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Is the Social Liberal Forum Dying ?

June 13th, 2009 Posted in Uncategorized by

When Classical Liberals in the party formed Liberal Vision in 2008 it was natural that it would encourage an ‘equal and opposite’ reaction from the Social Liberals in the party. This came at the Spring 2009 Harrogate conference when the Social Liberal Forum was formed

The Social Liberal Forum had no less than 9 MPs listed on its site and also boasted the support of Claire Rayner. I had expected to see a fierce debate rage on the merits of the two approaches. From the Classical Liberal side there has been a large amount of activity on this forum and in other areas, but that has not been matched by the ‘Rebel Alliance.

The forum now seems almost defunct. The last substantive post was from Layla Moran who recently topped the straw poll of Classical Liberals as the ‘Social Liberal we most wish was a Classical Liberal’.

Layla’s proposition was

“Choice is a chimera, a fantastical political concept that serves no purpose other than to trick the middle classes into thinking they are empowered in the decisions that affect children’s future”

This seemed a mainstream approach for Social Liberals.

The responses indicated little appetite for this approach and it may be that this lack of appetite for Social Liberalism is more deeply entrenched in the activists than those of us from the Classical Liberal side of the debate in the party realise.

It’s three weeks since the last post on the forum and I have seen little evidence of activity in any other sphere and thats why I pose the question:

‘Is the Social Liberal Forum Dying ?’

37 Responses to “Is the Social Liberal Forum Dying ?”

  1. James Graham Says:

    Are we dying? No, we’ve been working during the elections. What have you been doing?

  2. Tristan Says:

    That quotation is very perceptive. Choice from politicians never truly exists.

    Unfortunately I suspect what was meant was that choice should be restricted.

  3. Ed Joyce Says:

    Yes – I have been working in the Euro Elections too on the Ealing Campaign team with your forum poster Layla Moran. I have personally delivered about 15,000 Focus leaflets since the last local elections and am currently organising a deabate between the Lib Dems and the Israeli Embassy for the benefit of the General Election fighting fund. Prejudice that Liberal Vision folk do not work on the ground are unfounded. I don’t personally see any difference in the activity levels of LV and SLF supporters and I know that we both work to bring people into the party. Having both wings of the party active adds a level of depth to the arguments that has been lacking in the past and may stop us contradicting ourselves as we have with the Unite Against Fascism fiasco.

  4. James Graham Says:

    Hey, I was just answering a question and asking one. You seem very defensive. Perhaps you can explain where Liberal Vision were between September 08 and last month. How come Mark Littlewood still hasn’t replied to my deconstruction of your ‘the party is dooooomed unless we cut all taxes’ pamphlet despite promising to? Was LV dying? I assume you consider such language to be constructive.

    Personally I delivered very few leaflets during the election campaign. I had a day job that took me out of electioneering. But then, I don’t have anything to prove.

    Enjoy your trolling. I’m sure it makes you feel big.

  5. Wayne Lawrence Says:

    James claims to have been working during the elections, implying that the work is for the party. Then admits to being engaged elsewhere. Nothing wrong with earning a living, but you changed the deal by changing the premise.

    Ed quite reasonably answers what seems to be James’ question, viz, what has he been doing for the party. Then accuses him of trolling and bigging himself up.

    Finally, James questions Ed’s constructiveness and then indulges in some destructiveness (plus playing the man and not the ball).

    There is a word hat springs to mind here.

    Frankly, I was wondering about the lack of activity on SL Forum myself. The only sign of life recently is the sound of crickets chirping.

  6. Ed Joyce Says:

    I think we are on the defensive in that there have been plenty of accusations about LV being an infiltratory group. Since I have been very involved with LV and also predecessor Libertarian groups and have also been involved with the party for 30 years I do find that wearing.

