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“There is no blue without yellow and without orange”

February 23rd, 2011 Posted in coalition, Liberal Democrats, Liberal Philosophy by

Or so said Vincent Van Gogh.

Since its publication in 2004, and especially since the formulation of the Liberal-Conservative Coalition, there has been an astonishing  amount of guff written about The Orange Book. Barely a day goes by without someone decrying the influence of those supposedly unsavoury rightist ‘Orange Bookers’. However, Edward Stourton’s recent Analysis programme on Radio 4 was an intelligent and more measured approach to assessing its political impact. In short, it questioned whether yellow + blue = orange.

Personally, I’ve discovered that those most vehemently against The Orange Book are those most likely never to have read it. One of those interviewed in the Analysis programme was the historian and now Labour MP Tristram Hunt (post-Naughtie/Marr, I must ensure that I spell his last name correctly). His recent piece in The Guardian is a fine example of the hyperbole that surrounds it:

For these neoLiberal Democrats of the Orange Book school remain determined to junk social liberalism for economic liberalism. Their guiding light is the Gladstonian ideal of a low-tax, laissez-faire, “night-watchman state””.  And yes, he did say night-watchman state…

It is because of this that for the first and possibly last time on a Liberal Vision post, I’d like to propose to ban something – the unnecessary and overuse of the term ‘Orange Booker’ in political discourse.

For me at least, The Orange Book was just a coherent set of essays that looked to all strands of liberal history when devising future party policy; it was about looking at liberalism in its entirety – economic and social liberalism. It had nothing to do with Tory entryism in the same way that the authors of Reinventing the State weren’t closet Labour supporters. It certainly wasn’t an updated version of Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia.

Just look at those who penned chapters for The Orange Book: Steve Webb could hardly be described as a man of the right and both Chris Huhne and Vince Cable were ex-SDP and Labour members. Charles Kennedy wrote the foreword (one presumes he actually read the contents of the book prior to publication?).

Edward Stourton was correct in saying that the book may have had a profound effect on British politics. Many of its authors now sit round the Cabinet table. However, the formation of the Liberal-Tory Coalition in 2010 was as much to do with The Orange Book as with the modernisation strategy pursued by David Cameron to bring the Conservatives back into the centre ground of British politics.

(P.S Please include any ridiculous examples of the term ‘Orange Booker’ in the comments).

15 Responses to ““There is no blue without yellow and without orange””

  1. snow Says:

    The LD blog Jazz Hands has proposed a new Godwin’s Law about the Orange Book:

    Joe Otten has also published a chapter by chapter analysis of whether the Orange Book can really be called “right wing”:

  2. Joe Donnelly Says:

    Very good article, I’m completely fed up with commentators claiming that the Orange book is somehow right-wing, in fact I think this touches on a deeper immensely important point!

    That is, that somehow Labour and the Conservatives have managed to persuade the British public (in a way that no other country has to my knowledge) that Liberalism is not a distinct enough political philosophy to have its own party without that party just being a mini-Tory or mini-Labour party.

    It just seems completely weird to me that looking at European politics and most countries have two liberal parties, look at American politics and Liberals are demonised but still recognised at existing and even go to universities in the UK

    e.g. Durham where in my ideas and ideologies lectures last term we had just as much space devoted to liberalism as to social democracy, conservatism, new right, socialism etc!

    It is only in the minds of Labour and Tory propagandists that you can dismiss Liberal views as being a secret version of Tory or Labour views.

  3. Lotus 51 Says:

    All the parties are coalitions of different groups with differences in policy and outlook. For the purposes of discussion it’s useful to use short-hand terms for the various factions within each party, like Old Labour v. New Labour or Tories v. Modernisers.

    “Orange Bookers” is an easier term to use than the socially and economically liberal wing of the Liberal Democrat Party.

    Don’t worry too much about the shrill voices of Labour, like Hunt. They are deliberately misrepresenting Orange Book liberalism. To them anyone spending £1 less than Labour has to be denounced as a swivel-eyed anarcho-capitalist.

    What alternative term to “Orange Booker” would you prefer?

  4. Psi Says:

    @ Lotus

    I agree people are far too spooked by the likes of Tristram (pause) Hunt. His line on the radio 4 documentary included the line “I thought these things had been resolve in the 19th century” shows why this man is not fir to hold a position of power in a modern democracy. It was believed that the construction of the human jaw was resolved by Galen in Roman times, unfortunately he was wrong but it was believed for contraries. I would imagine TH would have known that, being a historian and all!

    People should focus on ensuring that what the Orange book was about is understood rather than try and remove the use of the term. If you fight the wrong battle no matter how well you fight you always loose the war.

