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Lib Dems – last chance saloon

By Angela Harbutt
May 20th, 2015 at 7:11 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Liberal Democrats

If Ms Jones vision for the Lib Dems was a bit too fruity for you, then here is an alternative item that may be of interest.

Julian Astle’s piece, which appeared in the Independent last week, is all together less humorous, but he makes some excellent points.

First he neatly encapsulates the entire problem with the disastrous 2015 General Election campaign…

“The proximate cause of the Liberal Democrats’ identity crisis was the decision to fight the election as centrists rather than liberals – a decision that the party leadership knew, deep down, risked leaving them with a functional and lifeless message, devoid of the sense of moral purpose and historic mission that made Clegg’s resignation speech his best of the campaign….

…In so far as this gave the party a reason to exist, it was to moderate the worst excesses of whichever party it might end up working with in government – a dismal offering. Not only did this tell voters nothing about the party’s own vision for the country, it actively undermined its claims to have one. If the Tories want to travel 10 miles to the right, and Labour 10 miles to the left, the logic of the Lib Dem position was that they were prepared to travel in either direction, but only for five miles.”

He also goes on to clinically dissect the reason for this ill-fated strategy

“…the underlying cause – and the one the party leadership candidates will try hard not to discuss in the coming weeks – is the unresolved battle between the party’s Right-leaning economic liberals and the Left-leaning social liberals about the true meaning of liberalism.”

But what of the future? Well, Julian argues that the “anti-austerity Left” has now become “the most crowded part of the political landscape” and, he argues, the Lib Dems have already burned their bridges back to that land…

“A party that has spent five years attacking the deficit with the Conservatives cannot credibly spend the next five denouncing “Tory cuts”.

So where next? It’s so simple. There is a large group of younger voters crying out for a party that represents them…

“rather than identifying either with the Left or the Right as the pre- and post- war generations did, and do, today’s young combine the social liberal views of the Left (secular, internationalist, concerned about the environment, relaxed about lifestyle choices and family structures) and the classical liberal views of the Right (in favour of balanced budgets, low taxation, conditional welfare, personal responsibility, individual choice and entrepreneurship) without seeing any contradiction between the two.

This increasingly educated, empowered, technologically savvy cohort is left cold by the conservatism of the Tory party and the collectivism of the Labour party. They are instinctive liberals. They just need a liberal party to vote for. “

Though I cannot, in any sense of the word be described as a young voter, that is where I am pretty much planted. It is one where many of my friends and occasional drinking-fellows (Lib Dem, UKIP and Conservative voters) to a smaller, or larger extent, are also at – economically free market, socially liberal (whatever that means these days).

Surely this is the best, the only, route for a sane Lib Dem party to take? And if they don’t act soon UKIP, the Conservatives (or some party yet to emerge) will move into this vacuum and the Lib Dems truly will be left defending the rights of the likes of Sebastien, Flounder, Flotsam and Jetsam and co, and little else.

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