    I also do have a day job, Samite is my business, thats why I never post in the day ?! I do my Lib Dem work at the weekend like most activists. Although I do understand that people have busy lives I strongly suspect that running a small business is at least an equivalent struggle to most other forms of work. It’s not that much fun dropping Focus – but personally I think that its a pity that some find a reason to avoid it. Its good exercise and the party is absolutely dependent on Focus for its success. If nobody did it we would be dead in the water.

    As for what we have been up to between September 08 and last month – we put up a candidate for the President of the party and launched what is now the probably the biggest activist led conglomorated blog in the party – is that not enough ?

    I can’t speak for Mark I don’t remember any discussion of your piece. Is it on the forum ? I will see if I can get a discussion going on it if you feel it would be helpful.

    I do very much hope that the SLF picks up because we need to be a broad church. Libertarians were bogged down last summer fighting the suspension of PPC and Lib Dem councillor Gavin Webb. I would like to see some kind of agreement between the two wings of the party that we would not seek the expulsion of each others activists. We mostly know each other and have the parties interests at heart. Whatever our disagreements the party will be weakened by our memebers following the suspension route that Gavin faced.

    I am well aware that the lifesyle choices of some in this forum are objectionable to ‘white men in suits’ but I believe that we should live and let live. I make no judgement on the consensual lifestyle choices of others, thats why I am in the Liberal party not the the Conservative one. Fortunately I have no boss, and no political career ambitions and can completely ignore your objections to my lifestyle – what a joy.

    I would like to say a personal thanks to Wayne Lawrence (who I don’t know). Its that kind of live and let live attitude that I find in LV that is why I stuck with the Lib Dems all these years.

  7. James Graham Says:

    Wayne – I answered a simple question and posed it back at you. It seems to have sent you off on a tailspin. Calm down.

    I get that, for rightwingers, you feel you can only be validated if you feel someone else is on the way down. But the boring explanation is that most of us were on downtime during the elections. I’m sorry if you can’t accept that but it happens to be true. Feel free to wallow in your conspiracy theories.

    As for what we’ve been up to, well we ran a breakout session at the Compass conference this afternoon – I should get around to typing up my account of it tomorrow. On Tuesday we have a meeting with Danny Alexander about the manifesto. Two weeks after that we have another discussion evening hosted by Lynne Featherstone.

    You really did pick a bad moment to declare our ‘deaths’, but if it makes you feel big, feel free.

  8. Ed Joyce Says:

    It would be wrong to characterise all LV people as ‘right wingers’. As a Geolibertarian, very much in the style of Jock Coates, I am rightly accused of being a ‘left libertarian’. The fact that such a phrase exists undermines the idea that Libertarianism originated in a gun club in South Carolina. I back the Citizens Income as a replacement for welfare. We need to take wealth out of Land Value and put it back into labour.

    Social Liberal policies create the poverty trap. Until we have a form of Citizens Income and stop creating disincentives to work we create misery. That is not right wing policy.

  9. Ziggy Encaoua Says:


    The compliant against Gavin Weeb didn’t come from anybody on the social liberal wing of the party, it came from one oddball member of his local group who from what I hear is now making trouble for other members & those members aren’t libertarian.

  10. Ed Joyce Says:

    I understood that the complaint came from the Leader of the Lib Dem group on Stoke council ?

  11. Wayne Lawrence Says:



    You should really leave strawman arguments and puerile ad hominem to the Labour Party. I just seems so… out of place in a liberal party in my opinion.

    If there happens to be a breakout of activity on SLF, I shall look forward to reading and considering it. After all, it is in my own blogroll as well.

    As Ed points out, some sort of doff of the cap to each other’s wing of the party, and some robust but good humoured debate would surely pay dividends for the party as a whole.

    Your attempted McBrideisms won’t really help the party much at all.


  12. Ziggy Encaoua Says:


    I’m not ptrepared to confirm anything publically because the last time I did I got into hot water

  13. Ziggy Encaoua Says:


    Aas long as neither wing thinks it owns the party outright & respects the will of the majority

  14. Ed Joyce Says:

    I am with you Wayne – robust and good humoured debate is what we are about surely.

