The Lib Dem Hokey Cokey

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Lord Tony has taken exception to Martin Kettle‘s article about the Lib Dems this Saturday. His beef is that the “modernist centrists” that Kettle is referring to are actually “Blairite rightwingers.”

As usual, I find myself half agreeing with the learned Lord. Martin Kettle’s writing about the radical centre leaves me scratching my head about what he’s on about – he’s certainly never explained it very well. But I think Tony has missed a point here, as pretty much everyone, with the exception of Paul Holmes and “Bingo” Bob Russell is being labled by Kettle as a moderniser. It is therefore nonsense on the part of Lord Greaves to, in turn, label them all as rightwing.

What Kettle seems to be saying is that anyone who is concerned about strategy is a moderniser, while everyone else is just wasting time. I agree with that last bit, and have been very disappointed by Paul Holmes who has done much to position himself as the party’s social-liberal-in-chief yet appears to think that means nothing more than simply attack the other side. This weakness, shared by Lord Greaves himself, gets us nowhere. But again, Tony is absolutely right to contend that it would be a major mistake for the Lib Dems to attempt to compete with Labour and the Tories for the centre ground. We need to be using the next few years to pull the debate onto our turf.

The one thing that will kill this is ceding the debate within the party to the self appointed economic and social liberals. It is an unhelpful dialectic when what we really need to be getting right are our approaches to localism, the environment and social justice. The best thing that Kennedy could do to assert his authority in the New Year is to put Holmes and Laws in a darkened room somewhere and hide the key.

3 thoughts on “The Lib Dem Hokey Cokey

  1. I agree very much with Tony about this. It strikes me that with cameron deciding to support the Blair position on a range of issues we have an opportunity to stake out a very large chunk of political territory for ourselves.

    You and Tony are quite right to point out that the phrase ‘modernisers’ has wrongly been associated with the centre-right. As Lib Dems we should always be striving to have ‘modern’ policies – particularly about how to improve public services – but this does not necessarily mean going down the so-called ‘choice agenda’ which is mostly rhetoric anyway.

    We should be picking up on previous policy work we have done, such as Chris Huhne’s review of our approach to public services, and developing our policy platform from the excellent ideas therein.

    Rather than defining the debate by attaching labels to the opposite side we should concentrate on identifying liberal policies which will actually work for the broad mass of the population.

  2. I disagree very strongly with Greaves on this. Writing letters to the papers simply to insult fellow members of our party seems to me as as counter-productive as one can imagine. OTOH I agree with your last sentence and Neil’s final sentece )and much elase, but especially these points).

    I’ve had a go at this topic on the Apollo Project blog.

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