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Classical liberalism, hung Parliaments and coalition government…is Germany a glimpse of our future?

September 28th, 2009 Posted in EU Politics by

ZRE_Westerwelle.inddThe LibDems’ sister party in Germany – the free market, socially libertarian Free Democrats – are the real winners of their country’s general election. Their all-time high vote of 15% – secured on a platform of low tax, less regulation and more personal freedom – has propelled them back into power.

Although Merkel’s Christian Democrats slipped backwards slightly in the polls, the FDP’s strong showing allows her to remove the dead hand of the left-leaning Social Democrats (who were slaughtered)  from the federal government. Liberal leader Guido Westerwelle and his colleagues stand on the brink of wielding real clout – and ministerial office – in the EU’s most powerful nation.

I recall Westerwelle leading a delegation of Free Democrats to a LibDem Shadow Cabinet meeting in Westminster in 2006. I can’t remember what the main business of the meeting was, but the FDP’s guest appearance was tagged onto the end – slightly unceremoniously. A real highlight, however, was a LibDem frontbencher asking Westerwelle whether he wanted the Free Democrats to remain in opposition to the grand coalition of Christian and Social Democrats, or whether he sought to return to government. The German liberal leader was pretty incredulous. With a friendly frown he said that he wanted to return to government as soon as possible, what was the point of being in permanent opposition? A heavily pregnant pause followed.

Three years on, Guido Westerwelle now has serious power, whilst a major breakthrough for the LibDems remains frustratingly elusive.

David Cameron has congratulated Angela Merkel on her “victory”, but I can’t yet find a similar message from Nick Clegg to his liberal counterpart.

This might be because everyone at LibDem HQ is still recovering from Bournemouth, but it could also reflect the party’s extreme allergic reaction to discussing anything that relates to hung Parliaments or coalitions. If so, that’s a shame because we could learn a lot from the FDP and how a consistent, vigorous liberal manifesto can garner growing popular support and secure high office for its proponents.

So, from Liberal Vision, very heartfelt congratulations to Guido Westerwelle and everyone in the German liberal party.  I hope British liberals can gain confidence and inspiration from your remarkable achievement.

11 Responses to “Classical liberalism, hung Parliaments and coalition government…is Germany a glimpse of our future?”

  1. Why Hasn’t Clegg Congratulated Guido? - Guy Fawkes' blog Says:

    [...] the Social Democrats out of the government. Most LibDems seem disinterested, only LiberalVision is ecstatic. Makes you wonder if they prefer permanent [...]


  2. Michael Heaver Says:

    Would you class me a cynical, partisan hack if I said that Clegg’s reaction does not surprise me, seeing as that party seems to stand for little that the British Liberal Democrats do?


  3. Mark Littlewood Says:

    @Michael. They are our sister party in Germany. Most of ELDR stand on this sort of platform. Should we copycat Cameron and breakaway from our mainstream natural European partners? Or should we wonder if we can learn from this?


  4. mdjcole Says:

    “Would you class me a cynical, partisan hack if I said that Clegg’s reaction does not surprise me, seeing as that party seems to stand for little that the British Liberal Democrats do?”

    Exactly. The British Lib Dems are not a liberal party, they’re a social democrat party. Regardless of what is official, the LDs’ real sister party is the SDP that lost 1/3 of its seats. It would be brilliant if this were not so, but it is.


  5. Mark Littlewood Says:

    @mdjcole. In so far as that’s true, it’s important to make it less true. At least Nick Clegg has not issued an official statement commiserating the poor performance of the German SDP…


  6. Victory for the centre-right in Germany « Organised Chaos Says:

    [...] has wasted no time in sending his congratulations to Angela Merkel on her re-election. But as Liberal Vision points out (whilst getting excited as to what a liberal party can achieve) Nick Clegg has so far [...]


  7. Philip Walker Says:

    Actually, the Tories appear to have been far more positive about the FDP than the Lib Dems, with many of them claiming that the FDP is the German party most like the Tories (or vice versa).


  8. Philip Walker Says:

    (Sorry, “them” being Tories. And I mean grass-roots, not the leadership.)


  9. Why Hasn’t Clegg Congratulated Guido?  Says:

    [...] the Social Democrats out of the government. Most LibDems seem disinterested, only LiberalVision is ecstatic. Makes you wonder if they prefer permanent [...]


  10. Liberal Vision » Blog Archive » EXCLUSIVE: Nick congratulates Guido Westerwelle Says:

    [...] Liberal Vision’s celebration of the rise to power of the German liberals, Nick Clegg has now written to congratulate leader [...]


  11. Liberal lateral thinking « marius ostrowski’s web log Says:

    [...] have appeared in the UK liberal corner of late – one on the Times from Rachel Sylvester, and one on Liberal Vision. The gist of them is that the Lib Dems in the UK drastically need to rethink their approach to UK [...]


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