    I disagree with this

    as I believe it contradicts personal freedom but lets argue it out not suspend committed Liberals such as Gavin (or James) from the party.

  15. Ed Joyce Says:

    Yes Ziggy 100% with you there – if we get beaten in the party debate/vote then we go along with the majority in public or say nothing.

  16. Ziggy Encaoua Says:

    Gavin says he’s leaving the party after the next general election

    I know e’s signed up to the FSP

    So I guess he’s planning to move to New Hampshire

  17. Wayne Lawrence Says:


    I’d look at it slightly differently in these times of discussions of proportional representation, where the whole fairly represents the parts. The “will of the majority” *can* ( to use the cliche) end up being Tom & Dick, voting to rob Harry.

    Let’s consider the will of all.

  18. Ziggy Encaoua Says:

    I was talking with in the party not society as a whole

  19. Wayne Lawrence Says:

    Me too. 😉

  20. Ziggy Encaoua Says:

    So how do you propose party members decide party policy?

  21. Wayne Lawrence Says:

    I wouldn’t speculate on the mechanics Ziggy, it was an idea on the fly TBH… to be considered or discarded.

  22. Mark Littlewood Says:

    I welcome the existence of SLF – and did so publicly when it was launched. I think Liberator is too vitriolic and polemical to be a sensible rallying point for the left of the LDs, whereas SLF seems to actually wish to put forward arguments. I certainly don’t feel that LV needs to feel or prove that other groups are on the down in order to feel successful ourselves.

    I stand by the arguments in the Cameron Effect report – although the catstrophic continued deterioation in public finances now makes the more imemdiate question about net spending cuts (or substantial tax rises) – quite probably combined with substantial sell-offs of state assets to raise receipts. I support the LDs being on the low tax-low spend side of this debate.

    James massively overstates the conclusion of the Cameron effect document – it doesn’t say we are “dooooooomed” unless we cut taxes.

    It does, however, say we face a very serious challenge from the Tories in a good tranche of our held seats – and an unequivocal low tax stance is not merely liberal, but electorally sensible, in these circumstances.

    Overall, the cumulative results from the local and Euro elections, were okay-ish, but continue to underscore this threat, with the Conservatives performing comparatively strongly in the seats we need to hold – and very strongly indeeed in the South West.

    A psephological development since the publication of the document (although explicitly raised as a possibility in the report) is that Labour might – just might – be tipping over from being in decline and into being in meltdown. Were this to happen, some of the Labour seats which seem like long-shots start to become more feasible targets.

    Today’s yougov poll, though, puts the three main parties at Con 40%, Lab 24%, LibDem 18%. These stats are almost identical to those posited in the Cameron Effect as the prevailing national average. So, perhaps, not much has changed after all.

  23. Ziggy Encaoua Says:

    Maybe it would be an idea to organise a public debate between a representative(s) of SLF & LV & so people can see the recognised differences between the two wings but more importantly where the two wings of the party agree.

  24. Ed Joyce Says:

    A major point of the Cameron Effect was to tell the party that in many of the places in which we are within striking distance of Labour we are actually third behind the Tories. This kind of information is critical and often lost in waves of optimism.

    We are doomed to fail in the next election if we rely on a Labour collapse unless we can a strategy that deals with the fact that we are in third place. I see, and regret, that there is no evidence of this happening. I suspect that our chance lies in making them Con-Lib Marginals and squeezing the Labour vote by tactical voting in the election after the next one but I don’t see any evidence of this being suggested. Does anyone have a workable strategy I wonder.

  25. Mark Littlewood Says:


    My suggested strategy is that we advocate shrinking the state. In virtually every aspect. Less tax, less intervention. less politics.

  26. Wayne Lawrence Says:


    Those principles should somehow be written into the Gospels in my opinion, the only caveat being it’s a tough gig to sell to social democrats and those addicted to opiate of welfare and government pork-barrelling (and plenty of the middle class also fall into that category. Labour, and perhaps even some in our own party would counter sell it as cutting “services” to the poor, fewer teachers, fewer police yada yada.

