Thursday, January 12, 2006

Orange segments

Joe Otten, whose blog I had not come across before, makes a noble effort to debunk the myth that the Orange Book is ‘right-wing’. To be fair, this point was made by Jonathan Calder in his liberator review shortly after the notorious volume was published.

My thoughts on reading the book shortly after it came out were that it was uneven in quality and that some of the articles sat uneasily alongside one another. If we accept a definition of ‘right-wing’ as in favour of free markets and less state control then the articles by Laws and Cable could perhaps be characterised as right-wing. But to be fair both saw free markets and social justice as mutually complementary objectives. Some articles departed from normal Lib Dem thinking, but not in an obviously left or right way (e.g. the articles by Huhne and Clegg). One or two appeared simply to rehash existing Lib Dem policy (e.g. Edward Davey). And the article by Steve Webb appeared if anything a bit socialistic – positively Polly Toynbeeish.

Furthermore, the contributors have not always been agreed about the contents of the book – Huhne published an article opposing Laws’s views on health policy.

Whatever its merits and shortcomings, it is just plain wrong to characterise the Orange Book as part of a right-wing project. Sadly, the myth has already been created and there are plenty of Liberal Democrats who are only too willing to feed it.

1 comment:

James said...

It's useful shorthand, but you're right, it is a myth. The only articles in it I really hated were both of David Laws'.

But it was a bad mistake to publish it at the time it was, and for Laws to trail it to the press in the way he did (by basing all the publicity around his article on the NHS).