Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Lib Dems are not a Party of the Left

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is reported in The Observer newspaper as saying that his party is not a party to the left of Labour and shouldn’t expect those voters to back them in the future. Under the leadership of Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell, it was to some extent the case, that disaffected Labour voters backed the party. The Iraq war, Trident renewal, and attitudes to taxation of the wealthy, were central planks in the advance of the Lib Dems over recent elections, but Clegg appears to have a different strategy in mind.

It is true that the Lib Dems have never really been a party of the left, their free trade ethos, hostility to trade unions and a desire to privatise public services, such as Royal Mail, have also been at the forefront of their policy ideas recently. Labour left an open goal for civil liberties to be exploited, so much so, that even the Tories managed to appear more progressive than them, but the Lib Dems also benefited from appearing as less authoritarian the Blair/Brown governments.

Now, you could say, with plenty of justification, that it hasn’t been difficult to be to the left of Labour in recent times, but electoral results do indicate that this stance has been successful for the Lib Dems. Watching Clegg’s speech to his party’s conference yesterday, I was minded of Tony Blair’s speeches to Labour party conferences, lecturing the party that if they wanted power, this is the way that it had to be. Admittedly, Clegg is not in Blair’s class as a conference speaker, or election winner, but the message was all too familiar.

The Labour party swallowed this line, those whose stomach allowed them to remain as members, for the power and privilege that it delivered, and for the short term, I expect the Lib Dems to do the same.

But longer term, elections can be lost, members can be lost and morale can generally sag, all of which happened to new Labour. I know some Lib Dem members and they are not the type of people to be comfortable with cutting welfare benefits and the like, and many of their voters in Haringey will feel the same way. Clegg was only really stating the obvious, when he said that left voters will have to go elsewhere in the future.

The Green party is the natural home for these members and voters. We are democratic and socially liberal, and we are on the rise politically. Caroline Lucas has made the breakthrough into Westminster as an MP, and we are gaining ground generally at local authority councillor level. If you care more about principle than power for its own sake, come and join a truly progressive party.

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