    Perhaps we should learn something from our Fabian “friends” ==> Gradualism.

  27. Ed Joyce Says:

    We need to do something concrete in terms of looking at how these policies can be sold to the electorate. Before the set up of LV and the SLF I thought that Lib Dems actually preferred Social Liberalism on the whole but having seen the way Social Liberalism is ripped apart whenever it appears that does not seem to be the case. There is a definite appetite for Classical Liberal ideas. The problem is that the system of tax and spend is set up very differently to that which would allow the easy implementation of Classical Liberalism. The only solution that is big enough is Land Valuation Tax and Citizens Income. That would allow the welfare state to be truly for exceptional circumstances, and break the nanny state. Is there another idea. Simply reducing taxes and cutting budgets would not in my opinion achieve enough without running in to unbreakable resistance, since it would involve throwing literally millions of people out of work. We would end up with gradualism that would eventually grind to a halt. It needs a radical solution that take tens of billions a year out of the property/inheritance windfall pot that is very simple to access and could be used to tip the system from one way of thinking to another.

  28. Wayne Lawrence Says:

    Has SLF now gone into cardiac arrest?

    I’m just getting a blank white page, no error messages and no source code.

    I await Twain-esque explanations.

  29. James Graham Says:

    The SLF website is down because, in the process of upgrading from WordPress 2.7 to 2.8, something appears to have gone wrong. Not sure what – seems to be database related – but having spent the morning trying to sort it out, I’ve had to come into work.

    Always happy to entertain.

  30. Ziggy Encaoua Says:


    On the subject of selling market liberal ideas to social liberals its worth noting that the Liberal Democrats party are an exception when it comes to liberal parties around the globe.

    If you look at countries such as Holland, Denmark & Australia there are generally two liberal parties one advocating left liberalism & one advocating something approaching market liberalism.

    The Liberal Democrats are a coalition of social liberals & market liberals & we are stronger for that coalition. Sure Market liberals should argue the case for more market liberal type policies with in the party but not to the extent where it might cause a split in the party. I stress again that whatever the majority opinion on whatever policy needs to be accepted by all factions of the party for the sake of the party.

  31. Wayne Lawrence Says:


    Sure I accept what you’re saying. In fact most mainstream parties are a coalition, if not in actual fact like the Lib Dems, at least in ideologies.

    Your example of Australian politics is something I happen to know a bit about. Yes there are two Liberal parties, but even within the separate “liberal” parties, there are still opposing factions.

    The Liberal Party of Australia (the economic liberal party) still consists of “wet liberals” and “dry Liberals” (note also capitalization). The dry Liberals are more like Tories whereas wet liberals are more a social liberal/classical liberal hybrid. Overall they are referred to as conservatives.

    The Australian Democrats started as a social liberalist party under the late Don Chipp (I mention him because he was a thoroughly decent politician) as a splinter party from the Australian Liberal Party. But as they moved further left and became ipso facto social democrats, the economic liberals quit and they crashed and burned. I don’t think they won a single seat in either house in 2007. Australia is different to the UK, but the politics are analogous; Lib Dems could study what happened to the ADs in Oz in my humble opinion.

    So these internal factions are everywhere in politics.

    But I digress…

    You mention that classical liberals must walk the raggedy edge of arguing their position without causing splits, without an indication of whether you think the social democratic/social liberal wing should operate under the same caution.

    What is your position in this regard?

  32. Ziggy Encaoua Says:

    Personally I think social liberals should be more open to the ideas of market liberals & I believe social liberals need to be tolerant to the fact that theirs is not the only perspective of liberalism. But at the same time I accept that they are the majority opinion with in the Lib Dem party, in other words for the best interests of the party I wouldn’t rock the boat too much as I’ve done in the past & I’d advise others too do the same.

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