We don't dance about anything. "Neither right nor left" is not a piece of tactical postitioning, it is an indictment of the state of British politics. With both Thatcherism and Footism discredited, everyone sane agrees about the big economic issues. The big issues of 2006 are questions about national identity, the management of public services, and how to deal with what used to be called noisy neighbours and is now apparently "anti-social behaviour". On all these issues, the division is between right (i.e. Liberal) and wrong. And yet morons like Toynbee still insist on talking about right and left - no wonder the electorate get turned off.
This is now the question Lib Dem would-be leaders must answer. It may maximise their vote to dance about saying "neither right nor left", but what is the point of merely existing in nothingness? Labour die-hards call them no more than a franchise - a painfully accurate accusation. Collect up their literature and they face quite different ways according to their local opponent.
We don't have to be between New Labour and Cameron's Tories. We are liberal, they are illiberal. The Liberal Democrats don't just preach the new localism, we actually do it - try googling for "most improved Council". While the other parties (more specifically, the Monster Raving Loony Party) may have stolen David Owen's political turf, they is still plenty of space for a principled Liberal party.
But times have changed since the SDP. Where once there was a great savannah of available political space, now the air is too thin to breathe between New Labour and Cameron Tories. Both parties have stolen Lib Dem land: all now preach the new localism.
But there is a need for a party more radical than Labour, a party that says no to war and no to wasting billions on new nuclear weapons or nuclear reactors, that dares to talk of the greed of the rich, of boardroom kleptocracy and the duty of top earners to shoulder a fairer share. Already the Lib Dems alone own civil liberties, and they are the pluralists who would rebuild council and Commons chambers in horseshoe shape under proportional representation, offering the one crucial "choice" that Labour and Tories refuse - the choice to vote for any party in a fair election.Quite right too. Didn't you just say that we danced with nothingness, and were a franchise and not a party? The issues you just mentioned aren't perpheral. Civil liberties matter - right now people all over the world are being arrested, tortured, and shot for writing columns like yours.
They will never win; that's not their function.
Our function is what we say it is, not what a Labour-supporting Guardian columnist says it is. We say our function is to form a Liberal Democrat government, with Liberal policies and Chris Huhne as a Liberal Prime Minister. You want to see a Labour government, with socialist policies. So we really don't care what you think we should be doing.