Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Teaching an old Minger new tricks

Olly Kendall in the Grauniad reads a lot into Menzies Campbell's use of the phrase 'centre-left'. I'm not convinced that it's anything more than the use of old terminology by an elder statesman. I agree that Menzies use of this term will be a red rag to the press but it's just a word. To see the real differences between Campbell and Kennedy, we'll need to wait and see. Olly writes:

One of the main accusations levelled repeatedly at the Lib Dems is political ambiguity. This is highlighted in the alleged conflict between the economic liberal and social liberal wings, which both Charles and Ming deny exists.

By our opponents who can't get their head around liberal ideology... and it doesn't exist. The real division in the Lib Dems is between the pavement politicos and the philosophical liberals (as per numerous posts by LibertyCat). If anyone ever believed in a left/right split in the Lib Dems then the numerous outbreaks of consensus during the leadership hustings between Chris "Orange Book" Huhne and Simon "lefty" Hughes should have convinced them otherwise. He continues:

[Defining the Libs as right-wing] also allows the Lib Dems to begin an assault on the Tories as the party of the right - something they couldn't do under Charles's leadership.

But there's no point in talking about the Tories as a party of the reactionary right with Cameron discussing micro-generation and Letwin discussing redistribution. Accusing them of dumping their principles, being unsure of what they believe, echoing Blair, going for managerialism, yes... Claiming they're secretly reactionary whilst Cameron lays scorn on Tebbit and columnists like Heffer - not going to be convincing. If that's the purpose of Menzies use of 'centre-left' then it's a bit of an odd strategy. Olly continues:

To confuse matters further, in the young Turks you have a group of ambitious MPs, many of whom would quite happily sit around a cabinet table with Cameron and Osborne, but not Brown.

Most of our allegedly 'left-wing' and aged MPs and activists would rather sit around a table with David Cameron if he looked to be serious about opposing ID cards, control orders, the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act and promoting decentralisation... This government's distinguishing factor is its authoritarian control-freakery and this is one of the main areas in which the Lib Dems are crucially distinct. Menzies made this obvious when he devoted the 1st substantive 1/3 of his speech to discussing topics such as Guantanamo Bay yet Olly Kendall doesn't mention this axis of the political compass at all.

Will Menzies' use of 'centre-left' have an effect? Yes, on the media. Will it have an effect on strategy? Undoubtedly not.

3 Comments:

  • At 9:41 pm , Blogger MatGB said...

    Agreed; all this "left/right" stuff perpetually gets to me. They need a 'split', they need something to complain about.

    It's not there, so they look for one, and completely misunderstand the division because they don't "get" it. Ah well.

     
  • At 2:12 pm , Blogger Tristan said...

    Whilst the left/right stuff is nonsense (it just doesn't apply to liberalism, and has not since socilaism claimed the mantle of left wing from liberalism) I think there are some divisions, although not as serious as the press would like.

    There are some members who are very vocal against what they see as economic liberalism, however I think if they took the time to consider things they'd realise there's not much difference between the two positions, sometimes I think its a case of arguing the same point from slightly different directions...

    Of course on individual issues there will always be differences of opinion, but allowing that is fundamental to liberalism. As the party gets bigger and more successful I suspect there will also arise an 'awkward squad', but every party has one, but I suspect ours will be less awkward (unless there's an amount of entryism).

    We are a party united by a common philosophy, not simply a collection of various interest groups, that is why we shall remain a broadly united party (and indeed, its why the Liberal Party survived its most turbulent years).

     
  • At 2:54 pm , Blogger Femme de Resistance said...

    I think there are some divisions, although not as serious as the press would like. There are some members who are very vocal against what they see as economic liberalism, however I think if they took the time to consider things they'd realise there's not much difference between the two positions

    I agree. I think that members who are very afraid of self-proclaimed 'economic liberals' are actually mistaking them for anarcho-capitalists and adherrants of neo-liberal economics. If the two groups actually sat down and talked they'd realise that value-wise they believe the same stuff.

     

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