For the record…

I was a bit disappointed by Andy Beckett’s article on the future of the Lib Dems in the Guardian today. It is not that I have been misquoted – although I seem to recall saying that the number of Lib Dem MPs after the next election could be as low as 30 rather than probably 30 (a small but distinct difference). It is just that some of the potshots he makes are rather lazy ones.

I’m annoyed that he repeats the great Orange Book fallacy, that being that the book in question was written by a bunch of right wing idealogues with a specific agenda in mind. In fact, as anyone who has read the book cover to cover can testify, it is a mish mash of chapters which don’t particularly hang together. The only authentically economic liberal chapter is David Laws’ chapter on the NHS – even his chapter on liberalism is more of an overview than anything else. The rest of the book is written by people from all over the Lib Dem political spectrum. Still, the legend is more interesting than the fact, so print the legend. You can’t fault David Laws’ genius for giving his political movement a name simply by publishing a book and shouting about it six months before an election in a way that really annoyed people. At the time it looked reckless and foolish; now it looks inspired (if more than a little devious).

I’m irritated by his quoting of a comment by Joe Edwards on the Social Liberal Forum website. I don’t know Joe Edwards from Adam but if the irate text message from a reliable source I got this morning is correct he is not a Lib Dem member, resigning from the party before the election. He certainly has no association whatsoever with the Social Liberal Forum, and the biography on his blog makes no mention of party membership. Yet the article invites you to infer that he is somehow an SLFer. I thought the practice of quoting comments from blogs had been discredited by the West Wing?

Finally, just to clarify my position about the “long game” and the “short game”. I do see the Lib Dems taking a hit in popularity at the next election (assuming neither the Tories nor Labour self-destruct, which isn’t entirely impossible), but I wasn’t merely arguing that the party would crawl back in the long run. My point was that this government’s political reforms, if fully implemented, will transform UK politics for the long term and that in the long run the Lib Dems will get credit for that. And even if the party doesn’t get the credit, those reforms should be worth the hit.


  1. As low as 30. So the worst prediction is that we fall to way above where we were pre-1997?

    That’s the worst outcome?

    Of course, given we have both AV and a major set of boundary changes, which if implemented fully will lose us Scottish MPs, we can’t in any way predict the number of MPs we’ll get, especially given we don’t know how things will pan out.

    Regardless, even if the number of first preferences we get collapse, can we really see those we normally squeeze in areas like the SW not giving us 2nd/3rd preferences over the Tories? There’ll be a few partisan Labourites/Greenies who won’t, but overall, I don’t think it’ll hurt us most.

    Media narrative is we collapse. A lot of anti-Tory partisans have it as a self fulfilling prophecy. TBH?

    I care not. If we get AV, and a promise of further reforms from Labour, then it matters not what happens tot he party, it matters that the voting system allows new parties to emerge more easily.

  2. It is the worst outcome I can see assuming the party basically stays together, the coalition last five years and the boundary changes aren’t a total stitch up. Generally speaking all predictions are bunk, and this one is no different.

    A point about AV: one thing it doesn’t do very well is allow new parties to emerge. The general feeling is that it tends to preserve political systems in aspic. So it is that Australia was a two-party system, introduced AV, and remains a two-party system despite the Democrats’ best efforts. We would expect to remain a 2.5 party system but other parties will continue to struggle to gain a toehold.

    If it leads to further reform, all well and good. But it won’t lead to greater pluralism by itself.

  3. Well, sort of, the coalition parties do compete in elections in Australia, and a quick reread of the history shows that parties emerge, compete, merge into something else then coalesce again.

    Sure, there are two main blocks, but the Nationals/Liberals/Country Liberals and Liberal Nationals exist as separate, competing parties, that normally, but don’t always, form a coalition.

    I predict, for example, a significant rise in 1st prefs for UKIP, especially in safe Tory seats, which will probably see them increase membership and take defections, especially when Tory MPs realise they won’t automatically lose their seat if they jump ship.

    I also predict a rise in 1st pref support for the Greens.

    But, like you say, predictions effectively impossible. We’ll see.

    BTW, amd I & you getting spam filtered again? No comments displaying even after a refresh.

  4. the book in question was written by a bunch of right wing idealogues with a specific agenda in mind

    Funny that at the same time, Vince Cable is often also touted as being at odds with Clegg, Laws etc.

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