Sunday, October 24, 2004

Liberal or not?

I was interested to read in this week's LibDem News (part of my staple reading) that Norman Lamb's agent Simon Wright has been tio Germany to campaign for the FDP, who camopaign under the banner of 'Die Liberalen'. I hate to tell Simon but the FDP are to the right of the Conservative Party and run on a very Thatcherite economic agenda. A strange bed partner for a Liberal North Norfolk Distrct Councillor I would think. Perhaps he's thinking of defecting to us? Perish the thought.

13 comments:

Ben said...

Maybe he's one of these real Liberals like Laws or Oaten rather than the soppy social democrats a-la Hughes, Opik and Kennedy [spits]...

...thing is I have time for these classic economic and social liberals, at least their consistent, that said Lamb's voting record wouldn't suggest this and much of the Liberal party seems to have had a pretty luddite reaction to some of the original ideas aired by the Oaten/Laws wing within the party of late, despite not agreeing with them I wouldn’t deny these proposals have been original and inventive. I may be wrong but much of what’s been proposed in the “orange book” seems to be gaining a lot of currency on the left of the Tory Party... well we will see.

Iain Dale said...

And to think, I nearly published the Orange Book! You're right. David Laws would be quite at home in the Conservative Party, although I'm not sure I'd want Oaten. He rivals Paddy Ashdown in the holier than thou stakes.

Anonymous said...

to Germany, surely?

Ben said...

Fair point about Oaten, that said I do have time for him unlike most of the Liberal Democratic party, to be fair “Tough Liberalism” was quite a good little sound bite. But all the same most of the Liberal Democrats are just social democrats of one shade or another with no bedrock of belief or values.

Case in point’s tuition fees, we all know the Liberal oppose them but they have no alternative policy at least the Conservatives do and to be fair the Conservative policy on higher education has some merit to it.

A scenario that seems to be emerging is that at the election after next a Brown lead Labour party would be able to consolidate and solidly its hold over the traditional Labour base (white working class voters, ethnic minorities and guardian man and woman etc…) while the change in tone from Labour would give the Conservatives an opening… the end result would be the Liberals caught in a vice and probably left with the Oaten-Laws wing and the Hughes-Opik wing caught in bitter feud over where the party should go…

Anonymous said...

Tory PPC reads LibDem news? Perhaps he's thinking of defecting to us? Perish the thought.

Iain Dale said...

I think not! It's called 'know thine enemy' or more politely, 'opposition research'.

Anonymous said...

However, don't the FDP belong to the ELDR group in the European Parliament who tend to vote very similarly on most issues...I know it ruins a nice put-down but...

Liam said...

Perhaps Cllr Wright was also involved in opposition research!

More seriously, I think the key point here is that (as you say) the FDP run on a broadly Thatcherite ECONOMIC agenda, which is very different to saying a Thatcherite agenda. Indeed, former Liberal leader Jo Grimond said in the 1980s that "much of what Mrs Thatcher and Keith Joseph say and do is in the mainstream of traditional liberal thought" (or words to that effect). Indeed, the Liberals in the early days regularly trooped through the lobbies for labour market reform, right to buy etc.

The Orange Book is very interesting. To summarise (more or less fairly) David Laws' contribution, he argues that Lib Dems dislike Thatcher because her economic liberalism was not accompanied (in his view and that of probably all his colleagues) by social liberalism (concern for the life chances of the less well off), political liberalism (decentralisation, democratic control - witness quango-culture etc) or individual liberalism (witness section 28, home affairs in the later years etc). He then says some Liberals have concluded, wrongly, that the free market necessarily brings with it what is seen by them as the worst excesses of Thatcherism. He essentially says let's reassert the economic liberalism side - in essence, "don't throw the baby out with the bath-water". He makes other points (e.g. concern for civil liberties is great but be careful not to forget that for a lot of people, their civil liberties are threatened more by yobs than by draconian Home Secretaries, bad though they are) but the economic liberalism point is the main thrust.

You are clearly convinced that Laws would be happy in the Tories but he obviously isn't. An articulate, high flying banker like him would have waltzed into a decent Tory seat and probably front bench, but he decided against it. I suspect he would cite policies your policies on devolution, immigration, shotting trespassers, war in Iraq, and jeopardising relations with Europe as well as your past record on investment in public services as among the factors in that decision.

Iain Dale said...

I still think the FDP are far more Conservative than Liberal. But there you go.

On the Orange Book I think your analysis of its thrust is broadly correct although I would dispute some of your assertions about Thatcherism, as you might expect. I'd still happily welcome Mr Laws into the Party at any point he chooses!

Adam Parsons said...

What is said, thought and then done by a party such as the FDP in Germany are very different things. The most important of which being what they do which would collate to their membership of the ELDR. Therefore making it very acceptable for a councillour and party member of a British party that holds liberal views to be able to campaign on their behalf them.

Anonymous said...

I am sure that you would welcome David Laws into your party- indeed more MPs is probably most parties' desire...however, seeing the Tories cuurent travails, you would be so lucky! : )

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, never could understand why the FDP sat in the same group at the LibDems, especially as we have established that the FDP are right-of-centre, a position which Kennedy doesn't seem to be heading towards. As a Tory living in Germany (who presumably can vote in next year's regional election), should I vote CDU (who I've always considered to be our German equivalent) or FDP? What were your leanings during your time in Germany, Iain?

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