  5. Leslie K. Clark Says:


    I get your point regarding the ease of the term but it’s the exaggeration and hyperbole by many commentators that I disapprove of. Don’t get me wrong, I like The Orange Book and its authors made many valid points but the essays, bar David Laws chapter, were hardly revelatory.


    My proposal to ‘ban’ using the term was purely tongue in cheek.

  6. Freethinker Says:

    Steve Webb could hardly be described as a man of the right and both Chris Huhne and Vince Cable were ex-SDP and Labour members.

    And Nick Clegg is a hypocrite:

    How can he call himself a Liberal when he agrees to have his children brainwashed purely to satisfy his wife’s religious fundamentalism??? Creationism, non merci beaucoup!

  7. Psi Says:

    @ freethinker

    If you believe to be a Liberal you have to be an Atheist, and want Atheism forced on your children, I think you need to read more.

    Miriam is a catholic and wants her children educated that way, who are you to say you know better than her what is best for her children?

  8. Freethinker Says:


    How about the children know what is best for them? A true Liberal would not force their children to be indoctrinated by any religious cult especially NOT by Catholics! Miriam Clegg had no right to foist her Catholic fundamentalism i.e. creationism and the infallibility of the pope on her children. A true Liberal would let their children make their own mind up.

    The Liberal Party is a secular party PSI and should have no truck with religious bigots. We should have deselected the likes of Charles Kennedy for voting to restrict abortion as that is pandering to the bigots. If the Liberals stood up for true religous freedom they would pass a law banning the baptism of children under the age of 16 and ban faith schools which cause sectarianism in society. Now who is the true Liberal PSI? Answer is not you.

  9. Psi Says:

    @ Freethinker

    Hmmmm, “Banning” so liberal…

  10. Leslie K. Clark Says:

    The comments have gone slightly off topic…

  11. Freethinker Says:


    A ban on religious indoctrination of children would increase children’s freedom and therefore is very Liberal. How would you like to have religion imposed up on you without your consent? We ban racism because that increases freedom so yes Liberals can ban things so long as it increases personal freedom.

    @Leslie k Clark

    It is hardly off topic when the Liberals have betrayed their members and got into bed with the Tories who are basically a front for the Chritian right. So many Tories backed restrictions on abortion whilst the Liberals are committed to pro-choice as are Labour. Clegg has fallen under the spell of the religious right by dealing with Cameron. Charles Kennedy a Catholic fundamentalist creationist must privately feel at home with the Tory SPUC lobby.

  12. Psi Says:

    @ Leslie

    Apologies if it wasn’t clear I wasn’t taking you seriously on the banning of the term Orange Book but more that when ever politicians are described as “Orange Bookers” they dismiss the question and don’t correct the underlying assumption that “Orange Booker” is some form of less caring LibDem.

    @ Freethinker

    I and my siblings did have religion “imposed upon us” as you put it, if by that you mean raised by people of a religious persuasion in line with their religious beliefs (not Catholics incidentally). One chose to continue following g that faith, one changed and one rejected all forms of religion. None would say they were “harmed” by that up bringing.

    I would rather trust a loving parent to bring up a child in the way they feel is best rather than have the state (or internet trolls) dictate how children must be raised.

    You appear to confuse secularism with militant atheism, sadly a common occurrence in the media. Also some thing that gives secularism a bad name.

  13. Freethinker Says:


    I would rather trust a loving parent to bring up a child in the way they feel is best rather than have the state (or internet trolls) dictate how children must be raised.

    If people pay their taxes to the state then the state has a right to tell them how to behave if such legislation increases personal freedom. It is clear that a child’s right to make its own decision about whether they believe in God outweighs the right of a parent to foist their beliefs on a child. The liberals could stem the flow of members leaving for Labour if they announced a policy to stop infant baptism as well as child circumcision. All Liberals oppose faith schools why should we let Catholic schools teach creationism and that every word of the bible is true.

    You appear to confuse secularism with militant atheism

    We need to be militant about secularism we need to teach people the truth. Religion is synonymous with oppression and intolerance all real liberal are atheists.

  14. Leslie K. Clark Says:

    @ Psi – Understood.

  15. Freethinker Says:


    You haven’t replied so I assume that we are now in agreement. I am proposing that the Liberals help with our allies in the Labour party implement legislation that would ban the baptism of children and the circumcision of children born to Jewish and Muslim parents. Would you support that?

    I also believe that we missed a golden opportuniuty to arrest the pope when he came to Britain and charge him with crimes against humanity. The pope in my view is not welcome in this country. Also I believe that Charles Kennedy and other Catholic creationists should be expelled from the Liberals as they are not supportive of the Liberal party’s secularist approach to politics. Again I assume you’d agree?