend some time tarting it up and personalising it, but I'm probably too lazy. I may get a domain at some point, but I'm not sure how important it is to me.

You're right about Liberty Central though. Did you notice that someone on Conservative Home put forward some ideas on localism which were quite similar to mine? Rejected out of hand of course.

Dec 3, 2006 at 9:12 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

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